May 19, 2020 - Debunked: Common Credit Score Myths

Your credit score has a significant influence on your life–it affects your ability to buy a home or car, take out loans to make big-ticket purchases like appliances or renovations. Establishing a good credit score is an important part of your financial health. However, there are a lot of misconceptions that may hinder your efforts. Here is the truth behind some of the most common credit score myths.

Myth: There is only one credit score

There are many different scoring formulas used to calculate a credit score. Each formula weighs the report factors differently, so your score can be different depending upon the credit model used.

Myth: Checking your credit report hurts your score

Don’t worry: checking your credit score does NOT affect your score. Monitoring your credit is a responsible habit to develop. It allows you to track your progress and address any inaccuracies. This myth persists because of the confusion around inquiries.

Each time someone requests your credit report, an inquiry is marked. There are two types of inquiries: ‘hard’ and ‘soft.’ Hard inquiries occur when financial institutions access your credit report because you are applying for credit. Hard inquiries typically happy when you apply for a loan or credit card. Your credit score may decrease because you’re potentially taking on new debt you may not be able to repay.

Soft inquiries are made by you or others who are doing a background check, like a landlord or potential employer. These inquiries do not affect your credit score so continue to check and monitor your credit report.

If you’re shopping around for the best interest rate for a loan, don’t worry! Multiple inquiries for the same loan, say a mortgage, are treated as a single hard inquiry as long as they’re made within a certain window of time, usually between 14 to 45 days.

Myth: Your income impacts your credit score

Income is not a factor in your credit score. Credit scores are calculated by the following factors: payment history, amounts owed, credit history length, credit mix, and new credit. The amount of money you make doesn’t necessarily mean you have good credit. It just means you’re in a better position to pay your bills on time and manage your finances.

Myth: You should close unused credit accounts

There are a couple of benefits to leaving old credit cards open: it lengthens your credit history and increases the total amount of available credit, which can lower your credit utilization ratio (the amount of available credit you’re actually using). Leaving accounts open, especially if they’re in good standing, is a better strategy.

Myth: Using cash, debit or prepaid cards can boost my score

If you’re looking to establish or improve your credit score, using cash, debit or prepaid cards won’t help. Debit or prepaid cards are not considered a form of credit so they do not factor into your credit history.

Myth: Your credit score merges when you get married

Each person has their own credit score and does not become combined upon marriage. While joint accounts will affect both partner’s credit score, credit or loans taken out in an individual’s name will only affect that person.

Understanding how credit works is the first step to establishing and maintaining a good credit score. A good score can make the difference between being approved or denied a mortgage and getting a favorable interest rate, which can save you thousands over the life of the loan. If you want to learn more about credit scores and reports, there are a lot of resources on USA.gov.