April 1st, 2013
10 Credit Myths That Fool the Best of Us
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It’s no April Fools’ joke! Credit myths and rumors are unfortunately spread around all the time, especially on the World Wide Web.
We’ve talked about lots of these myths over the years, and today we’re wrangling 10 of the most common credit myths to help set things straight. No foolin’!
1. “Checking my own credit will hurt my score.”
This is false false false. When you check your own credit (score or report) it’s called a soft inquiry. Unlike pesky hard inquiries, soft inquiries don’t affect your credit at all. Wouldn’t it be terrible to be penalized for being responsible and checking your credit? So feel free to check your score on Credit Karma regularly; it won’t affect your score at all! I recommend checking once a month.
2. “I have one credit score – that’s the one lenders check.”
This is one of the biggest myths out there. 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. Credit Karma CEO Ken Lin wrote an article for the Huffington Post all about this.
3. “Checking my score everyday will help push off old inquiries.”
This is a common rumor perpetuated in online forums all about credit scores and credit reports. People believe that if you check your score enough, inquiries will magically disappear. And they insist that it works. But it doesn’t. 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 aren’t on there. You can check out a more comprehensive list in Do You Know What’s NOT In Your Credit Score?
5. “My employer can see my credit score.”
Another myth perpetuated by the online world. Your employer cannot check your credit score. However, he can check your credit report. This usually happens with potential job candidates, most often for positions with fiduciary responsibilities.
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. In the end, carrying a balance from month to month will just cost you in interest. You can learn more in this video.
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. You can learn more about that in this video.
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, till death do you part. 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.
What’s the weirdest credit myth you’ve heard?
Bethy Hardeman is the Communications Manager at Credit Karma, where she’s been since February 2011. When she’s not writing about credit and finance all over the web, you can find her playing her guitar, catching the latest movie, training for her next race or just exploring the city of San Francisco. Say “Hi” on Twitter: @bhardeman.
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