According to credit score creator Fair, Isaac & Company, the current average score of an American consumer is right around 695. The base FICO score has a 300 - 850 score range; the higher the score, the lower the risk to the lender (at least, according to them).
Any score above 750, I call an A. Between 750 and 700 looks like a B. A score of 650 to 700 I give a grade of C. And between 600 and 650 earns a D. Below 600, you have serious credit issues that need to be addressed as soon as possible.
A lot of Americans have terrible credit scores as a result of the recent recession. And in an effort to help you join their ranks if you wish, I have put together a list of seven things you can do to ruin your credit in a hurry.
1. Never pay your bills on time — and definitely don’t use online bill pay. It’s way too easy, and not paying your bills on time, every time, is sure to send your credit score plummeting. Being late with your bills can damage your credit rating pretty quickly, as well as increasing the interest you pay on all of your accounts.
2. Default on your mortgage. Forget the fact that your payment history makes up more than one-third of your credit score. Just cross your fingers and hope that the bills go away all by themselves. That is, unless the creditors send the collection agencies after you. It that happens …
3. Ignore any collection agency requests you get. If you’re setting out to ruin your credit rating, this is a key step. Everything from an overdue library fine to a parking ticket to a late credit card payment can be submitted to a collection agency, so even little fines can affect your credit score.
4. Always use revolving credit, preferably with high interest rates. If you want to ruin your credit, don’t go for “responsible” home equity loans or anything like that. Use your credit cards. It’s easier, the companies will usually up your limit so that you can spend more, and all you have to do is pay an outrageous interest rate and, of course, send your credit score down.
5. Never, ever review your credit report. Sure, it’s free - each of the three credit reporting agencies in the US (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion) are required to provide one free credit report upon request per year. And it’s easy - you can do it from your computer at work or from home. (Go to AnnualCreditReport.com). But if you’re trying to ruin your credit, the last thing you want to do is check your credit report for possible problems.
Now we can really get to work destroying your credit reputation:
6. Open as many low limit credit cards as possible. Low limit credit cards show creditors that you can’t get a higher limit — a red flag for any creditor. Anyone who was not looking to ruin their credit would set out to build their credit limit using just one or two cards with higher limits. Also, the low limit cards are easier to max out, leading to the next way to ruin your credit…
7. Make sure you max out your credit cards — and pay only the minimum payment each month. Pushing your spending to the limit of your credit cards (and once in awhile over the top) is a great way to successfully ruin your credit. The higher your debt is, compared to your credit limit, the more proof that you can’t control your spending and that you’re a high risk for creditors.
Do most, or even some of these things, and I can personally guarantee you that your credit will be classified as terrible, for up to seven years, and maybe longer.
For a different (and likely better) idea of how to handle your credit, log on to my Money99.com webpage and click on “credit” for info about how to improve your score.
Atlanta native John Adams is a real estate broker, an investor, and an author. He hosts a talk show on AM920 WGKA each Sunday at 11am where he explores real estate topics. You are invited to submit questions or comments to Money99.com, where you will find an expanded version of this column.
About the Author