How a Library Book Nearly Destroyed My Credit Score

fix my credit

After graduating with my master’s degree — and with about $30,000 in student loans — I was obsessive about my credit score.

I monitored it weekly, paid off credit card purchases immediately, and checked my credit report quarterly.

In 2014, I was so proud when my credit score hit 785, putting me in the excellent borrower category.

However, my glee did not last long. A few weeks later I checked my report, only to find my history wrecked. In a short span of time, I had poor credit. My score dropped by nearly 100 points.

My pursuit of perfection

I worked really hard to get a good credit score. And while I never achieved the perfect score of 850, my 785 credit score did make my life easier. I never had to worry about landlords approving me for an apartment, and I got great interest rate offers for car loans. I signed up for a credit card with fantastic rewards and a large credit line with no problem.

Having excellent credit was a luxury I got used to and enjoyed. So when I saw my credit score had dropped to 695 — which put me in the “average” range — I was devastated.

My damaged credit

When I first saw the credit score drop, I assumed there had been some mistake. I thought someone had stolen my identity or a credit bureau had accidentally included someone else’s accounts.

I immediately reached out to each credit bureau to get them to put a freeze on my accounts. And I reached out to my credit card company to notify them about potential fraud and to get a new card.

In the meantime, I examined my credit report line by line, determined to find the mistake or fraudulent activity.

But there was nothing crazy or unexpected on there. The only thing that I didn’t immediately recognize was a $26 unpaid fee that my report said I owed to a collections agency.

I assumed it was an error, and with such a small charge, I figured it would be easy to fix my credit. I contacted the collections agency, expecting them to remove the charge from my account quickly.

But that wasn’t the case.

My library book nightmare

When I spoke to the collections agency, they told me that the charge was late fees I owed on a library book I had taken out in high school.

My local library had launched a new policy: They would turn over library accounts with over $25 in late fees to a collections agency and report the delinquent account to the credit bureaus.

Because I had gone away to college, then moved to another city after graduation, I never received any notification from the library.

Getting rid of the charge was not as easy as paying the $26 unpaid fee. The collections agency added penalties to my account, and to clear the charge and for them to remove it from my credit report, I had to pay them over $200.

And unfortunately, paying the fee didn’t magically fix my credit score. It took me another two years to rebuild my credit score back to the high 700’s.

3 weird things that can impact your credit

As it turns out, my experience wasn’t that strange. I have since learned that many libraries have similar policies. And there are many other bizarre factors that can hurt your credit.

Unpaid tolls

Electronic toll systems are very common now. And because they are so convenient, it’s easy to forget about your account balance and go through the toll lane without thinking about it.

But if you do not pay the toll, the sensors can track your license plates, and the state will charge you a fee. If you miss the bill or do not pay it, they can send your unpaid tolls to collections.

Parking tickets

If you get a parking ticket, pay it off right away or appeal it as soon as possible. If you delay taking care of it with the intention of getting to it later, the city may send it to collections, damaging your credit.

Gym memberships

A gym membership always seems like a fantastic idea at the time, especially when the gym offers discounts. But if you sign up and stop going and miss payments, the gym can send your account to collections, too.

Make sure you pay your bill or end your membership, per their instructions, to prevent hurting your credit.

Maintaining your credit score

Your credit score significantly impacts your financial life. It affects everything from getting a home to your options for refinancing your student loans. To prevent any issues, check your credit report regularly.

Remember, you can check your credit report for free at Take out a report from each of the three credit bureaus — Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion — once a year, too. If you’re worried about fraudulent charges or weird activity, you can stagger your reports, taking one out every four months.

As my library book debacle shows, monitoring your credit report and checking for even small discrepancies is important. This can ensure you take care of any issues before they become even bigger problems.

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1 Includes AutoPay discount. Important Disclosures for SoFi.

