It’s a common credit score myth that parking tickets affect your credit, but it’s not completely true. Getting a parking ticket won’t show up on your credit report—as long as you don’t wait too long to pay it.
Read on to learn how unpaid parking tickets can impact your credit score and what you can do about it if it happens.
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Can a parking ticket affect your credit?
No, parking tickets don’t normally affect your credit, provided you pay them off reasonably quickly.
Traffic tickets, including parking and speeding tickets, are considered public records. With the exception of bankruptcies, public records don’t show up on your credit report, which means they can’t possibly affect your credit score. 1
Parking tickets in collection may affect your score
However, there’s one circumstance in which a parking ticket can affect your credit: if you fail to pay it for a very long time and it becomes severely overdue, it might be sent to a debt collection agency.
Debt collection agencies often report the debts they handle to the credit bureaus. This means that if one of them is hired to collect your unpaid fine, it might show up on your credit report and affect your score, just like any other type of debt that’s sent to collections, such as an unpaid credit card bill.
How to keep parking tickets from damaging your credit score
The best way to make sure your parking ticket never hurts your credit is to pay it before it goes to collections.
If you’re not sure how to resolve your unpaid tickets, visit the website of the ticket-issuing agency (typically your police department or some other local authority, like your university’s parking officials) to find out what you need to do. If there are no instructions on their website, there will probably be a phone number you can call for more info.
How does an unpaid parking ticket hurt your credit score?
As mentioned, your unpaid parking ticket can hurt your credit score if it goes to a debt collection agency and the collection agency reports your account to the credit bureaus (Experian, TransUnion, and/or Equifax).
Regardless of whether or not you pay the collection account, it will stay on your credit report for up to 7 years from the original delinquency date—the day when your account passed its due date and you didn’t pay it off. 2
While the effect of collections on your credit score will diminish over time, it’s better to not have them on your report at all.
You should check your credit report regularly to see if you have any collections related to parking tickets. People often get tickets without realizing it (tickets left on windshields are known to blow away, get taken by other people, or fall from view), so it’s important to make sure you don’t have unpaid fines collecting debt and lowering your credit score.
How to get your parking ticket out of collections
The easiest way to get your parking ticket out of collections is simply to repay it.
If you can’t afford to pay it, which could happen if your debt has increased due to fines, late fees, and other penalties, you might be able to negotiate a lower payment with the debt collection agency. Contact them, say that you want to pay what you owe, and ask if you can work out a repayment plan.
Will paying off my parking ticket in collections improve my credit score?
Paying off a parking ticket in collections might improve your credit score, depending on which scoring model your lender is using to check your credit. (There are many different models, which means you actually have many different credit scores. Banks and other lenders can pick which one they want to use.)
Most newer credit scoring models ignore collections with a “zero balance”—i.e., paid-off collections. In these models, once you completely pay off your parking ticket, it won’t register as a negative mark on your credit report or hurt your credit score.
Here are models that include paid collection accounts:
Unfortunately, one of the most used FICO score models, FICO 8, doesn’t ignore paid collections. In this model, even fully paid parking tickets in collection will leave a negative mark on your credit score for up to 7 years. 3 4
How to improve your credit score after a parking ticket
If your credit score has taken a hit due to unpaid parking tickets, you’re probably looking for ways to raise it. Two of the easiest ways to improve your credit score are:
- Make consistent, on-time payments: Paying off your debts on time each month will reflect positively on your payment history. Your payment history is the most important factor used in the calculation of your credit score, and paying off your debts on time can repair the damage caused by any negative mark, as long as you do it consistently.
- Use less of your credit: You can also boost your credit score by using less of your available credit limit. That’s because you’ll lower your debt-to-credit ratio (i.e., how much of your credit you’re actively using). After your payment history, your utilization rate is the most important factor in determining your credit score.
Taking a credit score hit from an unpaid parking ticket is frustrating, but if you follow good credit-building strategies in the future, you’ll be able to recover from it.