Ideas about your credit scores and how they are determined multiply daily. Some are accurate. Many are not. Just because you read it on the internet doesn’t make it true. Here are some thoughts on some of the most common misconceptions:
1. “Checking my own credit will hurt my score.”
This is not true. When you check your own credit, whether it’s just a score through a variety of free sites, it’s called a soft inquiry. Unlike traditional credit inquiries, soft inquiries don’t affect your credit score. Feel free to check your score regularly. I recommend checking once a quarter, or more often if you are having trouble with bad credit information or identity theft.
2. “I have one credit score – that’s the one the bank checks.”
Thankfully, more people are being educated on the fact that there are lots of different credit scores that lenders use, not just the FICO score. The credit score your lender chooses to use can depend on lots of factors, so it’s smart to have a good understanding of your overall credit health rather than one three-digit number in mind.
3. “Checking my score everyday will help push off old inquiries.”
This is a common rumor. People believe that if you check your score enough, inquiries will magically disappear. Hard inquires fall off your credit report after two years. Unless you have an unauthorized inquiry on your report, waiting that two-year period is the only way to get rid of a hard inquiry.
4. “My gender is on my credit report.”
There is lots of confusion surrounding the information that is or isn’t included on your credit report. I’d like to set the record straight that things like your gender, age, race, ethnicity and even marital status are not on your credit report. In fact, it is illegal to have any such information on a report
5. “My employer can see my credit score.”
Another myth perpetuated by the online world. Your employer cannot check your credit score. However, they can check your credit report as long as you have authorized this to occur. This usually happens at the time of a job application and/ or job acceptance.
6. “Carrying a balance on my credit cards will help my score.”
Some people think that they need to show a current balance on their credit cards to prove credit utilization, but this isn’t the case. Just using your cards on a regular basis will show this activity and build your credit. The key driver is that you pay your credit obligations on time, not whether you have credit balances.
7. “My income factors into my credit score.”
Another myth ready for the busting! Your income isn’t one of the factors in your credit score. However, it’s important to know that it is one of the factors that comes into play when creditors set your credit limit.
8. “Cosigning on a loan won’t affect my credit.”
When you cosign on someone else’s loan, you’re putting your credit at risk. The loan will go on your credit report and any activity—good or bad—will affect your credit health accordingly. That’s why cosigning is such a serious decision.
9. “I’m married, so now I have a joint credit report.”
Your credit report is yours, and only yours. At no point do you have a “joint credit report,” even if you have joint accounts with your spouse. When this happens, the accounts will appear on both credit reports, but the reports don’t merge in any way.
10. “I have to pay for my credit report.”
According to the Fair Credit Reporting Act, you’re entitled to one free credit report from each of the three credit bureaus during a 12-month period (that doesn’t necessarily follow the calendar year). The government-approved website for your free reports is AnnualCreditReport.com; make sure not to use a site that promises free reports but asks for your credit card number.
I hope this helps a little. Do you have your own “myths” to add to the list? If so, please forward to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will be happy to research and add to the list.
President & CEO