- Credit scores are the gatekeepers to many of the things people want in life such as loans, apartments, and cars. But, not everyone understands how credit works exactly.
- With 22 years of experience in teaching people how credit works, Rod Griffin, senior director of consumer education and advocacy, debunks five common myths about the topic.
- Having an understanding of how credit works can unlock financial health and success.
- This article is a contributed piece as part of a series focused on millennial financial empowerment called Master your Money.
After more than two decades educating people about credit reports and scores, I know one thing for certain – there is a lot of misinformation that exists about the best ways to build a positive credit history and boost credit scores.
Some of these myths are somewhat harmless and quirky, but many can cause long term damage to your financial health, which is why understanding the facts is so important.
Here are five common myths I want to dispel to protect your credit history and your financial standing:
The credit reporting system and credit scores are complicated
Credit reports and credit scores are simpler than most people think. Here’s one way to think of it:
Your credit report is like a school paper and includes a history of your borrowing habits. It’s a summary of how you manage or payback your debts. Your scores are similar to a grade that your teacher assigns to the paper, but instead of letter grades, it’s a number within a scoring range. You control the information in your credit report, just like a student controls the information in the paper.
Keep in mind, your credit report isn’t only used by lenders to assess your risk when you’re applying for a credit card, personal loan, or other credit products. From renting your first apartment or buying a family car, a positive credit history can be the gatekeeper for many things we all want in life.
A divorce decree breaks contracts with my lenders
Sadly, this is the most common piece of misinformation I hear.
A divorce decree is only an agreement between a divorcing couple and the court, not your lenders. You are still responsible for paying your debts as agreed until you contact your lender to remove yourself from joint accounts.
Credit scores can keep me from getting a job
This is another popular one.
The truth is, employers never get credit scores. They can receive a limited credit report, but only with your written permission.
You should carry a balance on your credit card to help your credit scores
This myth leads people to pay more than they need to. Carrying a balance on a credit card means you’ll pay interest. It does nothing to help your credit scores. Ideally, you should pay your balances in full each month.
Getting my credit report will hurt my credit scores
Getting your credit report results in a “soft” inquiry that is shown only to you. It will not affect your credit scores or lending decisions. Check your scores as often as you’d like. I recommend you check your credit report once a year at a minimum.
Gaining a real understanding of how credit works is so important because it can help you protect your financial health and further you in achieving your financial goals.
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