Can Parking Tickets Ruin My Credit Score?

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Most of us know the feeling of discovering a parking ticket tucked not-so-discreetly under a windshield wiper. Feeling instantly frustrated, it can be tempting to crumple the entire thing and toss it into the nearest recycling bin. Unfortunately, if you’re hoping  your parking ticket(s) will just disappear, you may be in for a rude awakening.

Many people are under the impression that parking tickets are such small infractions that they can be ignored without consequences. After all, “It’s just a parking ticket,” right? Wrong. While it may start out as a simple traffic citation that likely would’ve cost you less than $100, letting a parking ticket go unpaid will cost you much more the longer you ignore it.

You may find yourself wondering just how much trouble you can get into for failing to pay a measly parking fine. What starts out as a small infraction dealt to you for using a no-parking zone can gain momentum if you leave the fine unpaid.

How can a parking ticket possibly hurt me?

To be clear, it’s not the parking ticket itself that will do the most damage. At some point,most people have been parked somewhere they shouldn’t have been, and receiving a parking violation and ticket really isn’t a huge deal – assuming you pay the fine.

The problem begins the moment you shrug off your responsibility – as soon as your fingers slip the notice out from under your windshield wiper and proceed to crush it up into a wad that means no more to you than a piece of paper to be recycled. (Bravo on the recycling, in any case.)

The second you disregard a parking (or other traffic) ticket, it becomes a debt that you have neglected to pay. The city or township that dealt you the parking ticket can report unpaid parking fines to collections. When you have a debt that has been reported to a collections agency, it will appear on your credit report and will start dragging your credit score down.

More and more cities are finding themselves with an abundance of parking tickets that are unpaid. In the past, a city with only a few unpaid tickets may not have taken any action against the offenders. However, faced with endless piles of unpaid parking tickets, these cities and townships are now left with no choice but to take action in order to receive payment. Thus, many American drivers are discovering that the parking fine they ignored six months ago has torn a hole in their credit report, causing their score to lose valuable points.

In addition to the obvious infractions of: failing to pay your mortgage payment, missing credit card payments, and neglecting unpaid medical bills, there are quite a few surprising ways to damage your credit score. It’s important to be aware of anything that may (unbeknownst to you) be pulling your credit score lower and lower. Checking your credit report on a regular basis will ensure that you are never in the dark about a debt that needs your attention.

 

Image credit: Paul Sableman

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