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How to Hurt Your Credit Score in 90 Days

Sept. 10, 2014
Credit Score
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It’s been more than a decade since Kate Hudson taught us how to lose a guy in 10 days. But as flawed human beings with good intentions, we have yet to stop shooting ourselves in the foot when it comes to relationships, careers and money management. Read on to find out what not to do to build a healthy credit score.

Don’t make your payments on time

To lose your healthy credit score, stop making payments. Due dates are for suckers, and you likely won’t deal with repossession for months. In the meantime, live it up by putting the money toward love ferns and other things you don’t need and will probably forget about before your first collection call rolls in.

OK, here’s what you should actually do: Always make your payments on time. It’s the No. 1 thing you can do to improve or maintain your credit score. You probably have 30 days after your due date before the missed payment is reported to the credit bureaus, but your creditor has the right to report it right away, so don’t miss due dates.

Max out your credit cards

Credit card limits were meant for spending, so make sure you use up every dollar. After all, credit card companies wouldn’t give you such high limits if they didn’t think you could pay them off in full each month. Don’t have enough expenses to max out your cards? Just create new “needs!” You can find tons of shiny stuff — Isadora diamond, anyone? — and luxurious vacations to spend your hard-not-yet-earned money on.

OK, here’s what you should actually do: Never max out your credit cards. You should keep your utilization rate — or the ratio of your balance to your limit — below 30% for a healthy credit score. Also, work to pay down your credit card debt once and for all and only charge what you can afford to pay off in full each month.


If you’ve maxed out your current credit cards, you should get new ones. Apply for a bunch of new cards to use for more spending. Like age, inquiries are just a number, so keep applying for the latest and greatest cards and let the cash and travel rewards come to you.

OK, here’s what you should actually do: First of all, applying for new cards because you’ve maxed out your old cards is a terrible idea. You can apply for new cards, but do it one at a time and intentionally after finding the best credit card for you. And remember, your rewards earned won’t make up for interest accrued, so spend less than you earn and pay your cards off in full each month.

Cancel your old credit cards

Of course, you don’t want to use the credit cards you used in your poor college days. Cancel those old credit cards. Sure, your length of credit history will take a beating between canceling the old cards and applying for new ones, but that’s the cost of doing business.

OK, here’s what you should actually do: Keep your oldest cards open and active. When you cancel old cards, you’re lowering your average age of credit accounts. Don’t close old credit card accounts unless you have a legitimate reason — like a large annual fee on an unused card.

Don’t look at your credit reports

Looking over your credit reports annually is a waste of time. After all, you know your credit behavior already, and your reports just rehash what you already know. Use the hour it would take you to request and read your credit reports to browse the latest dog-shaming pics or gripe about the economy in the comment section of a major news website.

OK, here’s what you should actually do: Pull your credit reports annually to check for errors. You can get them for free each year from and use our guide to read over your reports for discrepancies. The credit bureaus aren’t infallible — don’t allow a mistake to keep you from getting a mortgage or even a job.

Bottom line: It’s really easy to hurt your credit, but it’s not much harder to help it. Avoid these mistakes to build or maintain a good credit score. And remember, Matthew McConaughey won’t be there to console you in the end if you make these credit mistakes.

Piggy bank with Band-Aids image via Shutterstock