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Late Payments

All it takes is one late payment

A single late payment could have a huge impact on your credit report. Just one could lower your credit score by 100 points. The higher your credit score, the more you stand to lose with each late pay. And it won't be easy earning those points back. It takes years to achieve a high credit score, but just one mistake could knock you down over night.

We all run into problems at one time or another when it comes to paying bills, but there are things you can do to protect yourself and avoid having a late payment reported.

Keep a list of all accounts, their due dates, balances and credit limits. It is crucial to stay organized. There are many computer programs, like Quicken, that can help you with debt management.

Make a habit of paying bills as soon as they arrive. That way you won't forget about them or spend your money on other things.

If an account's due date falls at a time of the month when money is tight, call the company and have the due date changed. Most companies require a 10-30 day advanced notice, so don't wait until the last minute.

Monitor all billing statements and accounts carefully. Check for mistakes or transactions that you don't recall. With the high incidence of identity theft, you need to review your accounts every month.

In addition to your accounts, you also need to monitor your credit reports to check for mistakes, which are very common, or transactions you are not responsible for. It is best to review reports quarterly. If that isn't possible, order copies at least once a year.

You are entitled to one free credit report from each of the bureaus per calendar year. Go to www.annualcreditreport.com

If that site is too difficult to navigate, you can get your report with scores at www.CreditReportsToGo.com While they offer monitoring, you can cancel at any time after you get your report.