There’s a ton of information out there and most of it is wrong. There’s information about how your credit score is calculated and even worse… how it is impacted by you simply being a consumer.
Let’s look a few of these and try to dispel them
- Your score drops if you check your own credit. This widespread credit misconception fools a lot of people, but viewing your own report and score is counted as a “soft inquiry” and doesn’t change the score one way or another. “Hard inquiries” by a lender or creditor, such as those resulting from your applying for credit, can slightly lower your credit score. If you’re shopping for a loan and concerned about harm to your score, know that multiple loan inquiries within a period of a few weeks are usually treated as a single inquiry to minimize impact.
- It helps to close old accounts. This credit myth advocates closing old and inactive accounts to hike up your score. However, this might inadvertently have the opposite affect and lower your credit score because now the credit history appears shorter. If you don’t trust yourself to put a card away in a safe place and not use it, then consider canceling newer accounts.
- Paying off a negative record means it’s taken off your credit report. Generally, negative records, such as collection accounts and late payments, will remain on your credit reports for up to seven years from the date of first delinquency. Paying off the account sooner doesn’t mean it’s deleted from your credit report; instead it’s listed as “paid.” Of course, it’s smart to pay your debts, both to reduce the total amount of debt you owe and to show your willingness to repay your obligations but expect the negative record to have some effect until it is purged from your report.
- Co-signing doesn’t mean you’re responsible for the account. Regardless of this credit myth, if you open an account jointly or co-sign a loan, you will be held legally responsible for the account. Activity on the joint account is displayed on the credit reports of both account holders. If you co-sign for a friend’s auto loan and that person doesn’t make the payments, your credit profile will be hurt and vice versa. The only way to end the dual liability is to have one party refinance the loan or persuade the creditor to formally take you off the account.
- Paying off a debt boosts your score by 50 points. Contrary to this credit myth, credit reporting agencies companies determine your credit score via a complex algorithm that uses hundreds of factors and values to calculate it. It’s almost impossible to calculate the difference in points changing one factor might make. It’s wise to pay your bills on time, work to lower your debts and ask that any inaccuracies be corrected. A proven record of sound financial behavior and time will have the most significant impact on your score.
No matter what your score is, the smartest thing you can do with respect to your credit is simple, keep a strong record of on-time payments, keep your credit card balances below 40% of your credit limit, and make sure that the items on your credit score are correct. Anything and everything else is too hard to manage.
Consult an experienced Enrolled Agent for more tips on how to repair your credit score.