Visa Survey on Credit Scores Reveals a Lack of Understanding of Credit Scores

From September 9 to 11, 2011, GfK Roper conducted a nationwide phone survey for Visa of 1,000 adults over 18 years regarding credit scoring.  Many didn’t understand what was included in a credit score or what information counts the most. Approximately 42 percent of the responders didn’t check their credit score regularly.

Key Findings

They were correct on three items that were included in a credit score – payment history, debt and bankruptcy.

78 percent knew that bill payment history was part of the credit score.

71 percent knew current debt had an impact.

13 percent thought that bankruptcy was part of the payment history.

The list of ten factors the responders incorrectly thought were included in a credit score:

64 percent thought income was a factor.

50.9 percent said employment history was included.

58.7 percent thought Interest rates on debt had an impact.

53.1 percent thought assets and savings were part of it

39.6 percent said age was included.

25.3 percent thought where you lived was considered.

21.6 percent thought national origin was considered.

21.6 percent said ability to speak English was included.

17.2 percent said gender had an impact.

15.7 percent thought race was considered.

Credit Score

First, the credit score is calculated from the credit report.  Therefore, if the information is not on the credit report, it won’t be included in the score. Information from the credit report such as payment history, account information, public records and inquiries for credit are used to calculate a credit score. Personal information on the credit report such as address, age and employment are not used in a credit score. The confusion may be in the information provided on a credit application, which is used to determine whether you qualify for a loan, such as income, employment, assets and savings.

ECOA

The Equal Credit Opportunity Act, often referred to as ECOA,  prohibits credit discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, marital status, age, or because you get public assistance.  The creditors can ask for this information but can’t use it in making the decision to give you credit or setting the credit terms.

The key characteristics in your credit score include payment history (35%), amount owed (30%), length of credit history (15%), new credit (10%) and types of credit used (10%). Your credit score impacts the interest rate you pay for credit cards and loans, but the interest rates you pay don’t impact how your score is calculated. Employers can’t access your credit score to make employment decisions, but they can review your credit report in most states.

It is important to review your credit report and purchase you credit score so that you are aware of what in on your credit report, especially prior to applying for a mortgage or auto loan.  You want to check for errors and your credit rating.

Credit Expert, John Ulzheimer, is the President of Consumer Education at SmartCredit.com, the credit blogger for Mint.com, and a Contributor for the National Foundation for Credit Counseling.  He is an expert on credit reporting, credit scoring and identity theft. Formerly of FICO, Equifax and Credit.com, John is the only recognized credit expert who actually comes from the credit industry.  Follow him on Twitter here.

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