Credit Report Myths: Fact or Fiction?

By: Meredith Stancik Email
By: Meredith Stancik Email

The tightening of the credit market, has made high credit scores increasingly important.

Your score could determine whether or not you qualify for a home loan.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, your credit report has information that affects whether you can get a loan - and how much you will have to pay to borrow money. You want a copy of your credit report to: make sure the information is accurate, complete, and up-to-date before you apply for a loan for a major purchase like a house or car, buy insurance, or apply for a job.

It also helps you guard against identity theft. Identity thieves may use your information to open a new credit card account in your name. Then, when they don't pay the bills, the delinquent account is reported on your credit report. Inaccurate information like that could affect your ability to get credit, insurance, or even a job.

There are several myths associated with credit reports. According to, there are 11 myths that stand out above the rest.

1. Paying my debts will make my credit report instantly pristine

Experts say a credit report is a history of your payments, not a snapshot. Experts say you can't change the past.

2. Credit counseling always destroys my credit score

Attending a credit counselor's debt management program is not considered negative in the scoring models.

"We don't want consumers to consider credit counseling to be detrimental to their FICO scores," says Craig Watts, public affairs manager at Fair Isaac Corp., the company that developed the FICO score.

Although credit counseling does not by itself influence your credit score, it is apparent on the report that you've been through, or are currently in, counseling -- and that is something individual lenders may not like. Or they might never know.

3. Canceling credit cards boosts my score

Open accounts spell available, potential debt, so better to close them, runs the legend. But experts agree that most creditors want to see at least two or three pieces of active credit to prove you can manage debt responsibly.

4. Too many inquiries hurt my score

Once upon a time, this statement was true. But get with the times -- in this millennium, the credit agencies recognize a shopping mind-set when they see one.

5. Checking my own credit report harms my standing

The reporting agencies distinguish between soft and hard pulls. When Target calls to check before issuing its line of credit, the agencies chalk that up as a hard pull and it counts against your score. Personal requests and credit counselors -- if they do it correctly (insist on this as part of your agreement terms) -- fall under soft pulls, which do not reflect negatively on the evaluation.

6. Credit scores are locked in for six months

Fair Isaac Corporation's models are dynamic, meaning that your FICO score changes as soon as data on your credit report change.

7. I don't need to check my credit report if I pay my bills on time

When the Consumer Federation of America and the National Credit Reporting Association analyzed credit scores in the summer of 2002, they discovered that 78 percent of the files were missing a revolving account in good standing, while 33 percent of files lacked a mortgage account that had never been late. Twenty-nine percent contained conflicting information on how many times the consumer had been 60 days late on payments.

8. All credit reports are the same

Way wrong. These days, most creditors across the country do report their information to all three major agencies: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. And, because they are separate companies, the speed in which they update records isn't necessarily equal.

9. Bad news comes off in seven years
Some of it does. Chapter 13 (reorganization of debt) disappears seven years from the filing date. But if you filed Chapter 7 bankruptcy (exoneration of all debt), the window is 10 years from the filing date.

10. I can always pay someone to fix or repair my credit

Yes, you can clear up erroneous information posted to your account, such as a repossessed car that you didn't purchase in the first place. But if you paid your Sears bill three months late in 2004, that's a hard fact.

11. A divorce decree automatically severs joint accounts

Experts say the judge may have rubber-stamped your plans to divide credit card, car and house payments, but that carries absolutely no legal weight with the creditors themselves.

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