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Top 5 Ways You're Unknowingly Hurting Your Credit Score

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DALLAS (CBS11) - If you've ever tried to get approved for a mortgage or a car loan, you know how important your credit score can be.

The difference of as little as a hundred points on your credit over time can cost you thousands of dollars.

Credit expert Wayne Sanford said the problem is even financially-savvy consumers often don't realize their decisions could lower their score.

Sanford said not knowing is like "flat out throwing away money."

Here's our top five ways you're unknowingly hurting your credit score.

1. Haven't paid that parking ticket? The City of Dallas will send unpaid parking citations to a collection agency where even a $35 unpaid fine will hurt your credit score.

"I've literally seen a $3 medical collection affect someone 43 points," said Sanford. "I assume it was an aspirin."

2. Too many hard credit checks can lower your score. According to Fair Isaac (FICO), people with six or more hard credit checks in the past year can be up to eight times more likely to file for bankruptcy than those with credit reports showing no inquiries. Where this becomes a problem is when you don't realize your credit is being checked. Most know that a bank is going to run a hard inquiry before you buy a home. However, you might not realize that a credit check is run every time you sign up for a new cellphone plan.

3. The next time you rent a car think about keeping your debit card in your wallet. Many rental agencies have a policy that allows them to run a hard credit check when someone uses a debit card.

4. Closing a unused credit line with a zero balance can potentially impact your credit score. A large part of your credit score depends the ratio between your credit line and how much you own. The more you can barrow compared to how much you are actually borrowing is good for your credit score. So if close a credit card with a zero balance shrinking your credit line, that ratio goes down.

5. Before you move make sure your close your utility accounts. It is common for a final utility bill to slip through the cracks. Often it's not until it has been turned over to a collection agency that you realize your credit score has taken a hit.

Sanford said, "Any contract you sign is going to come back and bit you, if you don't pay attention."

(©2015 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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