smart spending

6 ways to avoid financial Groundhog Day

Repeated mistake: Making late payments
Repeated mistake: Making late payments © Sinisa Botas/Shutterstock.com

Want to send your credit score plunging? Pay late.

Yet, this is one mistake that consumers repeat, says Anthony Sprauve, spokesman for myFICO, a division of FICO.

"We're all busy and it can be very easy to forget about that bill that's due today or tomorrow," he says.

His solution: Use an alert function to remind you. Card issuers or networks often provide them. "Credit cards have gotten really sophisticated in terms of being able to help with alerts," he says.

You can also set up your own alerts on your smartphone, tablet or computer, says Ruth Susswein, deputy director of national priorities for Consumer Action.

Another strategy: automated payments to take care of payment minimums, Sprauve suggests. And making the minimum payments on your credit bills accounts for roughly 35 percent of your FICO scores, he says.

Those amounts vary month to month, so this tactic works best if you have cushion in your bank account. Then follow up to pay off the balance. If a late payment happens "once in a blue moon, certainly ask for it to be removed," says Susswein.

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