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Why Does My Credit Score Keep Going Down? What Does Your Credit Score Start at?

Your credit score might be decreasing due to missed payments, high credit card balances, errors in your credit report, identity theft, co-signing loans, frequent credit applications, closing old credit card accounts, paying off loans, and participating in debt management programs.

by Tamilchandran

Updated Dec 19, 2023

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Why Does My Credit Score Keep Going Down? What Does Your Credit Score Start at?

Why Does My Credit Score Keep Going Down?

Experiencing a continuous decline in your credit score can be concerning, and understanding the potential reasons behind it is crucial. Several factors can contribute to a decreasing credit score, ranging from missed payments and high credit utilization to new credit applications and negative information on your credit report. Identifying the specific causes is essential to take corrective measures and improve your credit health.

Missed Payments and Late Payments

One of the most common reasons for a declining credit score is missed or late payments. Even a delay of a few days can result in penalties and negatively impact your credit report. Timely payments are crucial for maintaining a good credit score.

High Credit Card Balances

Utilizing a large portion of your credit card limits can harm your credit score. If your credit card balances are consistently high, it can signal financial stress to creditors, leading to a drop in your credit score. Aim to keep your credit utilization below 30% of your available credit limit.

Errors in Your Credit Report

Mistakes in your credit report, such as inaccurate late payments or accounts that don't belong to you, can significantly affect your credit score. Regularly checking your credit report for errors and disputing them promptly is essential to maintaining an accurate credit history.

Identity Theft and Fraudulent Activities

Identity theft can lead to unauthorized accounts or transactions in your name, causing a sudden and significant drop in your credit score. Monitoring your accounts and credit reports for any suspicious activity is crucial to detecting and resolving identity theft issues.

Co-signing Loans or Credit Applications

Co-signing a loan or credit card for someone else means you share responsibility for that debt. If the other party fails to make timely payments, it can negatively impact your credit score. Stay vigilant and monitor co-signed accounts regularly.

Frequent Credit Applications

Each time you apply for credit, a hard inquiry is made on your credit report. Multiple inquiries within a short period can lower your credit score. Be strategic about applying for new credit and avoid unnecessary applications.

Closing Old Credit Card Accounts

Closing old credit card accounts, especially if they have a high credit limit, reduces your overall available credit. This reduction can increase your credit utilization ratio, leading to a decrease in your credit score. Think carefully before closing old accounts.

Paying Off Loans

While paying off a loan is a positive financial milestone, it can temporarily lower your credit score. Closing an installment account means you have one less active credit account, impacting your credit mix. Keeping other accounts active and diversifying your credit types can mitigate this effect.

Financial Hardship and Debt Management Programs

Entering into debt management programs or facing financial hardship can result in negotiated settlements or partial payments, which may reflect negatively on your credit report. While these programs can help manage debt, they can impact your credit score.

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What Does Your Credit Score Start at?

Your credit score doesn't begin at a specific number; rather, it's a reflection of your financial habits as you start using credit. If you haven't utilized credit yet, you won't have a credit score. The process starts when you open your first credit account, like a credit card or a student loan. From that point onward, your credit score is shaped by how responsibly you handle your credit, including making timely payments and managing your available credit.

There isn't a fixed starting score; instead, it's an evolving measure of your financial responsibility and prudent credit management practices. Focus on using credit wisely, and your credit score will naturally reflect your responsible financial behavior over time.

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How is Credit Score Calculated?

Understanding how credit scores are calculated is crucial for managing your financial health. This breakdown highlights the key factors that influence your credit score, providing insights into responsible credit management. From payment history to credit mix, each element plays a distinct role in shaping your overall creditworthiness.

Payment History (35%)

Your payment history holds the most significant weight in your credit score calculation. Timely payments, including at least the minimum amount due, are crucial. Consistently paying bills on time demonstrates financial responsibility and positively impacts your credit score.

Amounts Owed (30%)

Credit utilization, or the amount you owe compared to your credit limit, is a significant factor. Keeping your outstanding balance below 30% of your available credit limit is advisable. If you exceed this limit, paying off the excess quickly can help maintain a healthy credit score.

