A credit score is as American as apple pie, or bald eagles – or Beyoncé. But it turns out, a lot of Americans hold plenty of misconceptions about this modern piece of American lifestyle.
survey conducted last April by Harris Poll, and commissioned by NerdWallet, it was found that 12 percent of Americans have never checked their credit scores in their entire lives; 23 percent think a person only has one credit score; and a staggering 49 percent have no idea that bad credit can limit their options for a cellular phone service.
But these barely scratch the surface. Let’s look at the most common credit misconceptions of the modern American.
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A 600 FICO is A-Okay
To set the record straight, a score of 600 is considered nonprime and would effectively cut you off from a lot of financing program options. Credit reporting agencies consider a score of 680 to 739 as prime.
FICO currently sits at 600, you might need to roll your sleeves up to build good credit, especially if you’re thinking about getting a loan in the future.
Lenders consider borrowers with credit scores below the prime range as risky. If you’re risky, lenders will most likely charge you a higher interest rate, or not give you any financing at all.
Pay off your credit card balances in full monthly and pay your bills on time. Diligence in meeting your financial obligations is a sure way to fix your credit in no time.
If, however, you are sure that you have done all these and still have your score low, check for any errors in your record.
If you find any, dispute the error with your creditor and report the event to the credit bureaus at once.
You start with a perfect credit
Credit is about record. It’s about history. It is not something you can get readily in shipshape any time. You need to work for it.
Lenders look into your record to see your credit and payment pattern as a borrower. Do you keep interest in your revolving credit card balances? Do you pay bills on time? How many times have you reached your credit card’s limit?
For mortgages and car loans, lenders look for a flawless credit record as far back as one to two years. The lack of a credit record can hinder some from getting the financing they need.
So if you’re looking to get a loan in the near future, establishing credit today is a wise option.
Carrying revolving balance actually improves your score
This is a misconception shared by two in every five Americans. What they fail to realize is that they also pay interest while carrying off that balance.
As interest pile up month after month, you will end up with more debt than you are actually due. It’s a misconception that is costing too many Americans some important dollars every month.
A credit check pulls down your score
This is true, halfway. This is because credit inquiries take two forms: a soft inquiry and a hard inquiry.
A soft inquiry, generally, does not harm your credit. These include checking your own score, background checks or getting pre-approved for some credit card offers.
On the other hand, hard inquiries CAN pull down your credit. And example of a hard inquiry is when a lender pulls your credit to evaluate your creditworthiness for a loan application.
This is the reason why you are advised to not pass multiple applications to multiple lenders.
You need to spend as close to your card limits
Do you think getting more debt can make you seem creditworthy to any lender? A credit record is not about the debt, it’s about how you repay your debt.
With credit cards, lenders look at a borrower’s utilization ratio. That is, how much you spent compared to how much you are allowed to spend. A high utilization ratio is a red flag to any lender, as it could imply a reckless borrowing behavior.
According to experts, it’s wise to only spend 30 percent or less of your available credit.
Practicing good credit habits help cultivate good financial health. Make sure you’re doing credit right and avoid making these costly errors yourself.
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