5/21/2012 4:08 PM ET|
Top 6 credit score misconceptions
You know the 3-digit number has a powerful influence on your financial life, but some other things you 'know' might just be wrong.
Credit scores were never meant for consumers.
Implemented in the 1980s for lenders and banks to provide an algorithm-based assessment of consumers' creditworthiness, the clandestine, proprietary credit score models are the credit industry's secret sauce, and they sell it to every bank and lender on the market.
So it's no surprise that most consumers have misconceptions about their credit, especially when it comes to what hurts and helps credit scores. In fact, a recent survey found that 42% of Americans would prefer a letter grade associated with a credit score rather than the traditional three-digit number. A letter grade would presumably help consumers to better grasp where they rank in creditworthiness.
And most Americans rank pretty low. With the average credit score at 661 nationwide, according to Credit Karma, a majority of Americans have poor credit, which means most consumers would be hard-pressed to gain approval on mortgages, loans and credit cards. If they are approved, it's likely to be at exorbitant rates.
Polishing up your credit starts with understanding the ins and outs of credit scores. Here's your cheat sheet to debunking the top myths about credit.
1. FICO is the one, true credit score. While the FICO credit score is widely known, there is no one, true credit score. There are dozens of credit score models generated by each credit bureau and unique to different industries, such as mortgage lenders and auto insurance providers. Risk assessment isn't consistent from industry to industry or even lender to lender. For example, your credit score pulled by one credit card issuer is likely to differ anywhere from 5 to 50 points from another issuer.
Lesson: You can't predict what credit score a lender will assess you by. Since you can't keep track of dozens of scores, track one credit score, such as the free credit score (see "Are FAKO scores worthless?") provided by Credit Karma, for a general sense of your credit health. While the actual numbers may vary, you're often in the same "risk range" across all credit score models. As you build and improve the factors affecting your credit score, your scores should pick up across the whole spectrum of scoring models.
2. Checking your score is bad for your credit. There are two types of credit checks. Hard inquiries knock a few points off your credit score and are initiated when a financial institution pulls your credit report to assess you for a lending decision, such as approval for a mortgage or credit card. Soft inquiries do not affect your credit and are initiated as part of a background check, such as for pre-approved offers or as part of a hiring process. When you check your own credit score, it is considered a soft inquiry and won't affect your credit score no matter how many times you check.
Lesson: Go ahead and check your credit score as often as you'd like. You have nothing to lose and tracking your progress over time will give you more insight into what's affecting your credit.
3. My credit score affects future job opportunities. Contrary to popular belief, potential employers don't look at your credit score. They actually pull your credit report, which is a data-rich document detailing your credit history. Employers look at your credit report as part of your background check, but they must get your permission before doing so. Take the pre-emptive step to review your full credit report for free at AnnualCreditReport.com, which provides you with a free credit report once a year from each of the three credit bureaus. Regularly check your credit report throughout the year by spacing your free credit reports every four months.
Lesson: Your future job opportunities could be influenced by your credit report, so check your credit report regularly for errors and fraudulent accounts. The Federal Trade Commission has a quick guide on how to dispute credit report errors.
More from Forbes:
4. It takes forever for a credit score to budge. Your credit score is a reflection of your credit behavior at a particular point in time, and it can increase or decrease any time there is a significant change on your credit report. Hard inquiries are often reported immediately, while credit card issuers typically update information to credit bureaus in 30-day cycles. According to one report by VantageScore, roughly 70% of credit scores change by up to 20 points in a 90-day window.
Lesson: While it's not helpful to obsess over your credit score daily, checking about once a month gives a general snapshot of your credit health over time.
5. Credit cards are good for your credit score. True, but they aren't the only way to build your credit score. While having a credit card and paying on time and in full every month is a great way to build credit, your score benefits significantly from having different types of credit. Diversity of credit influences your credit score and is an important factor when lenders assess your creditworthiness. An installment loan like a mortgage or auto loan may hold more weight in some credit score models than a handful of store credit cards.
Lesson: Aim to have a mix of credit types, from credit cards to student loans to a mortgage. For your existing loans, be sure to pay on time and in full, because mistakes on significant lines of credit can have a drastic effect on your score.
6. I don't have to worry; I already have an excellent credit score. Congratulations on having a high credit score, but you aren't off the hook. Credit score algorithms are formulated so that the higher your credit score, the harder it is to gain additional points on your credit score. It's much harder for a consumer with an 800 credit score to gain even a few points, while a consumer with a 600 credit score can improve his or her credit score relatively quickly with the right credit-building steps. Also, the higher your credit score, the greater the damage when you make a misstep. If you had a 680 credit score, you would lose 60 to 80 points for a 30-day late payment; if you had a 780 score, you'd be likely to lose 90 to 110 points with the same late payment, reports FICO.
