Parking tickets aren’t just frustrating; they’re costly, too. But beware: If you’re avoiding paying that parking ticket and hoping to speed past the issue, you may be cruising straight toward a lowered credit score.
How does a ticket lead to lower scores?
When parking tickets go unpaid, the city that issued them may report these debts to a collections agency. Any type of collections activity reflects negatively on your credit reports, and it’s a surefire way to hurt your credit score.
Even those with good credit aren’t immune to the hit. Making it worse is the fact that collections generally stay on credit reports for seven years. That parking ticket you never paid may become a stubborn roadblock when you try to secure credit cards or other types of financing, such as personal loans and mortgages.
Don’t get blindsided
Cities across the country have been reporting millions of dollars’ worth of outstanding, unpaid parking tickets. With such a widespread payment problem, you can bet more and more cities will be cracking down on parking offenders in an effort to raise revenue. If you fail to pay a ticket, you (and your credit score) will be in danger of having your unpaid debt sent to collections.
Prevent this by doing your best to avoid getting a parking ticket in the first place — keep an eye on your meter, and if you’re visiting an unfamiliar area, check the parking signs.
How to deal with a ticket
If your best efforts fail and you do find yourself facing a parking-related fine, don’t leave it unpaid. Pay it on time and you won’t have to worry about receiving a collections notice down the road. Paying right away also means you won’t let a seemingly minor infraction set back the success you’ve had achieving a good credit score.
If you believe you were ticketed wrongly, you should try disputing the ticket rather than ignoring it. Ignoring it, even if you feel you’re justified in doing so, will land you in the same credit-jeopardizing situation.
Parking tickets aren’t the only things that can have a negative impact on your credit score. Make sure you avoid other behaviors that can ruin good credit, such as closing too many accounts and missing payments.
This article was updated Aug. 25, 2016. It originally published Dec. 19, 2014.