John Ulzheimer, president of The Ulzheimer Group, an Atlanta-based firm offering credit-related consulting services. He previously worked for Fair Isaac, which created the FICO credit-scoring system. JohnUlzheimer.com
Our credit scores typically get higher as we get older…but some of us unintentionally allow our scores to take a hit after we retire for several reasons…
If there’s no activity on all your credit accounts for six months, the credit report essentially goes stale and no FICO credit score is generated.
Financial fraud can negatively impact credit scores—and older people are particularly vulnerable to this type of fraud.
Bills may be overlooked or go unpaid because of retirement travel or cognitive decline.
Some retirees aren’t concerned that their credit scores have gone dormant or dropped. They think their scores no longer matter because they are not planning to take out any more loans. But remember—a poor or non-existent credit report also can affect…
Auto and homeowners insurance rates—insurers in many states use a version of credit scores to gauge applicants’ responsibility.
Terms offered by cellular service plans and utility companies.
New credit cards—even retirees who don’t need credit might want to sign up for a new rewards card that offers attractive perks such as cash back or airline miles.
Loans—just because a retiree doesn’t expect to borrow any money doesn’t guarantee that he/she won’t need to—sometimes the unexpected happens.
Steps to protect your credit in retirement…
Keep at least a few credit card accounts open even if you prefer to use other forms of payment. Those open and active cards can be sufficient to prevent your credit reports from going dormant. Ideally the cards kept open should be those that you have had for many years and that have relatively high credit limits, factors that are conducive to higher credit scores.
Use these credit cards every now and then. Card issuers sometimes cancel credit cards that go largely or completely unused. You don’t have to charge large amounts or carry balances on these cards to keep them open.
Put a security freeze on your credit reports with each of the three major credit bureaus—Equifax (Equifax.com), Experian (Experian.com) and TransUnion (TransUnion.com)—to reduce the odds that you’ll become a victim of identity theft. A security freeze prevents access to your credit reports.
If you are concerned about missed payments, arrange for your credit card bills and other recurring payments to be made automatically from your bank account …and/or have your statements also sent to a trusted loved one, so there’s an extra pair of eyes monitoring for missed payments or fraud.