Today it’s more important than ever for you to understand where you stand financially, but many people out there know very little about their credit score, how it impacts lending and how they can improve it. In fact, two of every three Americans incorrectly believe that a consumer’s age is a factor used in calculating a credit score.
That’s just one of several misconceptions uncovered in a survey jointly released by the Consumer Federation of America (CFA) and credit score company VantageScore Solutions. The survey shows that for many borrowers, even the most basic elements of credit scores, which predict the likelihood a borrower will repay their loans, is unclear. Although the economic downturn spurred many U.S. consumers to become more knowledgeable about their personal finances, many people remain in the dark about their credit scores.
It’s important to check your score with the three main credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax and TransUnion), as they collect the information for over 200 million Americans on credit card use and make it available in credit reports. Inaccuracies can happen due to similar names and reporting errors, so make sure and check your score with all three bureaus.
Factors such as race, religion, age, national origin, gender or marital status are not factored into your score.
Paying bills on time is the single most important contributor to a good credit score. Any late payments will remain on your credit report for up to seven years.
Opening an account to get free offers isn’t worth the risk, as applying for multiple credit cards in a short period of time may cause the credit bureaus to regard this as a risky behavior, driving down your credit score.
Contrary to what many consumers believe, certain types of inquiries and requests for your credit report do not impact your score, including: customer initiated inquires, promotional inquires or administrative inquires. So if you, a lender or a potential employer checked your credit, it does not negatively affect your score.
What Score Is Used?
When people are purchasing a home or applying for a loan together, we as the lender must use the lowest middle score between both partners. For example, in this image, if the man to the left were applying individually, his middle score of 730 would be used on the application. However, if he applies with his wife, the lender must use the lowest middle score between the two of them, so 640 would be used.