Americans’ knowledge of credit scores has been steadily declining since 2012, according to a recently released survey from the Consumer Federation of America and VantageScore Solutions, LLC. The survey was conducted by phone and posed a number of credit score related questions to 1,002 American adults.
The improved economy could be one reason for the decline; less people may be as concerned about money and credit than they were following the 2008 recession.
But ignorance of credit scores can be detrimental to your credit and personal finance, no matter what your current economic status. Here are some of the biggest knowledge gaps from the survey:
1. Many consumers don’t know there is more than one credit score.
Only 62% of respondents in 2019 knew people have more than one credit score, down from 78% in 2012.
The truth: People have three major credit scores, each one maintained by one of the three major credit bureaus – Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax. When you check your credit reports and credit score, you need to make sure you’re pulling information from all three credit bureaus.
2. Many consumers don’t know their credit card balance affects their credit score.
Only 66% of respondents in 2019 knew that maintaining a low credit card balance can help their credit score or maintain a good credit score, down from 85% in 2012.
The truth: One of the factors that affects your credit score is debt utilization – essentially, how much of your available credit you have tied up in debt. If your credit cards have high balances, you’re using too much of your available credit and you could be damaging your score. Maintaining a low balance on your cards will help your score.
3. Many consumers don’t know opening too many credit card accounts at once can hurt their credit score.
Only 62% of respondents in 2019 knew opening too many credit cards accounts at once can hurt their credit score, down from 83% in 2012.
The truth: You should avoid opening too many credit card accounts at once (and other financial products like loans, for that matter). Too many hard inquiries from new accounts can cause your credit score to take a dip, so spread your credit applications out over time.
4. Many consumers don’t think it’s important to check credit report accuracy.
Only 67% of respondents believe it’s important to check their credit reports for accuracy, down from 82% in 2012.
The truth: Checking your credit report for accuracy is crucial for maintaining a healthy, accurate credit score. Inaccurate information can land on your credit report as the result of human error or even criminal activity – and it can tank your score without you knowing. If you frequently check your credit score for accuracy, you can dispute potentially fraudulent activity and have it removed to protect your score. Finding inaccurate information can even help you uncover identity theft and move to correct it before your credit is negatively affected.
Identity theft and credit monitoring can take the guesswork out of credit report accuracy, alerting you whenever something new lands on your credit report and even helping you respond if you’ve been a victim of identity theft.