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the top 8 myths about your credit score

1. once you have a bad credit score, you can’t rebuild it

Your current credit score is based on information in your credit report, which itself is a history of your credit. While you can’t change your credit past, you can take steps that can help your credit future. Rebuilding credit means paying on time, looking for better credit options, and learning more about money and credit. The longer your credit history is without negative information, like late payments, the better. And as your negative information gets older, it has less of an impact on your credit score.1

2. if you pay off a debt, any late or missed payments on that account will be removed

Late payments can remain on your credit report for up to seven years from the date you missed the payment.2 Late or missed payments remain even after the debt is paid. Paying off the account sooner doesn’t mean it’s deleted from your credit report; instead it’s listed as “paid.” It’s still smart to pay your debts, both to reduce the total amount of debt you owe and to show your willingness to repay your obligations.3

3. checking your credit hurts your score

Every time someone checks your credit report, a notation called an “inquiry” is added to it even if you’re the one checking. An inquiry affects your score only if it’s related to a credit application that you’ve submitted. If you apply for a loan or a credit card, your score might fall, because that application suggests you’ll be adding debt. But if you simply look at your own credit report, it won’t affect your score.4

4. closing a credit card will help your credit score

If you have a credit card you don’t use, closing it is unlikely to improve your credit score. It’s possible, however, that closing the card might actually lower your score. Credit scoring models don’t generally measure risk by how much credit you have available, but rather by how much of that credit you’re using — a ratio known as “credit utilization.” When you close an unused account, you reduce your total available credit, so your credit utilization goes up. Of course, if an unused card creates a temptation to spend, you may be better off in the long run by closing the account.4

5. your credit score can keep you from getting hired

When you apply for a job, a potential employer will not be able to see your credit score. They will, however, be able to look at a modified version of your credit report that’s different from the one that lenders see. This report will exclude information such as your date of birth, account numbers, details about your spouse or anything that could potentially violate equal employment laws. Since your credit score is meant to indicate your creditworthiness to a lender, it’s not something a potential employer would use to make a hiring decision.5

6. if your spouse has good credit, you don’t have to worry about yours

Married or single, you have your own credit report and it’s linked to your Social Security number.1 Your credit could affect you and your spouse’s ability to get credit. For instance, in cases where one person could not qualify alone, for joint accounts or for a mortgage loan, credit reports and scores for both people are considered when couples apply. As a couple, you might be faced with higher interest rates, fees or even being denied on these joint accounts because one of you has a poor credit history.4

7. credit scores are unfair to some groups

Your credit score is based only on credit-related information. Factors like gender, race, nationality and marital status are not included. In fact, the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA) doesn’t let lenders consider this information when issuing credit. Credit scoring has proven to be an accurate and consistent measure of repayment for all people who have some credit history.6

8. credit scoring is an infringement on your privacy

Credit scoring evaluates the same information lenders already look at – the credit bureau report, credit application and/or your bank file. A score is simply a numeric summary of that information. Lenders using scoring sometimes ask for less information – fewer questions on the application form, for example.6

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