Don't know much about credit scores? Start by checking yours.

Individuals who check their credit score know much more about how scoring works, according to a new survey released by Consumer Federation of America and VantageScore.

The numbers of Americans who have been checking their score regularly has steadily risen thanks to more companies sharing that information with customers on their statement, and services that provide access to this important information for free. But many are still in the dark about some important credit basics, and what you don’t know could cost you.

Here are three credit score basics survey takers were less likely to know:

  1. Your age and marital status don’t affect your score

Most know that key factors that impact credit scores are missed payments, high credit card balances, and personal bankruptcy. But fewer are in the know about what does not impact credit scores, with over 60 percent incorrect believing that tax liens, medical collection accounts less than six months old, and civil judgements can play a role.

And many are misinformed that age and marital status can affect scores. Rest assured that demographics aren’t a factor.

  1. A lower score can cost you big time

Only 21 percent of those surveyed know just how much a low score can cost. Credit scores are used by creditors, such as mortgage lenders and credit card companies, to determine if they will extend you credit, how much, and at what interest rate. Because your credit score determines your credit worthiness, lower scores mean your lender is more at risk, so you pay higher costs. In fact, people with low scores may pay more than $5,000 in interest charges on a $20,000, 60-month auto loan. The costs are even higher for a mortgage.

But interest rates aren’t the only thing at stake. Utility companies, home insurers, cell phone companies, landlords, and others may use credit scores to determine things like if they will offer you a contract or the amount of your initial deposit.

  1. The secret to understanding credit scores may be as easy as checking yours

Survey takers who say they have obtained at least one credit score in the past year are much more likely to say their knowledge of credit scores is good or excellent. And those who have obtained their score know more about how scores are used, what factors lower scores, and what number is a good credit score (it’s 700).

Join the ranks of savvy credit users by checking your credit report for free, from each of the three credit bureaus at least once every 12 months at www.annualcreditreport.com or by calling 800-322-8228.

Test your credit score knowledge by taking Consumer Federation of America and VantageScore’s quiz at creditscorequiz.org.

 


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