If you’ve had a bankruptcy, foreclosure or lots of missed bill payments, you know that your credit score was diminished. But do you know about the smaller things that lead lenders to believe you’re a credit risk? A few FICO foibles can cause credit card issuers and lenders to view you with less favor and lead them to either deny you credit or charge higher interest rates.
Too much credit is a bad sign
While it may be a fact that people who max out their credit cards tend to apply for more credit cards, such behavior does not speak well to potential creditors. Too many credit applications in too short a time raise red flags. Norm Magnuson of Consumer Data Industry Association told Bankrate that banks have “shrunk the window” of frequency in which applications for credit audits are performed.
“It used to be months and months. Now you find companies doing account monitoring monthly or every other month,” he said. “That would raise some questions.”
A short sale isn’t magic
When you’re upside down on your mortgage, the specter of foreclosure may not be far away. Lenders will sometimes tell you that a short sale is the way to go. Even though you’re taking a loss, at least you’re avoiding foreclosure. Yet, how a lender reports a short sale to the credit bureaus can be just as damaging. Experian’s Vice President of Public Relations Maxine Sweet says even though the account is technically settled, the short sale ends up hurting your credit score as much as a foreclosure.
The best thing to do, advises SmartCredit.com President of Consumer Education John Ulzheimer, is to negotiate with your lender so that the difference between what’s left on the mortgage and the amount repaid isn’t reported as balanced owed.
Co-sign at your peril
Whether it’s an auto loan, student loan or any other large scale loan, if you’re a co-signer and the primary borrower defaults, you’re on the hook. Hopefully, you keep in touch with the person for whom you co-signed. Otherwise, you may not know the damage being done to your credit until it’s too late.
Minimum effort, maximum worry
It may seem easy to settle for the minimum payment on your credit cards each month, but there’s nothing easy about what that does to you in the eyes of prospective creditors.
“It suggests you’re under financial stress,” says Nessa Feddis of the American Bankers Association. “You may be defaulting.”
A busy report can indicate trouble
The more inquiries for credit that appear on a credit report, the more tiny nibbles that are taken out of your FICO score. If you know you’ll be applying for big loans – home, auto, education – try to do it all within a two-week window. This will minimize the inquiry impact, as they will be treated as a single unit. The same does not apply to credit card applications, however.