6 Common Credit Myths Debunked!

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Rod Griffin, the Director of Public Education for Experian, sets the record straight about what does—and what definitely does not—affect your credit score.

Ever heard that getting 10,000 followers on Twitter can raise your credit score by 50 points? Or that your income determines your credit score?

There’s a lot of so-called “information” about credit scores, credit reports, and personal loans that you can find online. And—shocker—a lot of it isn’t true.

We asked expert Rod Griffin (@Rod_Griffin), Director of Public Education for the credit bureau Experian to sit down with us and debunk some of the most common myths because, when it comes to your credit, it pays to separate the fake and the factual.

MYTH #1: If You Pay a Bad Debt, It Will Be Deleted from Your Credit Report.

Rod says: “That’s not true. If you have a collection account and you pay it off, it will be updated on your credit report to show that it’s been paid, but it’s going to be on that credit report for seven years from what we call the “original delinquency date” of the debt.

The original delinquency date is simply the date that the account first became late, and it’s the most important date in the credit report because it determines when negative information is deleted. So if you have an account that becomes late, and you never catch up on it, it will get charged off as a loss, and you get sent to collections. Under federal law, the collection agency must report the original delinquency date, so it comes off at the right time.”

MYTH #2: You Should Only Pay 95% of Your Credit Card Balance Each Month.

Rod says: “The myth here is that you need to keep a balance on your credit card in order to help your credit score—and that’s just not true.

The ideal thing to do is pay your balances in full each month if you can. When you pay a balance in full each month it keeps that credit utilization rate [how much of your credit limit you’re using] at essentially zero, which is a low as you can keep it. And you don’t have to pay interest on your remaining balances, so it saves you money.”

MYTH #3: A Divorce Decree Separates Joint Accounts and Removes You from Responsibility for That Debt.

Rod says: “It does not. A divorce decree does not break the contract with the lender. A divorce decree just says that “I am taking responsibility for paying this debt” and “my ex-spouse is taking responsibility for that debt.” And it’s an agreement between you and the court. It doesn’t change the contract with the lender. Read more about financial mistakes you should avoid in our blog post 10 Things You Shouldn’t Do During A Divorce.

So if your ex doesn’t pay a debt that they’re supposed to pay, but it’s joint account, it can still hurt your credit history. In order to change a contract with a lender when you’re going through a divorce, you must go to the lender, and they must agree to change that contract. They won’t necessarily do that. They’re not bound to change it.

So for example: If you have a mortgage, and it’s joint with the spouse that you’re divorcing, you might have to essentially get a new mortgage to pay for that home to separate your spouse from that account. A lender might not agree to do that if you don’t qualify. This myth can really get people into a lot of trouble. Since it’s an angry bitter time, quite often, one spouse or the other will decide they’re going to hurt the spouse they’re divorcing and run up their credit card bill. Then they find out that they’ve hurt themselves as badly as they’ve hurt the other person.”

MYTH #4: You Can Pay Someone to Remove Accurate Negative Information from Your Credit Report.

Rod says: “You cannot. If someone says that they can remove accurate information if you pay them, they’re actually violating federal law. So be very cautious about some who says, ‘If you pay me, I can fix your credit.'”

MYTH #5: Disputing Information on Your Credit Report Will Hurt Your Credit Scores.

Rod says: “That too is false. And a relatively common myth. If there is something in your credit report that you believe is inaccurate, you should dispute it. It’s free. Go to www.Experian.com/dispute and follow the instructions. If you have a personal copy of your credit report, you can enter your number for that report and it will pop up and you can go through it. If you don’t have a report, you can give us some information and we will provide you with a free report right there on the spot. It’s very easy and free and does not affect scores or credit decision in any way.”

MYTH #6: Employers Get Credit Scores and Use Them to Decide Whether You Get a Job.

Rod says: “Absolutely false. Employers never get credit scores. They get what we call an ’employment insight report’ which is a truncated version of a credit report, but they never get a credit score. That’s a very common myth. The employment insight report doesn’t include account numbers because they don’t need that kind of information. They use the information on that report to verify the information you provide in your app. They use it as an identity verification tool.

They will also use the information on that report, for example, if you are applying for a job that involves handling the company’s money. If you’re going through financial difficulties and you’re going to be handling a company’s money, it might be an indicator that they should look further into your background so that they can understand that you wouldn’t be tempted to commit fraud, for example. The other reason that businesses use credit reports is that they can verify your identity for security purposes. So, important and valid reasons to use a report. But employers never get a credit score.”

If you want to know more about how the information on your credit report affects your credit score, check out Rod’s answers in our blog post, Let’s Get Creducated!

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Rod_Griffin

 

About the Contributor: 

Rod Griffin is Director of Public Education for Experian. He leads Experian’s national consumer education programs and supports the company’s community involvement and corporate responsibility efforts. Rod oversees the company’s financial literacy grant program, which awarded more than $850,000 in 2015 to non-profit programs that help people achieve financial success. He works with consumer advocates, financial educators and others to help consumers increase their ability to understand and manage personal finances and protect themselves from fraud and identity theft.

Rod says, “My goal is to help people use a credit report to be a financial tool instead of a mysterious thing that lenders look at and take into a back room and tell you you’re approved or you’re not. I work to help any consumer be better prepared to get the credit they need, at the time they need it, and at rates and terms that are favorable to them.”