CreditCards.com Q&A expert Barry Paperno

Barry Paperno

Barry Paperno is a freelance writer and credit scoring expert with decades of consumer credit industry experience, serving as consumer affairs manager for FICO (formerly Fair Isaac Corp.) and consumer operations manager for Experian (formerly TRW).

He writes "Speaking of Credit," a weekly reader Q&A column about credit scoring and rebuilding credit, for CreditCards.com. His writings about credit scoring have appeared in The Huffington Post, MSN Money, CBS Money Watch and other consumer finance websites.

Barry Paperno's stories at CreditCards.com

Small credit line? Pay early to boost your score -- Knocking down the balance quickly keeps your credit utilization low ... (See Early)

Mixed credit files: How to avoid them, fix them -- Every Jr., Sr. and Smith beware: People with similar or common names are at risk of having credit report mashups ... (See Mixed files)

Withholding payment after dispute goes against you -- Severe credit damage awaits if you don't pay up after losing a dispute ... (See Withhold)

Find the reason for a sudden 100-point credit score drop -- Start by reviewing ‘credit score factors’ listed on your report ... (See Drop)

How to restore your good credit score to great -- Examine your recent loan-related activity to find what caused the drop ... (See Score)

Autopayments, though convenient, can backfire -- Autopay may be convenient, but sometimes it's best to make payments manually ... (See Autopay)

Yes, worry about a 30-point discrepancy in your credit scores -- Some variation is expected, but big differences merit investigation ... (See Scores)

Small balance shows you use credit, helping your score -- Scoring formula quirk rewards you for having tiny balance ... (See Balance)

Don't close your credit card accounts to win a mortgage -- "Too much credit" is old, bad advice some mortgage lenders cling to ... (See Mortgage)

Being added as authorized user can boost credit age, score -- Young to credit? Your parents' well-aged card could help ... (See Age)

Credit bureau policies vary when freezing a child's credit -- It is often difficult to place a credit freeze on a child when no ID theft has been committed ... (See Freeze)

Business charged you via card number on file? Dispute it -- Just because they sold you something once, they can't run your card number on file again without your permission ... (See Dispute)

If credit score disappears, here's how to get it back -- Inactivity can cause your credit score to vanish ... (See Disappear)

Removing yourself as an authorized user -- Ending the 'piggyback' ride from a person with great credit can impact score ... (See Impact)

How becoming a widow affects credit -- Becoming suddenly single won't hurt credit if you have your own ... (See Widow)

How preapproved offers affect credit -- You don't have a lot to worry about, but there are exceptions ... (See Preapprove)

How delinquent child support affects credit scores -- States vary in how they report it, so impact varies, too ... (See Scores)

How being denied credit affects your score -- Only the hard inquiry affects the credit score of an applicant when their credit report is pulled ... (See Denied credit)

Hard inquiry warning not required -- The impact of that inquiry can range from slightly harmful to positive ... (See Inquiry)

5 credit scoring head-scratchers -- Most of the times, scoring rules make sense. Then there are these ... (See Rules)

Authorized user doesn't like the piggyback ride -- Don't jump off too soon; a close look at the entire credit profile may show it's a net positive ... (See Piggyback)

Score damage increases if unpaid debt goes to collections -- Your score likely took one blow when a bill went seriously delinquent. You'll take another if it's sold to a collection agency ... (See Into collections)

If you settle debt, expect a credit score drop -- Debt settlement can help get you out of overwhelming debt, but there will be a catch ... (See Settle)

How a Canadian can restart credit in the U.S. -- A great score in Canada means little; you need to obtain a U.S. loan from a U.S. lender that reports to U.S. credit bureaus ... (See Canadian)

Who sees credit report 100-word statements -- Not many lenders bother with them; you may want to remove old ones ... (See 100 words)

Just 10 credit score points shy of a mortgage -- These strategies will help you get the final points needed to qualify for that home loan ... (See 10 points)

Why an old debt may vanish from credit report -- If a legitimate debt disappeared from your credit report, don't celebrate yet. It might not be gone long. ... (See Credit report)

