We know these myths are out there floating and questionable and we are excited to have it here in print for you to read. Knowledge is power. Learn the facts about credit restoration.
Published: 7/29/09, 12:00 PM EDT
by Tamar Snyder
750 is the new 720 — at least as far as average credit scores go. As today’s lending requirements remain tight, credit is harder to come by, and it’s tougher to get an above-average credit score than it used to be. A higher score could translate into a better interest rate and save you thousands of dollars. Whether you’re thinking of refinancing your mortgage, purchasing a new home, or taking out a car loan, it’s especially crucial today to understand what affects your credit report — and what doesn’t. There are common misconceptions about credit reports, and believing in untruths can hurt you. Read on to learn more.
1 – Myth: I can boost my credit score by closing credit cards I don’t use.
Think twice before closing an account — especially if it’s a credit card you’ve had for several years. Your credit rating is determined in both the duration an account has been open and the balance in relation to the card’s limit, says Rodney Anderson, managing partner of Rodney Anderson Lending Services, a division of Supreme Lending, located in Plano, Texas. If you’re inclined to close your account, you’re much better off just sticking the card in a drawer — being sure to keep your account active, he says, by using it at least once every three months.
2 – Myth: Checking my credit report will lower my score.
A “hard credit pull” — the type of examination that’s made for those applying for a new credit card, say, or a mortgage — stays on a credit report for six months, and it will lower a credit score. But checking your own credit report, contrary to hurting your score, is “a great tool, especially when you’re making big-ticket purchases,” says Charles Harris, an executive at FreeCreditReport.com. “The higher your score, the more likely you may be able to negotiate lower interest rates, which gives you more control over your personal finances.”
3 – Myth: My age, race, gender, marital status, religion, income, or home address can affect my credit score.
Not true, says Lynnette Khalfani-Cox, author of Zero Debt: The Ultimate Guide to Financial Freedom. Federal law prohibits credit scoring from taking any of those factors into account.
4 – Myth: If I negotiate with my credit-card or mortgage company, my credit score will go down.
Not necessarily, says Spencer Sherman, author of The Cure for Money Madness and founder of financial advisors Abacus Wealth Partners. If you’re up-to-date with payments, then negotiating your credit-card or mortgage payments will not likely affect your score,” he says. To protect your score, he advises, try extending the term of the loan or negotiating a reduction in interest rate, rather than trying to get the principal reduced.
5 – Myth: I pay cash for everything and don’t buy on credit or use credit cards, so my credit score should be excellent.
Having no credit history, or never using credit, can actually hurt your score, Khalfani-Cox says. Card issuers tend to view customers with neither debt nor credit cards as higher-risk than those who have cards and who manage their debt responsibly. Credit-rating agencies like to see that you have a history of paying credit obligations on time.
6 – Myth: My $6 library-card fine couldn’t show up on my credit report.
Return your overdue books at once. Even miniscule library fines can lower a credit score by as much as 50 to 100 points, says Rich Rosso, a financial consultant for Charles Schwab & Co. Same with unpaid parking tickets and utility bills. If you pay up before your debt reaches a collection agency, you should be OK; your library probably posts its collection-agency policy online. “Every municipality appears to have various time frames for collection based on size of the debt and the length of time it’s been in arrears,” Rosso says. Cedar Rapids Public Library in Iowa, for example, will initiate a courtesy reminder three times after items are due. If fines are still not paid and books are not returned, then the borrower’s account may be turned over to a collection agency.
7 – Myth: If I pay off a collection account, my credit score will clear immediately.
Not so. “Paying off a collection account will not remove it from the credit report,” Rosso says. “It will remain for seven years.”
8 – Myth: As far as credit rating is concerned, all credit cards are the same, whether it’s a Visa, an American Express, or a card from a department store.
Stay away from store-brand credit cards. Approximately 10 percent of a person’s credit score is based on the institutions from which money is borrowed, says Anderson. Finance companies, which are often used by retailers that offer their own credit cards, are considered higher risk than banks. For example, Wal-Mart cards are backed by GE Money Bank and Ann Taylor credit cards are issued by the World Financial Network National Bank. “A prevalence of credit lines from finance companies could negatively affect your credit rating,” he says.
9 – Myth: “It’s OK if my card issuer lowers my credit limit a little bit — I never max out my cards. I keep my balance lower than 75 percent, so I should be fine.”
That’s wrong, Sherman says. “Most people stay just at the edge of their credit limits, but you want to stay well below your maximum available credit.” That’s because 30 percent of your credit score is dependent upon the percentage you are using of your total available credit. Aim to keep your balance within 25 percent to 35 percent of your credit limit.
10 – Myth: I don’t make enough money to have a good credit score.
While people with more money tend to have better scores, your income has no effect on your credit score, says Avinash Karnani, co-founder of justthrive.com, a personal-finance management site. “People who make more money are less likely to be borrowing above their limits and paying for things on credit, rather than using existing funds,” Karnani says. But anyone can improve his or her credit score by paying down debt, monitoring your credit report to track how often you’re applying for cards and loans, and making sure to keep your oldest credit card open so it remains in your credit history.
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