Debts should be paid off quickly, not over time

A commonly held belief among many consumers is that to build credit, it's important to pay down debt over an extended period of time. But according to financial experts interviewed by The Associated Press, this viewpoint is all wrong.

In fact, carrying a high debt burden from month-to-month can actually hurt consumers' credit scores, especially if the total climbs to a high level. Because the amount of debt someone has factors into credit score assessments, being in arrears for an extended period of time can lead to bad credit

Darryl Dahlheimer, program director for a Minneapolis-based credit counseling service, offered an alternative.

"You can use your credit card once a month, for a purchase you’d already make," Dahlheimer told the AP. "Pay it in full, not the minimum, and your credit score soars."

Jim Stovall, author of the book "The Ultimate Financial Plan," agreed with Dahlheimer, telling the news source that carrying a large debt load can be a heavy burden and may set back consumers' financial standing.

Because debt may be viewed negatively, it's important for consumers to be watchful of their credit report, making sure there aren't any marks that can adversely affect their scores.