Good payment habits will raise score after balance transfers -- Multiple balance transfers led to multiple hard inquiries and a score drop, but you should be able to turn it around ... (See Transfer)

Some states offer exceptions to credit reporting rules -- Negative items can come off your report sooner in New York, California ... (See Exceptions)

Card account isn't closed if annual fee still charged -- Despite not using the card for years, if you are still getting charged a fee, your card company considers the account open ... (See Closed )

Positive info not always reported to all 3 credit bureaus -- Big swings in credit scores can result, and that can hurt if you're borrowing ... (See Scores)

Even with no SSN, unpaid debt can ruin your credit -- Your name, address and amount owed will be reported ... (See SSN)

Pay off revolving card debt first over installment loan -- A revolving debt balance, in lenders eyes, increases the chance that the borrower will default ... (See Debts)

Lenders may remember old charge-off forever -- Nothing requires a lender to grant more credit if you still owe a debt, despite it falling off your credit report ... (See Charge-off)

Wrong address in credit report worrisome, but won't hurt score -- Bureaus use formula to decide which address is current ... (See Address)

High installment loan utilization hurts your credit score -- Owing a lot on installment loans isn't as damaging as maxing out a card, but it still suppresses your credit score ... (See Installment)

Promotional inquiries' impact on your credit score -- They crop up on your credit report when a lender has a 'prescreened' offer for you, but don't directly impact your score ... (See Inquiries)

Credit utilization rules for managing your credit score -- General credit utilization rules: Closing a card will never help your score, while keeping a $0 balance will never hurt it ... (See Utilization)

Allocating card payments on a limited budget -- Use free tools to plan your debt attack, don't close the account after you succeed ... (See Allocating payments)

'Nuisance' debt in collections under $100 may not hurt score -- You'll face late fees, but newer scoring models ignore small debts ... (See Missed payment)

Primary account holders are responsible for card debt -- If you're told you're not the primary account holder, you can pay bills, but not make changes ... (See Primary)

Playing hardball in a debt dispute has credit consequences -- If you feel wronged by a creditor, you can fight, but if you withhold payment your credit score will plummet ... (See Debt hardball)

Automated credit score advice may not fit -- Free online score-improving tips can conflict, depending on which credit-scoring formula is used ... (more)

Don't be hasty in closing unused account with $0 balance -- Unused, available credit contributes to your score, so it might be helping your credit score without you knowing it ... (See $0 balance card)

Check credit score before applying for balance transfer -- Inquiries and new accounts both ding your credit score, so choose carefully ... (See Balance transfer credit check)

Credit score differences: How they occur, why they matter -- The credit files' data may differ, it can contain errors and the formulas used on it vary ... (See Credit score differences)

Involuntary authorized user wants to be removed -- A near-stranger adds a woman as an authorized user. Maybe it's ID theft, certainly it's creepy, and it can to be stopped ... (See Authorized user)

How charge cards are different in credit scoring formula -- Credit limits, utilization aren't a factor, but wise use of the card is ... (See Charge cards and credit scores)

Rebuilding credit? Go easy on new accounts -- When working to rebuild your credit, open and maintain only two or three new cards. Any more could hurt more than helpp ... (See Credit rebuilding)

How partial debt payments affect your credit, your legal rights -- Old debts fall off your credit reports in 7.5 years no matter what you do, but a partial payment may lengthen your vulnerability to a collections lawsuit ... (See Partial payments)

Immigrant seeks to build good credit faster -- With basics mastered, it's time to make mid-course corrections ... (See Building credit)

Options limited when paying bills for relative in coma -- Trying to do the right thing - pay a comatose relative's card bill - is nearly impossible without legal authority ... (See Pay relative's bills)

How hard and soft inquiries affect your credit score -- Credit inquiries can be either soft or hard, and your credit score can suffer damage if you drop too many hard inquiries into it ... (See Credit inquiries)

Raise credit score 30 points in 6 months? Tough, but doable -- Attention to bill-paying, credit utilization -- plus enough cash to whittle down debt -- can get it done ... (See 30 points )

