11 Surprising Ways to Wreck Your Credit Score

A seemingly small stumble -- such as forgetting to return library books -- can cause your credit score to plummet.

11 Surprising Ways to Wreck Your Credit Score Photo by Dean Drobot / Shutterstock.com

The next time you check your credit score, you might discover it has taken a tumble because of a seemingly small mishap on your part.

This happened to me once because I misplaced a bill for a whopping $12.70. It ended up being reported to credit bureaus, also known as credit reporting agencies and credit reporting companies.

Worst of all, the problem stemmed from a charge through automatic billing on a credit card I no longer used.

The result was an 80-point decrease in my credit score and several months of regret. My credit score rebounded, but this small oversight still haunts me.

With my precautionary tale in mind, here are some other types of mishaps that can damage your credit score:

1. Car rental reservations

Planning to rent a car? If you use a debit card to make the reservation, the rental car company might require a credit screening. That can ding your credit score.

Here’s a better option: Confirm the reservation with your credit card to avoid the unnecessary credit inquiry and settle the final bill with your debit card upon returning the vehicle.

2. Past-due rent payments

Fail to pay the rent on time, and the landlord might report your delinquency to credit bureaus.

If you’re having trouble with rent, meet with the landlord and propose an alternative payment plan until you’re caught up. That way, you can salvage your good name and credit.

3. Library delinquency

When you check out a stack of books or DVDs, it’s easy to forget to return them by the appointed time. But the consequences for this oversight can be worse than you’d think.

My local library assesses a fee of 25 cents per day for each outstanding item. Once the account reaches $25, an additional fine of $7.95 is tacked on, and the entire account is forwarded to a collection agency.

Get your materials in on time. And if you lose them, fess up and pay the fees. Otherwise, your credit score could take a hit.

4. Outstanding medical bills

If you’re having trouble paying medical bills, make sure you promptly tend to the matter. Negotiate or request a payment plan, for example.

Muting the ringer on the phone or sending calls from collectors to voicemail can eventually result in a blemish — in the form of a collection account — on your credit report.

5. Delinquent tax obligations

Did the Internal Revenue Service or the local tax collector send you a hefty bill for unpaid taxes? You can run, but you can’t hide. They will eventually track you down and demand what they’re owed.

If you fail to respond and work something out, expect your credit score to take a dive. If you don’t want to or can’t work out a payment plan with the IRS, let a reputable expert help you with your tax debt.

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