Spend less, save more, pay down debt, and cut up the credit cards -- those tactics are becoming the norm for people trying to survive the tight economy.
But the things you're doing to reduce your credit debt could also reduce your credit score.
We always hear that one of the best ways to help your credit score is to pay your bills on time, but the companies that do the scoring are looking at other factors that could cost you big points without your knowledge.
Depending on your situation, there can be thin line between controlling your debt, and maintaining a good credit score.
Potential credit score reducers you may not consider? Having too few credit accounts, which affects your overall credit history. Closing an account can reduce your available credit, which affects your overall score.
Some credit issuers will ding you for not using an existing account after a certain period of time. If an issuer closes your account, that can hurt your credit score more than if you close the account yourself.
In some cases, you can also lose points by consolidating multiple accounts into a single account.
It's also possible to get your credit score reduced if you charge everything to your credit card and always pay the balance in full. The problem there- being your credit report can show what's considered an overly high debt balance at that particular time. Remember, 30 percent of your score is based on the total amount of debt you owe.
Also be careful about those no-interest no-payment promotions. If you don't read the fine print and pay the balance before the grace period is up, those marketing lures can trip you up on the back end.
If you haven't done so already , check your credit report make sure there are no mistake that can ding you unfairly.
Remember, by law, you're entitled to one free report a year from each of the three credit bureaus. To maximize the freebies, order one free every four months report from a different reporting agency. That way you'll get a snapshot of your credit reports throughout the year.
When you order your free report, only go through one Web site, AnnualCreditReport.com.
While you're at it, consider paying for your credit score. Credit scores are not part of the free annual report. They typically cost around $15.
Just read carefully before you commit, and make sure you go directly through one of the three credit reporting bureaus, Trans Union, Equifax or Experian, to avoid mistakenly enrolling in some ongoing program that will apply repeated charges to your credit card.