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It can happen to anyone: You linger too long over lunch with a friend and return to your car to find a parking ticket on the windshield. You toss the ticket in the glove compartment, planning to deal with it later … but then you forget. Forgotten parking tickets can cause some major inconveniences, but they generally don't affect your credit unless they're sent to collections and exceed $100. That doesn't mean you can ignore them, however.
Parking Tickets May Affect Your Credit
A credit report is a record of how well you manage debt, including information related to accounts such as loans and credit cards.
At one time, information from public records, such as tax liens, civil judgments and parking tickets, also appeared on credit reports. But today, the three major credit bureaus (Experian, TransUnion and Equifax) no longer include public record information on credit reports, with the exception of bankruptcy.
While parking tickets won't appear on your credit reports or directly affect your credit scores, an unpaid parking ticket that's been sent to a collection agency does have the potential to affect your credit. Most modern credit scoring models ignore the collection account if the original ticket amount is less than $100 (more on that later), but parking tickets can easily exceed this amount and there's no guarantee your potential lenders will use a scoring model that ignores these small accounts. That's why it's a good idea to take care of unpaid parking tickets before they're sent to collections no matter the amount.
How Collections Impact Your Credit
Collection accounts remain on your credit report for seven years from the original delinquency date (the date your account became 30 days past due). They are considered part of your payment history, which has the single biggest influence on your FICO® Score☉ . However, the effect collections have on your credit can vary based on the credit scoring model being used and the amount of the unpaid collection.
Paying off a collection account may or may not improve your credit score depending on the credit scoring model that is used. The newest versions of the FICO® and VantageScore® credit scores—FICO® 9, VantageScore 3.0 and VantageScore 4.0—ignore collection accounts with a zero balance, so paying off such accounts could improve these scores. But older credit scoring models, including some used by mortgage and other lenders, do not ignore paid collection accounts. Paying off collection accounts won't affect scores calculated with these models.
The FICO® Score 8—a scoring model that's widely used by lenders—does not ignore paid-off collection accounts. However, it does ignore small-dollar "nuisance" collection accounts in which the original balance was less than $100. Of course, parking tickets in some cities routinely exceed this amount. For example, in New York City, you can get a $115 ticket for parking too close to a fire hydrant, double parking or parking in a bike lane, among other offenses. Park in a disabled parking space in Los Angeles County without a permit, and you can expect to shell out a whopping $330.
No matter how much your original parking ticket cost, it's always wise to pay off a collection account, but doing so won't remove the account from your credit report any faster. The good news: As collection accounts age, their impact on your credit score will diminish until they are ultimately removed from your credit reports entirely.
To see whether a collection account has affected your credit score, you can check your FICO® Score from Experian for free. The score you'll see is the FICO® 8 version, in which even paid collections can negatively affect your score. If your FICO® 8 score is good, your FICO® 9, VantageScore 3.0 and VantageScore 4.0 credit scores, which ignore paid collections, are likely to be as good or better.
How to Resolve Unpaid Parking Tickets
To resolve an unpaid parking ticket, look over your ticket for the agency that issued it to find out what you need to do. It may have been issued by a university law enforcement agency or local police, for instance. Contact them or explore their website to learn more about how to pay an unpaid traffic ticket.
Even if your account has been sent to collections, contacting the agency that issued the ticket is the best place to start. Depending on your financial situation, you may be allowed to set up a payment plan for the ticket or negotiate a lower payment amount. This can make it easier to pay if your original ticket amount has multiplied due to fines, late fees and other penalties.
What Type of Public Records Affect Your Credit?
Although public record information on civil judgments, tax liens and parking tickets won't show up on your credit report, bankruptcies will—and they can have a severe negative impact on your credit score.
A Chapter 7 bankruptcy stays on your credit report for 10 years from the date of filing; a Chapter 13 bankruptcy stays on your credit report for seven years. Both types of bankruptcies are likely to affect your credit scores, as well as lenders' decisions about your creditworthiness. Having a bankruptcy on your credit report can make it more difficult to get approved for loans or could mean higher interest rates even if you are approved.
Take Action Before Parking Tickets Affect Your Credit
A parking ticket may seem like a minor inconvenience, but a parking ticket you ignore could become a major hassle. Depending on state and local laws, your driver's license could be suspended, you might not be able to register your car, your vehicle could be "booted" or impounded, or a warrant might even be issued for your arrest.
If a collection account related to a parking ticket shows up on your credit report, there are still ways to offset its negative impact on your credit score. Bring any other late payments current and make all future payments on time (consider setting up autopay to keep from missing a due date). Paying down debt, maintaining a low credit utilization rate and signing up for Experian Boost™† , a free service that can add on-time utility, streaming service and cellphone payments to your credit history, can also help improve your credit score.