Study Shows Widespread Ignorance on Credit Scores

Register now

Nearly everybody knows that paying loans on time can help raise their credit score. But beyond that, a large percentage of Americans know little about their scores, a new survey found.

The survey shows widespread misunderstanding about how scores are calculated and how they can be improved. Between one-quarter and two-fifths of adults can't answer basic questions about their scores, according to the survey released Monday by the Consumer Federation of America and VantageScore Solutions. Fifty-five percent, meanwhile, rated their knowledge of credit scores as "good" or "excellent."

Two-fifths of respondents did not know that credit card issuers and mortgage lenders use scores to make decisions about credit availability and pricing, the survey found. The same percentage incorrectly believed that age and marital status affect credit scores. And one-quarter did not know that keeping credit card balances low and not applying for several cards at once would help raise a score. Ninety-four percent, however, correctly responded that repaying loans on time will improve one's score.

"Misperceptions about credit scores are extremely concerning" Barrett Burns, president and chief executive of VantageScore, said in the news release. "People who fail to understand exactly what can impact their score have little incentive to manage the real things that truly do make a difference, such things as paying bills on time, keeping credit card balances low, and not taking out unnecessary loans."

Women are better informed about scores than men are, the survey found. Higher percentages of women understand what factors affect a credit score, know what a good score is and know that scores are free.

The study found little disparity between different age groups. Adults between 18 and 34 know as much about credit scores as the rest of the adult population, while the 35-to-44 age range knows slightly more.

The survey was conducted by ORC International in late April. It received responses from just over 1,000 adults living in the continental U.S.

For reprint and licensing requests for this article, click here.
Consumer banking