Length of Credit History (15%)

The length of time you've been using credit plays a role in your credit score. A longer credit history often translates to a higher score. While newcomers will have a shorter history, it will naturally increase over time as you manage your credit responsibly.

Credit Mix (10%)

Having a diverse mix of credit accounts positively influences your credit score. This includes both revolving credit (like credit cards) and installment credit (like loans). While it's beneficial to have a variety, having only credit cards can still establish and maintain a good credit score.

New Credit (10%)

Frequent applications for new credit can adversely affect your credit score. It's advisable to space out your credit card applications, waiting between three to six months between each application. Avoiding numerous new credit requests helps preserve your credit score.

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How Can You Check Your Credit Score?

To check your credit score efficiently and gain insights into your financial standing, follow these five steps: Gather necessary personal and financial information, choose a reliable source like banks or credit monitoring services, access your credit score and verify the scoring model, and review your detailed credit report for accuracy, promptly addressing any discrepancies.

Gather Information

Collect relevant personal and financial information, including your Social Security number, date of birth, and details about your financial accounts. You might need this information to verify your identity during the credit score check process.

Choose a Reliable Source

Select a reputable source to check your credit score. You can use services provided by banks, credit card issuers, or credit monitoring services. Additionally, popular personal finance apps like Mint also offer this feature.

Access Your Credit Score

Visit the chosen platform's website or download the app. Sign in to your account or create one if you're a new user. Navigate to the credit score section, where you can access your current credit score and related information.

Verify the Score Model

Check which credit scoring model is being used. Some services may provide you with a VantageScore instead of a FICO score. Understand that these models might have slight differences, but they generally overlap in terms of credit ranges.

Review Your Credit Report

While checking your credit score, take the opportunity to review your detailed credit report. Ensure all the information is accurate and dispute any discrepancies if necessary. Regularly monitoring your credit report can help you identify and address any errors or suspicious activities promptly.

What Are the Ways to Improve Your Credit Scores?

Enhancing your creditworthiness involves timely payments, minimizing debt, regular credit monitoring, and limiting unnecessary credit card applications. Establishing responsible spending habits through budgeting is crucial for maintaining financial discipline and staying within manageable limits.

Timely Payments

Ensure you pay your bills on time. Setting up automatic payments is a reliable method to prevent missed payments. However, always maintain a sufficient balance in your connected bank account to avoid overdrafts.

Minimize Debt

Avoid relying on credit for purchases beyond your means. Strive to pay off your credit card balance in full each month. By doing so, you manage your payments effectively and maintain a low credit utilization ratio.

Credit Monitoring

Regularly monitor your credit score and report. Free services like Experian can help you keep track of your FICO® Score and any changes in your credit report. Swiftly identifying discrepancies enables you to take corrective actions promptly.

Limit Credit Card Applications

Refrain from applying for unnecessary credit cards. Some cards come with high annual fees, and having multiple cards might encourage overspending. Be mindful of your financial limits.

Responsible Spending

Establish a budget, even a basic one that categorizes your expenses broadly. A budget helps you spend within your means and promotes responsible financial habits. Regularly assess and adjust your budget as needed.

Why Does My Credit Score Keep Going Down - FAQs

1. Why is my credit score decreasing?

Late payments, high credit card balances, errors in credit reports, identity theft, and co-signed loans can lead to a declining credit score.

2. How is a credit score calculated?

Credit scores are calculated based on payment history (35%), amounts owed (30%), length of credit history (15%), credit mix (10%), and new credit (10%).

3. What impacts my credit utilization ratio?

Credit utilization ratio is affected by the amount you owe compared to your credit limit; it's advisable to keep it below 30% for a healthy credit score.

4. How can I check my credit score?

Gather personal information, choose a reliable source like a bank or credit monitoring service, access your score online, verify the score model, and review your credit report.

5. What are effective strategies to improve my credit score?

Timely payments, minimizing debt, regular credit monitoring, limiting credit card applications, and practicing responsible spending can help improve your creditworthiness.

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