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Do you know your credit score?

By Janna Herron · Bankrate.com
Thursday, June 28, 2012
Posted: 3 pm ET

Turns out almost half of Americans have no idea what their credit score is. Do you? And should you care?

A survey released Wednesday from CouponCabin.com showed that 47 percent of U.S. consumers it polled didn't know their credit score. That percentage got worse with youth. Three in 5 ages 18 to 34 had no clue what their score was, compared with 1 in 5 who were 35 and older.

Unfortunately, the survey didn't mention whether these consumers could ballpark their credit score within 50 points, an important point to consider because credit scores are nebulous things. They change -- often. (Nevermind that there are several different types of credit scores out there.)

Every time a lender pulls your credit score, it's calculated anew. The math is based on what's in your credit report at the time the lender asks for your score. And your credit report changes every time new information is submitted to the credit reporting bureaus.

For example, many credit card issuers report payment information every month to the bureaus. That means if you miss a payment in March, your January credit score will look different than your May credit score because that late payment will be taken into account in the latter score.

Information also falls off your credit report. So, if you were 90 days behind on a student loan payment, a serious delinquency, back in 2003, that negative information will drop off your credit report at the seven-year anniversary. Once it does, your credit score will be vastly different than when it was calculated just a few months before that delinquency disappeared.

The point is this: It doesn't matter if you can pinpoint your credit score; it matters more if you can correctly characterize your credit. Great, good, eh or bad. The other key is to which financial habits can boost your credit score. Hint: Pay your debts on time, and keep outstanding balances low. Open new credit only when you need it.

Remember: A credit score is just a three-digit number summing up how likely you'll default. The real meat is the credit history behind the number. Keep good tabs on that, and the credit score will follow.

When was the last time you saw your credit score?

Follow me on Twitter: @JannaHerron.

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