How long negative information stays on a credit report -- Late fees will not affect a credit score, while a late payment history will -- at least, until it drops off a credit report in seven years ... (See Negative credit information)

Maxed-out card blocks entry to 800 credit score 'club' -- One card with a high utiliization is enough to prevent a good credit score from becoming nearly perfect ... (See 800 club)

Getting a credit card after bankruptcy can help credit score -- A post-bankruptcy credit card is one step toward restoring your credit score, but there are others, too ... (See Credit after bankruptcy)

How late payments get reported to credit bureaus -- First comes the late fee; if you still don't pay your score takes a hit ... (See Late payments)

Spouse committed fraud, ran up debt, but we're still together -- With $10,000 debt in collections, an 850 credit score is not on the horizon ... (more)

Minimizing score damage after a charge-off -- Having credit card accounts closed and charged off will cause a huge credit score drop, and it could get worse if you don't take steps ... (See Rebuild score after charge-off)

5 questions every authorized user should ask -- "Piggybacking" -- being added as an authorized user -- is usually a credit-boosting gift, but needs to be looked over carefully first ... (See Authorized user)

Credit card advice for a 'debit card kind of guy' -- Debt and bad money habits are the enemies. Those old store cards? They're your pals ... (See Debit guy)

How average credit account age affects your FICO score -- The average age of the various types of credit plays a significant part in determining your credit score ... (See Age of credit accounts)

5 credit score oddities -- Quirks in the credit scoring formula make unexpected things help or hurt ... (See Credit score oddities)

How banks limit the size of your balance transfer -- You may see a balance transfer to a 0-percent card as a way out of debt, but to the bank, it's new credit and you have to qualify for it ... (See Balance transfer)

How credit reports handle balance transfers -- If your payment record was good, try to keep both the new and old accounts open -- it'll help your credit score ... (See Balance transfer)

Tips to boost credit score enough to qualify for a mortgage -- Low and mismanaged credit can be bumped up by taking these three credit card actions ... (See Improve score)

Myth: Too much available credit hurts home loan -- If you have many cards with little or no balances, closing them won't boost your credit score ... (See Myth)

Credit scores recover quickly from short-term debt -- If a brief, big debt surge is necessary, do it. Eating up your credit limit will hurt your credit score, but you can recover quickly with no lingering damage ... (See Short-term debt)

Banks' internal 'behavior scores' can decide cardholder terms -- If you apply for a new card or higher limit from your existing card issuer, they'll judge you with a proprietary 'behavior score' that looks at how you've used their card before ... (See Behavior score)

3 quick, easy, inexpensive credit score rebuilding tools -- Paying off all your debt at once will help, but it won't rebuild a slumping credit score by itself. To speed the process, add some new, positive loan payment history. Here's how ... (See Credit rebuilding)

The facts behind debt reduction methods -- How your credit score is affected by a debt reduction plan depends on what type of action you are taking. It helps to know the facts before choosing a method ... (See Debt reduction)

Credit score still damaged after report error fixed -- A "rapid rescore" won't fix a credit issue, but digging deeper into the credit score issue will help ... (See Credit score fix)

How credit mix is calculated in FICO scores -- Having a variety of credit - a good "credit mix" - is the last and often overlooked component to the FICO score formula, but is still vital to a good score ... (See Credit mix)

To boost score, let credit utilization guide your debt payoff -- For the best credit score boost, neither the debt snowball nor the 'highest rate' method is best. Instead, let credit utilization guide your payment allocation ... (See Debt payoff plan)

Why credit limits aren't revealed until after you get the card -- Banks don't disclose what your credit limit will be until after you get the card, which means consumers are deprived of a piece of information critical to making an intelligent choice ... (See Credit limit secrecy)

Getting a mortgage? Pay debts, go easy on charging -- The time between getting preapproved for a mortgage and the closing date on your home is crucial for your credit, so don't blow it by overborrowing ... (See Mortgages and card use)

