A recently released TransUnion survey shed light on consumer confusion when it comes to credit scores. In fact, nearly half of all consumers falsely identified rental (45 percent) and cell phone (47 percent) payments as those that directly affect their score; however, these are not regularly reported to credit bureaus.
While consumers who frequently review their credit report incorrectly identify some aspects of it, consumers who rarely or never review their credit report have an even higher level of confusion. Among survey respondents who reported checking their report in the last 30 days, half mistakenly believe their full employment history (55 percent) and income level (41 percent) are included in their reports.
Surprisingly, even consumers who characterize their credit as “excellent” or “good” had trouble identifying credit report factors. Among those who characterized their credit as “excellent,” 49 percent mistakenly thought rental payments are included in their report, yet currently they are not regularly reported to credit bureaus in the same way that auto and mortgage payments are reported.
According to the survey findings, there are several noteworthy points of confusion about what affects a credit score and what information is included in credit reports, as follows:
- Pay raises: Nearly half (48 percent) of respondents who’ve checked their credit report in the last year incorrectly believed an increase in income improves their score.
- Credit inquiries: Forty percent of respondents who’ve never checked their report are unsure how it affects their score, and 20 percent who checked their report in the last year mistakenly believed checking their report would decrease their score.
- Paying down debts: Sixty-one percent of those who checked their report in the last 30 days erroneously believed paying off debts from late payments automatically increases their score.
- Trended information: Seventy percent of those who’ve checked their report in the last year incorrectly assumed that it reflected recent changes or trends in their finances over time.
To help consumers better understand their credit scores and reports, TransUnion debunked these common myths:
Myth #1: Your score drops if you check your own credit.
Fact: Viewing your credit report counts only as a “soft inquiry” and doesn’t change the score. “Hard inquiries” by a lender or creditor, though, can slightly lower your credit score.
Myth #2: I should close old or inactive accounts to help my credit score.
Fact: This might actually have the reverse effect of lowering your credit score because it can shorten the measured duration of your credit history.
Myth #3: Paying off a negative record means it’s taken off your credit report.
Fact: Generally, negative records like collections or late payments will remain on your credit reports for up to seven years.
Myth #4: Co-signing doesn’t mean you’re responsible for the account.
Fact: If you open a joint account or co-sign a loan, you will be held legally responsible for the account, meaning activity on the joint account as well is displayed on the credit reports of both account holders’ reports.
Myth #5: Making on-time rental, utility and cell phone payments helps my credit score.
Fact: While outstanding rental, utility and cell phone debt that has gone to collections can negatively affect your score, generally, on-time payments are not regularly reported to credit bureaus.
Myth #6: My credit score reflects recent changes or trends in my payment behavior.
Fact: Historically, credit scores have not incorporated trended credit information, meaning they are a moment-in-time glimpse at consumer risk.