Unsplash / Todd Diemer

Keeping your credit together requires more than making the minimum monthly payments on time. It is an ongoing cycle of strategy, effort, and discipline. One could even call it a lifestyle and lifelong commitment. It doesn’t have to be difficult though. Be sure to avoid these five common mistakes and the rest will practically take care of itself.

Over The Limit

The amount of credit that you use has a substantial impact on your credit score. It is known as your credit utilization. It is ideal to keep your credit utilization under 30%. If you’re already over 30%, try using payment strategies like the snowball method to get your credit usage down.

Hit After Hit

For some people, a solution to getting credit utilization down could be getting more credit. However, that is a very bad idea. Applications for credit show up as hard inquiries on your credit report. Having too many hard inquiries in a short period of time can negatively impact your score.

Strategize Your Way To The Prize

Paying your credit card balance off each month is the ideal thing to do. However, just because it’s paid in full does not mean that it will be reflected as such on your credit report. If you want your credit card balance to show up as $0 you will need to be strategic with your payments. Instead of paying by the due date, pay before the statement close date.

Cut It

You probably have credit cards that you don’t use anymore. They’re tucked away in a drawer somewhere. If this is the case, do not close those accounts! Closing them will automatically lower your available credit, thus increasing your credit utilization. If you feel as though you might be tempted to use them later on, cut them up. Make sure there is no minimum usage requirement to keep the account open.

Teach Them How To Fish

During some point in your life, someone is going to ask you to co-sign a loan for them. Do not do it. I know that you want to help your friend or family member, but don’t do it at your own expense. If they default on the loan, then your credit will suffer. Instead, offer to help the individual get their credit together. You know the saying: give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day; teach him how to catch fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.