Don’t miss payments, ever
Both FICO and VantageScore credit scores consider your payment history as being extremely influential. In all actuality this category could better be described as the presence or lack of derogatory information. You don’t ever want to give a lender an excuse to report something negative to the credit reporting agencies or your scores could suffer significantly. Late payments, defaults, collections, tax liens, judgments, bankruptcies, settlements, repossessions, and foreclosures can all devastate your credit scores for seven to ten years.
Avoid too much credit card debt
Despite the noise made by some of the self-proclaimed credit experts, credit cards are not bad for your credit scores. To the contrary, a well-managed credit card portfolio is actually very helpful to your credit scores. In fact, of the most common forms of credit (mortgage, auto, student loan, credit card) only the credit card allows you to choose whether or not you get into debt.
Still, maintaining a modest balance on your credit cards is a great way to improve your credit scores. The balance relative to the credit limit is an important measurement in credit scores. If you can keep that percentage as low as possible, less than 10 percent preferably, your credit scores will reward you.
Apply for credit only when you need it
While applying for credit isn’t necessarily a bad thing, applying too often suggests that you are credit dependent and can have an adverse impact on your credit scores. Each time you apply for credit a new hard inquiry appears on your credit reports. Hard inquiries are the type that can have an adverse impact on your credit scores. Note: I used the word “can” instead of “will,” as inquiries don’t always lower your credit scores.
Be careful when closing unused credit cards
Closing an unused credit card can, in fact, lower your credit scores. The reason it can lower your scores is due to the loss of the unused credit limit. As explained in number two above, having low balances relative to your credit limits is helpful to your scores. If you close accounts that you no longer use, then you’re no longer getting the benefit of the unused credit limit associated with that account.
Note: There are some people that will suggest that closing credit cards can lower your scores because you don’t get the benefit of the age of the card any longer. That’s simply not true. Closed accounts still appear on your credit reports and you do still get the value of the card’s age. In fact, closed cards continue to age.
Don’t co-sign for loans, ever
If someone asks you to co-sign for a loan it’s likely because a bank has denied their credit application. Asking for a co-signer is their way of making the bank more comfortable because they’ll now have someone who is actually creditworthy on the hook for payment. You co-signing for a loan is really no different than you applying for the loan on your own. Not only will the debt show up on your credit reports but any mismanagement of the account will also blow back on your credit scores.