Money Matters

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With the crisis on wall street and tightening credit markets, many people are finding it more difficult to get a loan.

Whether you get a loan and what the interest rate will be depends on your credit score, also called a FICO score. A score of 750 or higher is golden. There are five things that can hurt your credit score.

1. Too Many Inquiries. Each time a lender looks into your credit history, the credit agencies take note. If too many creditors start checking out your credit within six months to a year, it starts to negatively impact your credit. Also, apply for car loans within a 30-day period. If you go to five dealers within a week or two, it's considered one loan. If you spread it out over several months, it looks like you're shopping for five cars.

2. Small Unpaid Debts. That parking ticket or Blockbuster Video return you blew off can come back to haunt you. A collection agency can hammer your credit score.

3. Store Credit Cards. Landing a 15 percent discount on a winter coat may sound nice, but collecting store cards to score a discount will not help you credit score.

4. Authorized Users. If you add a teenage or college age child to your credit account for emergencies, know if they or you are late in making a payment, it affects the credit of all of those on the account.

5. Name Changes. Always notify credit reporting agencies of any name change. If you name is Joseph Jones, and you apply for credit one day as Joe Jones, the credit bureau will create a separate file for both names. Be consistent with names, and good luck.

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