Lesson: Consumers with high credit scores must be diligent about maintaining their scores and avoiding small credit mistakes that cause significant damage. Monitor your credit score for any fluctuations that signal red flags in your credit behavior.
Credit scores are lenders' formulas to protect themselves from risk and extend the best offers to the right customers. However, it's our right as consumers to be proactive about managing our credit health and make our credit scores work for us, not financial institutions.
More from Forbes:
VIDEO ON MSN MONEY
Its' ridiculous that you are considered a good candidate for loans when you have debt up to your ears, but someone who has no credit cards, has paid off their house and owns their car out right has no credit and can't get a loan. No wonder this country is in an economic nightmare. We only lend to people who don’t' live within their means.
If you will manage to do this, you will never need any type of credit at all...
Hard inquiries knock a few points off your credit score. False.
Check the FAQ section of myfico.org
As a mortgage banker, my one inquiry does nothing to a score. And for those with an 800 score, it wouldn't matter if it did. The funny thing is those with a 500 score that are worried about a couple of points. they are already in the dumper.
You may also want to research "batch inquiries". The fact that multiple inquiries in a given time period are considered to be one inquiry for mortgage or car loans for example. Credit card applications are separate inquiries. "Salesmen" in the mortgage industry use this scare tactic of your score going down for multiple inquiries to try and stop a consumer from shopping them.
It's all a joke at the end of the day! None of this crap matters. Poor people in this country would be considered rich in other countries, while rich people in this country just keep on getting richer.
Credit scores be damned, people with bad credit have just as much opportunity here as people with good credit. You want to see prime example of people throwing good money after bad, look at the GOP primary process this year. How many millions upon millions were wasted on an outcome most knew would be the case 3 years ago? Talk about waste! That should drop credit scores like a rock in a pond, because at the end of the day, isn't that what it's all about....Forecasting RISK?
Borrowing can be considered as negative savings for the individual. Meaning the individual is spending income they may earn in the future instead of saving the future income.
Traditionally banks encouraged individuals to save. The banks paid interest on savings and lent the money in the savings account at a higher rate of interest.
Credit card lending has diminished the banks incentive to encourage individuals to save because there is more money to be made by encouraging credit card borrowing.
Imagine the effect on the economy if the US government were to strictly regulate credit card lending. The US economy would contract due to the lack of credit.
It is a strange situation for the individual, banks pay little to a saver. Make credit card borrowing easy. Easy credit results in some individuals caught in a borrowing spiral that leads in some cases to default, a lower credit score and higher borrowing cost.
The government is reluctant to tinker with credit card lending because of the possibility it might cause an economic contraction.
Banks have the incentive to loan money at the highest rate of return so they are unlikely to regulate themselves.
It falls on the individual credit card consumer to borrow wisely. Good luck with that.
A message to the Banks and their Shills (the credit bureaus)
KISS MY **** !!!
If I don't keep my file cleaned up, it turns into a mess of other people's little mistakes. And the number of plain old bad reports from credit issuers can be annoying.
Thing to do is to rent and keep all your money at home or in metals and be an international person.
Why would you let a bank have your savings for less than 1%? If it wasn't for FDIC they could close and you lose it all.
It all comes down to one thing...are you tired of the rich getting all the bailouts and us working men getting nothing? Take a look at what I found and see why the rich are trying to hide this for themselves. G00GLE the term ' CRAZY CASH TEACHER ' and click the first site. Go right to the 'PENNY STOCK' page to see what the rich don't want you to know. It is time your family lives the good life and this will help. THIS IS AMAZING!!! THIS IS A MUSSSST SEEE!!!
are financed. Credit ranges, for example, can mean a difference on a used car from 2.9% with great credit to 24.99% with rough credit-literally thousands and thousands of dollars extra on the same vehicle. And, no, it isn't a banker's fault that you get the high rate if you have proven to be completely irresponsible with credit (meaning other people's money). People forget that someone that has never met you is being asked to
Copyright © 2014 Microsoft. All rights reserved.
Fundamental company data and historical chart data provided by Morningstar Inc. Real-time index quotes and delayed quotes supplied by Morningstar Inc. Quotes delayed by up to 15 minutes, except where indicated otherwise. Fund summary, fund performance and dividend data provided by Morningstar Inc. Analyst recommendations provided by Zacks Investment Research. StockScouter data provided by Verus Analytics. IPO data provided by Hoover's Inc. Index membership data provided by Morningstar Inc.
RECENT ARTICLES ON CREDIT SCORES
You can give your car the care it needs without draining your bank account if you follow this advice.