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Financial Literacy - Becoming credit savvy Click Here
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Trash your credit score
Making some of the following mistakes can ensure that lenders will need a hazmat suit to handle your credit report.
Fast track to becoming credit savvy

7 ways to be a dolt about credit

Also, applying for credit causes a hard inquiry on your credit report. The alternative to a hard inquiry is a soft inquiry, which is what would happen if you pulled your credit report.

Inquiries aren't extremely damaging to a credit score, but multiple hard inquiries in a short period of time can raise lenders' eyebrows, because of that whole reeking-of-desperation-thing, or possibly being up to something illegal. Most banks or credit card companies try to avoid consumers in these scenarios.

However, credit scores do take smart loan shopping into account. When shopping for products such as auto loans or mortgages, consumers are not dinged for each individual auto or home loan-related inquiry within a 45-day window.

Experts recommend doing all comparison shopping within that period of time if possible to minimize credit dings.

Don't pay fines or non-credit-card bills
Skipping out on overdue book fines at the library can hurt more than your book-borrowing privileges. It actually can negatively impact your credit score, as can other seemingly meaningless hassles, such as parking tickets.

"These days, public institutions and municipalities will use credit to get people to pay their fines and fees. So if someone has an old library fine that they never paid, it could be killing their credit score without them knowing it -- which is why it is essential to check your score regularly," Opperman says.

Other business relationships that don't normally report your good payments can turn around and bite you if you decide not to pay as agreed. Any business, from garbage collectors to cell phone companies, can turn to the dark side when it comes to getting what's owed to them, and that means sending your account to collections.

"Normally when you have an account with a merchant that doesn't report directly to the credit bureaus, there is a difference between positive and negative reporting. A lot of service providers don't report positive information. But the minute you do something wrong, they can outsource that debt to a collection agency who will report it," Ulzheimer says.

"If I have a Verizon cell phone and pay $79 every single month for the phone, that information is not on any of my credit reports. But if I was on a contract that required that I pay every month and I don't -- it's really only a matter of time before they send it to a collection agency and then the collection agency will report the past-due debt, or the collection debt, on my credit report," he says.

Ignore mistakes on your report
Say what you will about credit bureaus: They do make it easy to dispute inaccuracies on your credit report.

Sure, they may not fix them and it may be nearly impossible to ever speak to a live human being. But sometimes, probably more often than not, it works and it's easy.

-- Posted: Jan. 26, 2009
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