Myths and folklore endlessly evolve as cultures change, technologies emerge and societies grow. Some myths—like the one that warns against washing Pop Rocks down with Coke—are chuckle-worthy. Others, such as fallacies about how credit scores work, can be downright detrimental.
Thankfully, some credit score myths seem to be fading, such as the mistaken belief that your credit score is beyond your control. In fact, 94 percent of respondents to a 2013 survey by the Consumer Federation of America and VantageScore Solutions knew that making on-time loan payments helps improve your credit score. New myths, however, seem to constantly emerge.
Here are five new credit scoring myths and the truths that debunk them:
Myth: When applying for a job, a bad credit score can count against you.
The truth: While many U.S. employers do consider credit when evaluating job candidates, they do so using modified credit reports—not credit scores. What’s more, potential employers can’t even look your credit report unless you give express permission. And finally, before taking any action that adversely affects you based in whole or in part on a credit report, the employer must provide you with a copy of the relevant report.
Myth: Closing a credit account is always good for your credit score.
The truth: While closing an account might make sense for your own personal financial situation, it also might lower your credit score. For example, if you pay off a credit card and choose to close the account, you’ve reduced your overall debt (which is good) but you’ve also reduced the amount of credit available for your use (which may not be good for your score). How closing an account impacts your credit score will depend on how much credit you have available on your other accounts and the general makeup of your personal credit history.
Myth: Anyone can submit information about you to the credit bureaus.
The truth: Lenders and other organizations, such as collection agencies and even some landlords, report unpaid debts, payment information and balances to the three national credit reporting companies (CRCs): Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. By law, only companies that meet accuracy requirements mandated by the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) can provide data to the three national CRCs. All organizations that furnish credit data to the credit bureaus must respond if there is a dispute.
Myth: Your social media activity can affect your credit score.
The truth: While it’s true that some lenders have begun reviewing social media accounts as a way to market their products and services more effectively, nothing you do on social media is included in your credit files at the three national CRCs. And mainstream credit score models used by lenders only use information that resides in these files.
Myth: You only have one credit score.
The truth: You may actually have many credit scores… dozens, in fact. Although most people are familiar with the three national CRCs that gather credit information and use it to assign credit scores, there are actually many credit scoring companies. Your score may vary depending on which CRC’s data is used. What’s more, different types of financial organizations may use different models to evaluate you. For example, your mortgage company may use a model that it custom built based on its own business strategy. In addition, each credit scoring model processes and interprets credit-file information its own particular way.
To get a true picture of your credit status, it’s best to review your credit reports and credit scores from multiple sources. You can get free credit reports once a year at AnnualCreditReport.com. You also can boost your knowledge about credit scores at CreditScoreQuiz.org, which was created by VantageScore Solutions along with its partner, Consumer Federation of America. Both the online quiz and a corresponding brochure are available in Spanish at CreditScoreQuiz.org/Espanol.
With firsthand knowledge of your own score, you won’t need to worry about credit myths, old or new.