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Local Licensed Insolvency Trustee and Vice-President of Sands & Associates Blair Mantin meets with people every day who are looking for solutions to help them manage debt. Whether ultimately trying to pay off debt or boost their credit score, as a debt expert Blair says there are many actions people take that can unknowingly impact their credit rating.

Blair joined Breakfast Television Vancouver to share a few of the top things he often sees people do that can hurt their credit rating, and what Canadian consumers can do to minimize that impact.

Watch the clip here and read more below:

4 Actions That Can Hurt Your Credit Score

  1. Paying a Bill Late (Especially Cell Phone Bills)

Continually making late payments (or inadvertently missing payments) on routine bills can result in that service provider adding a negative notation on your credit history report. Besides the potential interruption in service, unpaid bills and utilities can eventually lead to stressful aggressive collection action.

  • No matter how big or small your regular bill payments are it’s important to pay them on time every time to show lenders you can responsibly manage your expenses and credit well.
  • Quite surprisingly, unpaid cellphone bills are the number one reason people get denied for mortgages.

Time on Credit History according to Equifax (reporting times with TransUnion may differ):

  • A late payment will remain on your credit report for up to 6 years from the date reported, and the late payment remains even if you pay the past-due balance.
  • If your account is charged-off by the original lender and assigned to a collection agency, the entire collection account would be removed 6 years from the date of your last payment.
    • If you pay the collection account before the 6-year period is up, it still remains on your credit report – although the account may have less of an impact on your credit score.
  1. Having a High Balance

How much of your available credit you’re using can play a role in your credit score. Lenders generally don’t look favourably on consumers who carry a balance that is approaching their credit limit since this may indicate a higher “risk” than if you are a consumer who pays their balance off in full each month, or keeps the balance at a low level.

  • Aim to keep your credit balance below 50% of your available limit. For example, if you have a $5,000 limit credit card, keep your balance below $2,500. 
  1. Closing an Old Account

Here’s an example of “what good for you isn’t always good for your credit rating”: Many people decide to simplify their finances and close an old account once it’s paid off or they’re no longer using it. Unfortunately, when you close a credit account the credit history associated with it is lost; if this is an account you’ve been using for a long time which is showing a great credit use it can cause your score to drop once that history is no longer available.

  • Make sure you still have “legacy” accounts that reflect your good credit habits/use before closing an account – especially if you are about to start looking into new credit such as a mortgage application. 
  1. Applying for Credit

How you mange your credit certainly plays a big role in your credit score – how you go about getting future credit can also be a factor. When you are looking for new credit and potential lenders check your credit information these inquiries are noted in your credit history. Because making multiple credit applications within a short time may indicate a problem to potential lenders – the more often you are seeking new credit, the greater the impact on your credit score.

  • If you’re shopping around for financing on a car or mortgage, get a copy of your credit report yourself and bring it with you when you are meeting potential lenders. This should provide enough basic information for them to give you a general quote and you can then consent to a credit check once you’ve narrowed down to your choice of lender.

Time on Credit History:

  • Per Equifax: “Hard inquiries” are where a potential lender, creditor or service provider requests a copy of your credit report in response to a request for credit or certain services. These may remain on your credit report for 3 years.
  • Per TransUnion: A non-credit related inquiry or “soft inquiry” such as an inquiry made by an insurance company does not impact your credit score.

Learn About 3 Types of Debt Consolidation in Canada

More Quick Credit Score Tips!

It’s important for consumers to understand that credit scores are essentially a measure used by lenders to assess customer profitability– they shouldn’t be considered an accurate indicator of your overall financial health, especially if your main goal is paying off your debt.

  • Know that even if you’ve had some transactions that impact your credit score, credit ratings can change dramatically in a few short years. For example:
    • After filing a personal bankruptcy many people can get new credit such as a mortgage in as little as 2-3 years.
  • Sometimes what’s good for your cash-flow and overall financial state isn’t what’s “best” for your credit rating. For example:
    • A person with no debt may have a low credit score because there isn’t enough history for a potential lender to grant them credit.
    • Often people who are essentially maxxed-out may have “ideal” credit scores but can’t make more than their minimum payments or get a traditional consolidation loan to help them manage their debt.
      • In situations like this consolidating with a Consumer Proposal may be a better option since credit history isn’t a qualifying factor.

For more information about managing debts, connect with a local Licensed Insolvency Trustee. Sands & Associates offers confidential free debt consultations and an hour might be all it takes to get your plan to become debt-free.

Book your free debt consultation with a friendly local debt expert now!