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7 Final Lies About Credit Scores That Can Cost You

Posted: 03/29/2012 9:18 am

Since there are so many misconceptions about credit reports and credit scores, I broke the topic into three parts, each with seven lies (and this is the final post).

If you missed the two previous articles, click here for Lies #1-7 and click here for Lies #8-14.

You'll find out whether you should pay off really old debt, cancel a credit card that you don't use anymore, and pay someone to raise your credit score, just for starters.

Here are the final seven lies about credit scores that can hurt you -- plus a fun way to put your credit knowledge to the test:

Lie #15: Marrying someone with poor credit hurts your credit score.

If you're having pre-wedding jitters, don't blame it on their credit! Getting hitched has no effect on your credit score because your credit history can never be merged with someone else's. However, if one spouse has poor credit, that can diminish your ability to get credit together.

If you apply jointly or co-sign for a credit account, the creditor will consider both of your credit scores. Having one poor credit history in the mix could cause you to be declined for credit, to pay higher interest rates, or to overpay for credit-sensitive products and services that are in both of your names.

Lie #16: You're only responsible for half of a co-signed credit account.

When you submit an application for credit with someone else, you're both legally responsible for the full debt amount. And no matter who makes the payments, the account gets reported on both of your credit files because it's in both of your names.

Say your girlfriend has poor credit and asks you to co-sign a car loan with her if she makes the payments. If your sweetheart disappears or doesn't pay on time, not only will your credit suffer, but the lender will come after you to repay the full amount. So never take the decision to co-sign a credit account lightly.

Lie #17: Adding an authorized user to your credit card can hurt your credit score.

You can add one or more authorized users to a credit card so they receive a card in their name and can make charges up to the credit limit you approve. This never damages your credit, even if an authorized user has poor credit. But authorized users have no legal responsibility to repay debt, so add them with caution.

If you have good credit, adding an authorized user to your credit card can help them establish a good credit history. That's because your payment transactions on the card typically also get reported on their credit report, and many credit scoring models factor in data on authorized user accounts.

Lie #18: No one can check your credit report unless you grant permission.

Federal law allows government agencies and businesses that have a legitimate need for your credit information to access your credit report before doing business with you or after you become a customer -- even without your permission.

To see who has taken a peek at your credit history, simply view or download your free credit report at annualcreditreport.com. Every time a company accesses your credit, a new inquiry is created that remains on your credit report for two years.

Lie #19: Your employer can check your credit history without your knowledge.

Now that you know a business can view your credit file without your knowledge, you need to know that accessing it for employment purposes is an exception. Neither your current employer nor a potential new one can view your credit report without your written permission.

Lie #20: You can't stop unnecessary inquiries on your credit report.

If you don't want businesses to check your credit and give you unsolicited offers like pre-approved credit cards and insurance, you can opt out of those markets by visiting optoutprescreen.com.

Opting-out removes you from pre-approved mailing lists compiled by the three nationwide credit reporting agencies for either five years or forever. It doesn't have any effect on your credit scores, but it can significantly reduce the amount of junk mail you receive.

Lie #21: You can't stop companies from checking your credit report.

If you really want to shut down your credit report, you can initiate a credit freeze. A freeze is typically used if you believe you've been the victim of an identity crime. It prevents a credit reporting agency from releasing any information in your credit file without your authorization, except to companies with whom you already have a business relationship or for pre-approved credit offers.

The downside of a credit freeze is that you may have to pay a fee to have your credit "unfrozen." It can also slow down your ability to get new credit, employment, or services such as insurance, licenses, government services, rental housing, utilities, or a cell phone.

Find Out Your Credit Score IQ!

Now that you know the truth about 21 credit lies, here's a challenge: Test your knowledge with a free, fun, and interactive Credit Score Quiz! You'll get the correct responses with detailed answers so you can learn more about your credit report and how to raise your credit scores.

Click here to test your Credit Score IQ!


Read "7 Credit Score Lies That Cost You Money" for Lies #1-7.

Read "7 More Credit Score Lies That Cost You Money" for Lies #8-14.

Laura Adams is a personal finance expert and host of the popular Money Girl podcast on the Quick and Dirty Tips network and iTunes. She's the author of the award-winning book, "Money Girl's Smart Moves to Grow Rich."

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