Your Money

68% of Americans destroy credit before age 30: Survey

Bad credit scores could haunt
Bad credit scores could haunt

Have you made mistakes regarding your credit in the past? That could haunt you ... for a long time.

A whopping 68 percent of Americans make at least one major financial mistake, or "credit fumble," before turning 30, leading to a negative mark on their credit report, according to a Credit Karma survey.

These mistakes include overspending on credit cards, missing payments, defaulting on a loan or having an account sent into collections, the survey found.

The greater the offense, the longer it will reflect on your credit report, said Bethy Hardeman, chief consumer advocate at Credit Karma. In fact, it usually takes consumers seven to 10 years to erase negative marks from their credit, thanks to the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

"I think what a lot of people don't realize ... is how a missed payment can stay on your credit," Hardeman said. "It can be one mistake that you don't think is a big deal that can cost you thousands in the long run."

How you can avoid credit pain

Credit is an important factor in determining what kind of loans consumers receive, as well as whether they are approved for an apartment lease, Hardeman added.

The survey, released Thursday, found that 3 out of 4 respondents believed their credit-related mishaps have had a negative impact on their lives.

"These early mistakes can have a lingering impact on the quality of people's lives, and we feel that with better, targeted education and learning tools for new-to-credit consumers, this cycle can be broken," Kenneth Lin, Credit Karma's founder and CEO, said in a statement.

There are many reasons why someone may end up with a negative mark on their credit history, but the biggest one is lack of education, Credit Karma found.

More than 50 percent of respondents said they had received their first credit card by age 21, but 72 percent said they had received no education about personal finances before going to college.

Hardeman said consumers should know "the long-term ramifications before you take out a credit card or take out a loan."

Consumers also need to understand how their overall credit works, said Sean McQuay, credit cards expert at NerdWallet.

"Your credit shows how good you are at managing other people's money, not your own," he said.

4 ways to improve your credit score

One way consumers can regain proper footing on their credit is by applying for a secured credit card, McQuay said. "This gives you a chance to prove yourself ... and over time, you can apply for more traditional credit cards."

Secured credit cards work just like any other credit card. The only difference is the cardholder has to put up a certain amount of money as collateral, and his or her credit line will usually equal the collateral's amount.

However, McQuay also said the consumer needs to be mindful of the risks involved with secure credit cards.

You need to have the cash on hand," he said. "Even $100 can be a lot of money for someone to just give over."

For the study, Credit Karma and research firm Qualtrics surveyed 1,051 American adults ages 31 to 44 from late November 2014 to early 2015.