Credit score myths hurting your finances

TULSA - Time to separate fact from fiction when it comes to that little three-digit number that means so much: Your credit score.

David White runs his company, Hathaway 51, out of his Tulsa home.

His business helps companies set up systems so they can take credit card payments.

Credit cards are just what dragged White's credit score down several years ago.

It started when he lost his job at a "dot com" company. That followed by two new jobs that also ended in mass lay-offs and soon his credit score took a big hit. 

"You just don't get paid so all of a sudden you start living off of credit cards," said White.

His credit card bills went up and his credit score went down by 150 points.

Once White got back on his feet and started paying his debt off he learned about credit score myth number one: It's a good idea to pay off your debt then close the credit card account.

That's not true, and White knows why it's a myth that sounds believable to people, "So it made no sense of why you want to leave a window open to dig yourself back into a hole again but that seems to be the way the game is played."

Ten free apps you can download to help you keep track of your personal finances

Credit counselor Wayne Kindrick says to help your score you should keep accounts open so you have that unused, available credit which boosts your score.

"Thirty percent of your score is based upon how much available, unused, credit you have. So to close an account is to eliminate that element of the calculation that impacts thirty percent of your score," explained Kindrick.

The trick is to keep accounts open but only charge on them what you can pay off each month.

Kindrick reveals credit score myth number two: Getting a raise will raise your credit score.

It won't. What did our Facebook fans believe about these myths? Check out their responses on KJRH.com.

Kindrick said, "As it relates to the calculation of your score your particular income level is not a factor."

Myth number three: Taking care of a past due debt removes it from your credit report immediately.

Kindrick said that's also a myth. "It does eventually. But not right away. It's going to stay on your credit report, if it's accurate, for seven years."

Remember we all have three credit reports from Experian, Equifax and Transunion.

Credit myth number four is that all of them will come up with the same credit score for you. The three can actually vary widely and Kendrick said, "It's a very, very complex calculation. There can be some wide ranges in scores."

Which is why it's important to check your report and score with each company once a year.

You can do that for free every few months by visiting www.AnnualCreditReport.com

Which brings us to the fifth big credit score myth: When you pull your own credit report it will hurt your credit score.

Kendrick said, "Pulling your own credit report, your own score, will have absolutely no affect on your credit score."

It's what's known as a soft inquiry. If you apply for credit of any kind and the business pulls your credit report to judge your credit-worthiness that will put a ding on your overall credit score.

These are among the lessons Kindrick teaches clients every day at Credit Counseling Centers of Oklahoma.

And as White learned on his road back to financial fitness; knowledge is key "If you're ignorant you're going to get burned."

On www.Quizzle.com you can get your credit score for free.

The site also provides this helpful information on other, common, credit score myths that are complete fiction:

Fiction: Credit bureaus never make mistakes.

Fact: Nearly eight in 10 credit reports contain a serious error or some sort of mistake, according to a survey by the U.S. Public Interest Research Groups. Because many errors can negatively impact your credit score, it's important to check your credit report regularly and dispute any inaccuracies you find.

Fiction: Practicing a cash-only policy will help your credit score.

Fact: Having good credit is a function of having credit available to you and using it responsibly. If you don't have or use credit, you may have no credit history at all and if you do, your credit score won't be as good as someone who consistently demonstrates responsible use of credit over time.

Fiction: How responsibly you manage your checking, savings and investment accounts will impact your credit score.

Fact: Like income, your checking, savings and investment account activity is not reported to the credit bureaus and does not affect your credit score.

Fiction: If a bill or debt isn't generally reported to the credit bureaus, missing a payment won't affect your credit score.

Fact: Any time you pay a bill late or don't pay at all, that activity can be reported to the

credit bureaus. Different companies have different policies about reporting late payments or negative information, but never assume that just because you've never seen a particular bill listed on your credit report that it can't negatively impact your credit score if you don't pay it.

Fiction: Disputing accurate information will remove it from your credit report.

Fact: You can only dispute information on your credit report that is inaccurate. When you dispute information on your credit report, the credit bureau has 30 days to investigate. If it finds the dispute to be valid, it will remove the inaccurate information. If, however, the dispute claim is found to be false, that information will not be removed from your credit report. Beware of credit repair companies claiming that they can get negative - albeit accurate - information removed from your credit report. This practice is illegal and these companies are generally scams.
 

Feeling confident about your credit score knowledge? Click here to take the Consumer Federation of America and VantageScore quiz. If you're reading this on your phone or tablet, copy and paste http://www.creditscorequiz.org/ into your browser.
 

Print this article Back to Top

Comments