-- In times of economic hardship for many, the last thing a lot of people want to worry about is their credit score. But according to Wendy Bounds of the Wall Street Journal, credit scores are "more important than ever" and increasingly hard to protect.
A good credit score is above 700, Bounds said, with emphasis on "above." According to the Wall Street Journal, anyone can check their credit score for free online at Web sites like annualcreditreport.com.
Watch "GMA" Wednesday to discover other ways you unknowingly could be hurting your credit.
Despite the ability to check, Bounds said many people are slowly destroying their credit score without even knowing they are doing it.
Recently, Bounds stopped by "Good Morning America" today to warn consumers of the five things that many people are doing to unwittingly hurt their score.
1. Consolidating Debt
Many people believe consolidating their debt into one credit card account makes keeping up with their debt easier. It can also make their credit score worse. According to Bounds, it is better to spread your debt out over a couple of cards and pay them off as much as you can each month.
2. Canceling Old Accounts
Though much of a credit score is based on paying current bills on time, 15 percent of your score is determined by account history. Rather than canceling old accounts in favor of new ones, consumers should "stay steady" on those accounts.
3. Shopping Around for Loans
While it is good financial advice to shop around a little for the right car or home loan, the more inquiries made into your credit history, the more they can damage your credit score. Keep your loan shopping limited to a 14-day window to keep the impact minimal.
4. Dismissing the Little Things
Smaller issues, such as overdue library books and parking tickets, are starting to impact credit scores as more and more organizations, including municipal organizations, are turning to collection agencies to collect even small fines. A few little problems like this can add up to a big drop in your credit score.
5. Keeping One Kind of Debt
Rather than having one kind of debt, consumers should spread out their debt among credit cards, fixed payments and home loans. A good showing of your ability to juggle several debts will positively affect your credit score.
Bounds also emphasized the basics of good credit, including paying bills on time and making use of all these tips, "within reason."