Credit Score Myths

Credit scores can be confusing at best. There is a lot of information floating around about credit and scores that just simply aren’t correct. So let’s start out the year by de bunking some of the “myths” that I constantly get questions about.

  1. Opting out will help a credit score.
    No it won’t. The bureaus don’t know if someone has opted out or not and it’s not factored into the credit scores. If someone’s score improves after they have opted out it’s because something else has changed on the report but not because they opted out.
  2. Paying off old delinquencies will remove them from your credit report.
    No a collection account or an account with late payments will stay on a credit report for 7 years. That being said, the credit bureaus will occasionally go in and remove old collections that have not reported for a while. But that’s at their discretion. Just because you paid if off doesn’t mean it will be removed. Also paying off an older collection with then brings the reporting date current which could actually hurt the credit scores.
  3. All rate shopping inquiries are the same.
    If you are rate shopping for a mortgage or auto, all inquiries with Trans Union and Equifax have a 45 day window. For Experian however it’s only 15 days. For revolving inquiries there is no “shopping” period. All those inquiries are counted no matter what the time frame is.
  4. Opening new accounts will help your credit score.
    This will help only if the borrower has no established credit yet. Once you have several accounts, opening new ones will actually have a negative affect on a credit score until substantial history is accumulated on the account.
  5. Paying off all your revolving balances is a good thing!
    Actually no it’s not. The credit bureaus models like to see at least one revolving balance, even if it’s small. Having no revolving balances can actually have a negative impact on a credit score. So always keeping one account with a small balance is a very good idea.
  6. Your credit is affected by how much money you have in your savings or checking accounts.
    Neither of these are factored into a credit score.
  7. Closing old accounts will help a credit score.
    The credit scoring models like to see several open accounts that have zero balances and are not used often. When an account is closed you lose that history. If it’s an account you’ve had for a long time and has no late payments, closing it can actual hurt the credit score. Having several open accounts, even if they are not used much, makes it look like a person has good financial responsibility.
  8. When I check my own credit score it’s the same one used by lenders.
    Unfortunately no it’s not. A person actually has 69+ different credit scores. The ones that lenders use are completely different than what a borrower sees when they get their own scores. Those are personal scores and are not used by any industry for any reason.
  9. Checking my own credit report will hurt my score.
    When a consumer checks their own credit report it’s a “soft” inquiry and will not impact the scores. Only “hard” inquiries done by creditors when a consumer applies for a loan or credit card will possibly have a negative affect on a credit score.

I’m sure this is just the beginning of a very long list of credit “myths” that circulate regarding credit reports and credit scores. Knowing what’s “myth” and what isn’t can help you have a positive impact on your credit scores. Happy New Year!