During financial literacy workshops that I give around the country, I leave about 30 – 45 minutes at the end for a q&a session with my audience.
Here are the top questions about FICO credit scores that I have heard over the years:
FICTION : If I check my credit report often, all those “inquiries” will lower my credit score.
FACT: Your personal inquiries are called soft inquiries and do not impact your credit score at all. You can check your credit as much as you’d like with no negative impact, as long as you do it through a credit bureau or a company authorized to issue credit reports, such as myFICO.
EXPLANATION: Even though you may see all kinds of inquiries in your credit file, many of them have no bearing on your FICO credit score. For instance, your FICO credit score does not count your own inquiries, as well as those from existing creditors who are reviewing your account, or lenders trying to offer you pre-approved credit.
FICTION: I pay cash for everything and don’t buy on credit or use credit cards, so my credit score should be excellent.
FACT: Having no credit history or never using credit can have a negative impact on your credit score.
EXPLANATION: It helps your FICO credit score to have some history of paying credit obligations on time. Fair Isaac reports that people with no credit cards tend to be higher risk than those who have managed their debts responsibly.
FICTION : I’m going to close out my old accounts since I’m not using them anymore, and that will improve my credit score.
FACT: You can actually hurt your credit score by closing older, more seasoned accounts.
EXPLANATION: Generally speaking, it works in your favor to have older accounts in your credit file because it shows that you have a longer credit history.
FICTION: The most important factor in my credit score is whether or not I am maxed out on my credit cards.
FACT: The single biggest determinant of your credit score is how well you’ve paid your bills on time in the past.
EXPLANATION: Your FICO score takes into account whether you have had late or missed payments, how far past due your bills were, how long ago the late pays occurred, and whether you have any collection items.
FICTION: My age, race, gender, marital status, income or where I live can impact my credit score.
FACT: None of those factors are taken into consideration at all when your FICO credit score is determined.
EXPLANATION: Under U.S. law, it is illegal to for credit scoring to take into account race, age, color, nationality, religion, sex or marital status.
Be sure to also read Key Differences Between Equifax, Experian and TransUnion credit reports.