You probably know the basics of what can hurt your credit score.
Last year, a Bankrate survey revealed that:
- 81% of Americans recognized that having an unpaid collection account would hurt their credit score.
- 63% knew that an account that was 30 days late but later paid in full would show up as a negative on their credit report.
- 54% recognized that having a short credit history could hurt them.
But do you know some of the common things consumers think could hurt their credit scores that actually won’t?
Credit bureau Equifax is out with a survey of American consumers that confirms our basic knowledge of the things that can harm us, but also illuminates some of the misconceptions we have about credit.
Diane Moogalian, vice president of operations for Equifax Personal Solutions, the credit bureau’s credit monitoring and identity protection business unit, says the survey shows many consumers have come to recognize the importance of regularly checking credit reports, paying bills on time and keeping credit card balances in check.
“While everyone’s financial situation is unique and different, when it comes to credit these are some of the basic fundamentals, and we’re extremely pleased to know that the majority of consumers we surveyed understand their importance,” Moogalian said in an email.
Myths about what damages credit
What people are getting wrong might be more interesting than what they’re getting right, though. The 2016 Equifax Financial Literacy Survey showed 3 key things consumers think will damage their credit that won’t:
- Being denied credit
- The interest rate on their loans
- Checking their credit report
Before we break these down, let’s review the elements of your credit score. Your FICO score, the most popular credit score used by lenders, is computed based on 5 factors listed in order of importance:
Payment history. Do you pay your bills on time, every time?
Amounts owed. This is relative to how much credit has been extended to you.
Length of credit history. How long have you been taking out loans?
New credit. Have you been shopping around for new accounts?
Types of credit in use. Mortgages and credit cards are treated differently.
How losing out on credit can hurt
When you apply for a mortgage or an auto loan and are rejected, that negative mark doesn’t get placed on your credit report, so it won’t damage your credit, as 58% of the survey respondents believed. But FICO says asking for new credit can temporarily damage your score. If you get rejected, your score may fall, but it’s not because you didn’t get the loan; it’s because you tried to get the loan.
Interest rates don’t matter
About one-third (30%) of the survey respondents indicated that the interest rate on their loans could hurt their score. Not true. But if your interest rates are so high that you can’t pay your bills on time or you build your balances too high, that could damage your credit.
Checking credit is a good thing
Experts recommend you check your credit report often. You get 1 free credit report per year from each of the 3 credit bureaus through AnnualCreditReport.com, so you can pull a report once every 4 months. It won’t hurt your credit as 30% of respondents believe; in fact it may help. If you find mistakes or unauthorized accounts, report them to the bureaus.