SoFi Disclosures

  1. Terms and Conditions Apply: SOFI RESERVES THE RIGHT TO MODIFY OR DISCONTINUE PRODUCTS AND BENEFITS AT ANY TIME WITHOUT NOTICE. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident in an eligible state and meet SoFi’s underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. To qualify for the lowest rate, you must have a responsible financial history and meet other conditions. If approved, your actual rate will be within the range of rates listed above and will depend on a variety of factors, including term of loan, a responsible financial history, years of experience, income and other factors. Rates and Terms are subject to change at anytime without notice and are subject to state restrictions. SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers such as Income Based Repayment or Income Contingent Repayment or PAYE. Licensed by the Department of Business Oversight under the California Finance Lender Law License No. 6054612. SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp., NMLS # 1121636. (
  2. Personal Loans: Fixed rates from 5.49% APR to 14.24% APR (with AutoPay). Variable rates from 5.29% APR to 11.44% APR (with AutoPay). SoFi rate ranges are current as of December 1, 2017 and are subject to change without notice. Not all rates and amounts available in all states. See Personal Loan eligibility details. Not all applicants qualify for the lowest rate. If approved for a loan, to qualify for the lowest rate, you must have a responsible financial history and meet other conditions. Your actual rate will be within the range of rates listed above and will depend on a variety of factors, including evaluation of your credit worthiness, years of professional experience, income and other factors. Interest rates on variable rate loans are capped at 14.95%. Lowest variable rate of 5.29% APR assumes current 1-month LIBOR rate of 1.34% plus 4.20% margin minus 0.25% AutoPay discount. For the SoFi variable rate loan, the 1-month LIBOR index will adjust monthly and the loan payment will be re-amortized and may change monthly. APRs for variable rate loans may increase after origination if the LIBOR index increases. The SoFi 0.25% AutoPay interest rate reduction requires you to agree to make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic monthly deduction from a savings or checking account. The benefit will discontinue and be lost for periods in which you do not pay by automatic deduction from a savings or checking account.

2 Important Disclosures for Citizens Bank.

Citizens Bank Disclosures

  1. Personal Loan Rate Disclosure: Variable rate, based on the one-month London Interbank Offered Rate (“LIBOR”) published in The Wall Street Journal on the twenty-fifth day, or the next business day, of the preceding calendar month. As of August 1, 2017, the one-month LIBOR rate is 1.23%. Variable interest rates range from 6.02% – 15.97% (6.02% – 15.97% APR) and will fluctuate over the term of your loan with changes in the LIBOR rate, and will vary based on applicable terms and presence of a co-applicant. Fixed interest rates range from 5.99% – 16.24% (5.99% – 16.24% APR) based on applicable terms and presence of a co-applicant. Lowest rates shown are for eligible applicants, require a 3-year repayment term, and include our Loyalty and Automatic Payment discounts of 0.25 percentage points each, as outlined in the Loyalty Discount and Automatic Payment Discount disclosures. Subject to additional terms and conditions, and rates are subject to change at any time without notice. Such changes will only apply to applications taken after the effective date of change.
  2. Loyalty Discount: The borrower will be eligible for a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their loan if the borrower has a qualifying account in existence with Citizens Bank at the time the borrower has submitted a completed application authorizing us to review their credit request for the loan. The following are qualifying accounts: any checking account, savings account, money market account, certificate of deposit, automobile loan, home equity loan, home equity line of credit, mortgage, credit card account, student loans or other personal loans owned by Citizens Bank, N.A. Please note, Citizens Bank checking and savings account options are only available in the following states: CT, DE, MA, MI, NH, NJ, NY, OH, PA, RI and VT. This discount will be reflected in the interest rate and Annual Percentage Rate (APR) disclosed in the Truth-In-Lending Disclosure that will be provided to the borrower once the loan is approved. Limit of one Loyalty Discount per loan, and discount will not be applied to prior loans. The Loyalty Discount will remain in effect for the life of the loan.
  3. Automatic Payment Benefit: Borrowers will be eligible to receive a 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction on their student loans owned by Citizens Bank, N.A. during such time as payments are required to be made and our loan servicer is authorized to automatically deduct payments each month from any bank account the borrower designates. Discount is not available when payments are not due, such as during forbearance. If our loan servicer is unable to successfully withdraw the automatic deductions from the designated account three or more times within any 12-month period, the borrower will no longer be eligible for this discount.
7.39% - 29.99%$1,000 - $50,000Visit Upstart
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5.99% - 35.89%$1,000 - $40,000Visit LendingClub
5.25% - 14.24%$2,000 - $50,000Visit Earnest
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