How mortgage settlements affect your score (and for how long) -- It's been years since the recession thrust millions of homeowners into default. If you've paid your other bills, maybe you can qualify for another mortgage ... (See Deed on report)

Debt shifting helps your score, but paying it off is better -- Using balance transfers to shift a pile of debt so it's evenly distributed across cards can help a credit score, but paying off the debt helps much more ... (See Debt shifting)

Why hard inquiries hurt your credit score -- Hard inquiries can be triggered after you have asked for more credit or by trying to rent an apartment. Once a inquiry hits, your score is knocked down a couple of points, and here is why ... (See Hard inquiry )

Your low-limit secured card strategy: Pay the bill early, often -- When you have a low limit card and want to build your credit score, time your payments so your credit utilization is lowest on the statement date, since that's when your issuer reports to the credit bureaus ... (See Pay early, often)

Paying a time-barred debt before mortgage application -- If an old unpaid debt is causing you to doubt whether to apply for a mortgage, see if it's gone beyond the collectible stage ... (See Time-barred debt)

Brother's got a near-perfect credit score? Go piggybacking -- Being added as an authorized user to an account with almost perfect credit will help boost your credit score and history. But is it as easy as it sounds? ... (See Piggybacking)

Length of credit history matters more when you're young -- When new to credit, it takes time to boost the length of your credit history. With each new account opening, you cut your average age of accounts, so open new cards sparingly ... (See Young credit)

How payments are allocated on a card with different rates -- Will a payment that is over the minimum amount go straight to the latest charge? Where payments are allocated to on your card ... (See Payment allocation)

How credit score formula handles multiple credit inquiries -- FICO uses a 30-day buffer and a process called "deduplication" on multiple inquiries for a mortgage or car loan, in effect counting them as one. But that doesn't apply to credit card shopping ... (See Multiple inquiries)

Boosting credit after a discharged bankruptcy -- A Chapter 7 bankruptcy will stay on your credit years after discharge, but if you make payments on time and use credit wisely, your score will start to increase ... (See Discharged)

An insider's view: How FICO scores burst from secrecy -- Creditcards.com columnist and former FICO official Barry Paperno recounts how credit scores went public, and why they're as confusing as ever ... (See FICO history)

Help your credit score rebound after a fall -- If you're whittling debt and paying bills on time after a credit score tumble, your credit scores should improve fairly quickly. If they aren't, something else is wrong ... (See Score rebound)

Best way to apply tax refund to multiple card balances -- With a mortgage on the horizon and several maxed-out cards, what would be the best way to apply a tax refund to maximize credit score? ... (See Refund)

How to build credit with a student loan -- Student loans are usually overlooked as credit tools. But for young people with few other accounts, paying on one can provide a powerful credit score boost ... (See Student credit)

How rapid rescore works when applying for a mortgage -- If you have errors on your credit report that could block a mortgage application, choosing a rapid rescore option could help, if your lender offers it ... (See Rapid rescore)

What day is my card balance reported to the credit bureaus? -- Banks and credit bureaus manage millions of accounts and have different policies for recording data, so finding when yours is recorded isn't possible ... (See Card data)

When building credit, focus first on on-time payments -- Don't overmanage your credit utilization while in a formal debt management plan. Just keep paying on time, every time and your score will rise over time ... (See On-time payment)

Partial payment agreements can hurt your credit score -- Reaching a partial payment agreement with a lender at a lower interest rate does wonders for your budget, but can crush your credit score ... (See Credit score)

Paying by cash won't build credit score -- If you've never made a late payment in your life, you'd think you'd have a good credit score. Not so if those payments have all been in cash. But fear not: You can get a score without going into debt. ... (See Cash only )

Closed accounts affect your credit score, but maybe not how you think -- No matter who closes an account, the account holder or creditor, it will have an impact on a credit score. How much depends on the overall credit utilization ... (See Closed accounts)

How many cards is too many? -- While there's no right number, you can go too far in either direction and end up hurting your credit score ... (See Too many cards)

Authorized users can't access credit card account information -- Authorized users cannot access the individual account information, which can be frustrating if you think you're a joint account holder ... (See Account information)

