3 Common Credit Myths Debunked

Here’s the truth behind these common misconceptions

To say there is a lot of confusion surrounding credit is a vast understatement. We can’t tackle all of the fallacies at once, but we can start to dig into the big misconceptions that lead people astray. Here’s a look at three common credit myths — and the real truth behind them.

Myth: You have one credit score and one credit report.

Truth: You have multiples of both. “You actually have many credit reports, although we tend to focus on those housed by the “Big 3” credit bureaus, Experian, Equifax and TransUnion,” says credit expert John Ulzheimer. Your credit score is not included any of those reports — and you have hundreds of different scores calculated for different purposes. Auto lenders want to look at a score that focuses on how likely you are to repay a car loan. Mortgage lenders want to do the same but for home loans.

A helpful tip is to think of your credit report as a school paper, with your credit score being the grade on the paper. The lender is like the teacher. Each teacher determines how your paper will be reviewed, the grading scale that will be used and what constitutes a passing grade. Lenders determine what scores to use to analyze the information in your report and what score you need to qualify for a loan. So, when you hear people say things like “My score is 750”, that really only refers to one of their scores from one of their credit reports.

Myth: My credit score will keep me from getting a job.

Truth: Employers never receive a credit score and employment decisions are rarely made based on a credit score. What they can see is a version of a credit report. But there are limitations there, too. Employers may be able to obtain a limited copy of your credit report after you have given your permission, but they do not get your score with the report. They only have access to a limited report that excludes any information that would violate EEOC regulations.

How can this impact you? And how often does it, in real life? According to the National Association of Professional Background Screeners, 25 percent of the HR professionals use credit or financial checks while hiring for some positions, while 6 percent check the credit of all applicants. Your credit report can give an employer insight into your trustworthiness and personal responsibility. If your credit records have information about paying back large loans like a mortgage on time, that’ll show you are reliable. If your credit information shows a lot of late payments, that could indicate to employers that you’re not very organized or responsible.

Myth: If you always pay your bills on time you’ll have great credit

Truth: Some people are under the impression that as long as you pay your bills on time, you’ll have perfect credit. “Credit scoring systems certainly consider whether or not you pay your bills on time. In both FICO and VantageScore’s credit scoring platforms your payment history accounts for about one-third of the points in your credit score,” says Ulzheimer. That means two-thirds of the points in your credit scores have nothing to do with whether or not you make your payments on time. Rather, they measure your credit usage, credit age, recent credit and mix of credit. “[So] yes, while you certainly have to pay your bills on time in order to earn and maintain great credit scores, there’s considerably more to it than just that,” says Ulzheimer.

With Hattie Burgher

Jean Chatzky

Jean Chatzky