Causes of a credit score drop

Photo: greenside8/ 

Q. I authorized my husband as a cardholder on my Amex card to help him re-establish his credit almost a year ago. I canceled the card a month ago because I felt it was the right time. My husband now tell me that his credit score went down 94 points because I canceled the card. I cannot buy into this theory. Is it true that I actually did hurt his credit score?
— Turmoil in the house

A. It is actually possible that removing that card from your husband’s credit report did change the score.

Michael Gibney, a certified financial planner with Highland Financial in Riverdale, said these five factors affect your credit score:

1. Payment history, which shows whether or not you’ve paid on time.
2. Amounts owed or “utilization” (relative to your credit limit. If, for example, you have a limit of $5,000 and your balance is $4,500, this is not good for your score, Gibney said.
3. Length of credit history, which shows how long you have a been a borrower.
4. New credit, such as if you’ve applied for a lot of credit lately, such as opening new credit card accounts or applied for new loans.
5. Types of credit in use, such as mortgages vs. installment loans vs. revolving credit. If your history is all one type, this could ding your score, Gibney says.

He said he believes canceling the card in and of itself may not have been a factor, but if the change means your husband has a shorter credit history, that could hurt. 

It could also have lowered his available balances, which could put his “utilization” score out of whack.

Gibney recommends a free service called Credit Karma, which offers credit scores to consumers.

“The great thing about Credit Karma — other than it being free — is that it provides details of what is affecting your score,” Gibney said.

But keep in mind that when lenders look at your as a borrower, they’re not looking at a credit score from Credit Karma. It’s probably looking at scores directly from FICO or the credit bureaus, and these may all be a little different.

Your husband should be sure to check his credit reports annually — he can do that for free once a year — to make sure all the items listed are accurate. You can do that at

Email your questions to .

This story was first posted in April 2016. presents certain general financial planning principles and advice, but should never be viewed as a substitute for obtaining advice from a personal professional advisor who understands your unique individual circumstances.