CHECKING YOUR CREDIT REPORT WILL HURT YOUR SCORE
This pestilent myth has a basis in fact. If your credit report shows a great many inquiries from potential lenders, that may indicate you are in financial trouble and shopping around for loans. A flurry of requests for credit reports can be a red flag. The credit reports you request don’t show up as negatives on your history. In fact, many lenders believe it is a positive sign that consumers stay on top of their indebtedness by checking their credit histories at least once a year. It’s part of good credit management. Requesting a credit report is more likely to increase than diminish your chances of getting new credit approved.
THE BEST WAY TO IMPROVE YOUR CREDIT SCORE IS TO PAY OFF ALL YOUR ACCOUNTS AND CLOSE THEM
This myth is partially correct. Conversely, closing your accounts can have the opposite effect. Lenders and reporting agencies care about how much of your current credit limit you are currently using. That is, they are less interested in how much you owe than in how much you owe compared to how much you are approved to borrow. Sounds complicated, right? Think of it as a ratio. The following example will help shed more light. If you owe $5,000 in credit card debt, that may not be significant if your credit limit across several cards is $30,000. On the other hand, if you have just one card with a limit of $5,000, then the $5,000 in current debt is quite significant and may disqualify you from opening an account with a second lender. When you pay off your credit cards, you are decreasing the ratio of credit used to approved credit. That’s great. When you close the accounts, your approved credit is reduced, and that means future credit purchases will represent a higher utilization of your total approved credit. In other words, closing the accounts actually hurts your credit score.
A BAD PAYMENT HISTORY DOESN’T AFFECT CREDIT SCORES ONCE ACCOUNTS ARE UP TO DATE
Unfortunately, getting caught up on payments doesn’t erase your history of late payments, accounts referred to collections, and bankruptcies. All of that information stays on your report for up to seven years – or longer, depending on the type of bankruptcy. Getting current is still important. It’s a great sign and it reassures lenders that you are serious about paying your debts. Lenders understand that sometimes circumstances cause us to fall behind on payments. What they need to see is that you are committed to repaying what you borrow and that you don’t walk away from debt. Missed payments stay on your credit report for three years. If you are a good customer but you are temporarily having trouble paying your bills, it’s worth calling the lender to see if you can reschedule payments. Many lenders are willing to work with customers to allow a few months without payments as long as they are arranged in advance. These arrangements are not reported to credit agencies and do not harm your credit score.