Opening 3 cards at once dings credit score -- Unlike rapid-fire applications for mortgages or car loans, which are bundled into a single credit score hit, each card application counts against you ... (See Credit score)

Landlords limited in ability to pull tenants' credit reports -- Though a tenant has left rent unpaid and thousands in damages, that's not enough to give a landlord the right to pull a credit report ... (See Tenants' credit reports)

5 credit don'ts for homebuyers applying for mortgages -- When you're about to apply for a mortgage, tread lightly on making changes to your credit. Steps you think should be helpful could derail your loan ... (See Mortgage credit don'ts)

5 steps to dispute debt caused by ID theft -- Take these steps to uncover all the damage left by an ID thief, contest the fraudulent debts and end a debt collector's scare tactics ... (See Disputing fraud)

Steps to rebuild credit after bankruptcy -- After declaring bankruptcy obtaining secured credit sources and becoming an authorized user can help bring life back to your line of credit ... (See Bankruptcy)

How early payment can result in late fees -- Leaving town? Paying your card bill early can backfire if you miss making the minimum payment by the due date, leaving you with late fees and penalty rates ... (See Early payment, late fee)

Charge-offs irreversible, even if co-signer not notified of debt -- When a widower is denied credit six months after his wife's death, he finds a charge-off on a co-signed account dropped his credit score almost 200 points ... (See Co-sign)

Retail cards, the Rodney Dangerfields of credit, deserve respect -- Store cards get a bad rap. But closing even an unused retail card can hurt credit utilization and lower your credit score ... (See Retail cards)

The good and the bad of credit account 'piggybacking' -- Authorized users can greatly benefit from being tagged in an account with a good credit score. But they can also be hurt if the account is not so great ... (See Piggybacking)

Prescreened card offers don't impact your credit score -- Prequalified or prescreened credit card offers just mean you meet a card issuer's broad criteria. But if you try to take the offer, the real credit check occurs ... (See Prescreened)

Forget the 30 percent credit utilization 'rule' – it's a myth -- When it comes to credit utilization and your credit score, a very low credit-to-borrowing ratio is best, and it's a myth that your score falls off a cliff once you hit 30 percent ... (See 30% myth)

How leaving a tiny card balance each month affects credit score -- Keeping the balance-to-credit ratio low, paying in full and on time is a better way to get the most from your secured card ... (See $2 balance)

Charge a lot? Pay early and often to avoid score damage -- Even if you pay your balance off in full and on time each month, if you are charging close to your credit limit, don't expect a high credit score ... (See Pay often)

Closing 50 cards without damaging credit score -- With an 800+ FICO score at stake, the account-closing strategy should be to take it slow and shut down the newest and smallest accounts ... (See Too many cards)

How closing cards and student loans affects FICO scores -- Keeping cards active and paying loans on time is best way to maintain a strong credit score ... (See Credit scores)

Paying card bill on time more important than credit utilization -- Maxing out your card will have a negative effect on your credit score, however, the potentially positive payment history might just be worth it ... (See Maxed out)

Don't expect big score boost when unpaid debt falls off credit report -- Is an old debt, charged off seven years ago, finally falling off your credit report? Sorry, but there's not likely to be a big rise in your score. It could even fall ... (See Old debts)

Time-barred debt can still do damage even after 13 years -- Credit checks for mortgages go deep and collection efforts may restart, so even on a debt 13 years old, potential damage can linger ... (See Time-barred debt)

New myth: Closing a credit card account always hurts your score -- It's a new myth that closing a credit card account always hurts your score. The information about the card (good or bad) sticks with you for (seven to 10) years ... (See Myth)

6-year-old mystery debt suddenly appears on credit report? Erase it! -- Just before the statute of limitations expires, a negative item pops up on your credit report and the creditor can't supply an account number ... (See Surprise debt)

Rebuilding fiancee's credit one small monthly charge at a time -- In his debut column, former FICO executive Barry Paperno endorses a one-small-monthly-payment plan for an engaged couple ... (See One payment at a time)


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Updated: 12-03-2016



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