Financial literacy is a challenge for some Americans and nowhere is this more apparent than when it comes to credit score myths .
And unfortunately, credit myths continue to misinform consumers on what it takes to maintain or improve their credit score. The stakes are high. The average U.S. household carries nearly $16,000 in credit card balance, and nationally, that amounts to $730 billion as of Q2 2016, according to the New York Federal Reserve.
Here are some common misperceptions when it comes to personal credit.
Credit Score Myths – No. 1: If you have a bad credit score, you can’t repair it
Nearly one in seven (15 percent) of Americans surveyed incorrectly believe that a bad score can’t be fixed, according to an Oct. 2016 Capital One Credit Confidence Study. Your profile with the major credit bureaus can be rebuilt if you practice healthy financial habits. And that includes making timely payments all the time and ensuring that your accounts are current.
It’s also essential that you show lenders and reporting agencies that you’re a dependable borrower. That’s because delinquencies, collections, bankruptcies and other negative items can stay on your credit profile for seven or more years. These bring down your score. Also, they make borrowing more expensive, or worse, prevent you from accessing consumer loans, employment opportunities and funding for a small business.
Credit Score Myths No. 2: A divorce won’t affect your credit history
It might, depending on your circumstances.
If you have a joint credit account with a soon-to-be former spouse, then delinquencies and other financial shenanigans by your ex can bring down your profile and credit history. If your significant other is a free-wheeling spender, consider creating an entirely separate account. You can close your joint account or remove your spouse from the account. Think about keeping him or her honest with their spending.
A spouse that is listed as a cosigner, joint owner or authorized user can complicate your personal finances during a divorce. If your spouse refuses to make payments on a credit card balance or bill, your wallet could be on the hook. A break in a marital contract does not nullify the original terms you agreed to with your lenders.
Credit Score Myths No. 3: You only have one credit score
Nearly a third (29 percent) of U.S. respondents mistakenly believe they only have one credit score, according to the same Capital One study. Each of the three major credit reporting agencies (Experian, Transunion and Equifax) have different scoring models to calculate your score. You may want to check your profile with each bureau, although you’ll have to pay fees with this approach.
“We embarked on this national study to bring people’s journey to credit success to the forefront,” said Jennifer Jackson, Managing Vice President at Capital One. “Achieving better credit is core to everyone’s financial health, and this study revealed that there is a strong spirit of optimism; however, there is a need for more education and action for people to achieve credit success.”
AnnualCreditReport.com lets you obtain a free report every 12 months by each of the three reporting agencies, as mandated by federal law. Also, the free CreditWise mobile app is another tool that lets you track your score without any adverse consequences on your credit profile.
More than half (57 percent) of Americans surveyed correctly think that checking your credit report will not reduce your credit score, and 27 percent believe it will. “Soft” inquiries don’t impact your score.