Personal Finance

5 Things You Think Could Hurt Your Credit Score — but Don’t

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There are plenty of things that people don’t realize can damage their credit score, from reserving a rental car to canceling a credit card.

At the same time, there are some things that people commonly believe can hurt their credit score — but that actually have no impact on scores.

Following are a few examples of the more persistent myths about what can affect your credit score.

1. Checking your credit report

As we noted in “7 Credit Score Myths: Fact vs. Fiction,” checking your own credit report doesn’t hurt your credit score. It’s actually a good idea to look at your report regularly, to monitor for errors and signs of identity theft.

Under federal law, you are entitled to one free report from each of the three major nationwide credit reporting companies — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion — every 12 months.

Order them through the official website AnnualCreditReport.com. Or, for detailed directions, see “How to Get Your Free Credit Report in 6 Easy Steps.”

2. Unpaid library fines

In the past, it might have been possible for unpaid library fines to hurt your credit score. But credit reporting companies no longer collect information reported through municipalities or municipal court records, according to Consumer Reports.

This is true even if the library sends your unpaid fine to a collection agency. Rod Griffin, director of public education at Experian, explains to Consumer Reports:

“A library may work with a collection agency, but municipalities have relationships with collection agencies that prohibit them by contract from reporting. To my knowledge there are no exceptions. We’ve removed all of that information.”

3. Unpaid parking tickets

Like unpaid library fines, unpaid parking tickets are part of municipal records — and, again, credit-reporting companies no longer collect this information.

4. Civil judgments

A civil judgment is effectively a court-ordered debt resulting from a civil lawsuit.

In the past, civil judgments could have appeared in credit reports and thus negatively affected credit scores. But in July 2017, the three major credit-reporting companies changed their standards for the collection of certain court-related records in such a way that civil judgments are generally excluded from credit reports.

5. Recent medical debts

Back in 2016, the three major credit-reporting companies announced that medical debts would not appear on credit reports until after a 180-day “waiting period” had passed.

So, if your insurance company hasn’t dealt with all the claims related to last month’s surgery, don’t worry: Those unpaid bills won’t show up just yet.

Obviously, it’s important to take care of medical debts as promptly as possible. If you’re having trouble paying, see “Successfully Negotiate Your Medical Bills in 7 Simple Steps.”

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.


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