Test Your Credit IQ

1. Your income is one factor used to calculate your credit score.

FALSE. The scoring system most commonly used by lenders, the FICO score, ignores your income. However, a lender may consider your income when deciding whether or not to give you credit.

2. When you pull your own credit report, it has no effect on your credit score.

TRUE. When a lender pulls your credit report because you applied for credit, that lowers your credit score. However, when you look at your own report, that has no affect on your score.

3. If you are looking for a mortgage or car loan, you should only apply with one lender because shopping around will lower your credit score.

FALSE. The FICO scoring formula treats all mortgage or car loan inquiries that occur within a few weeks timespan as one inquiry. Applying with one lender has no more of an effect than applying with five lenders. (The same does not hold true for credit cards.)

4. Having a low credit score can prevent you from renting an apartment or getting a job.

TRUE. Many landlords and employers check your credit score when deciding whether or not to rent or hire you. However, employers must get written permission from you before they can check your credit report or score.

5. Late payments on a co-signed debt can lower your credit score even if the person you co-signed for was the one who borrowed the money and promised to make the payments.

TRUE. If you co-signed for a debt, that debt can appear on your credit report and impact your credit score regardless of who used the funds or promised to make the payments. The creditor can also engage in collection activity against you if the debt is not repaid.

6. You need to carry a balance on your credit cards to have a good credit score.

FALSE. Carrying a high balance on credit cards will actually hurt your credit score. You do need to use credit to have a good score, but that does not require carrying a balance. You can make a purchase, wait until you receive the bill, and pay off the balance in full before the due date. The on-time payment will show on your credit report and boost your credit score, and you avoid paying interest.

7. Federal law gives you the right to get your credit score for free once a year.

FALSE. Federal law gives you the right to get your credit report for free once a year through the Annual Credit Report Request Service (annualcreditreport.com), but you must pay a fee to see your score.

8. After you get married, your spouse’s and your credit histories are merged, and you have the same credit score.

FALSE. When you get married, your credit history does not get merged with your spouse’s. Joint accounts can be reported on both of your credit reports and impact both of your scores (as is the case for any joint account holders, regardless of their marital status), but individual accounts stay separate.

9. Making your rent and utility payments on time boosts your credit score.

FALSE. Your credit score considers your payment history for types of credit, such as credit cards and loans. It is not influenced by the positive payment history for rent, medical bills, utilities, and insurance. The only time these types of bills may affect your credit score is if you stop paying them and they are sent to a collection agency.

10. It is nearly impossible to have a perfect credit score.

TRUE. FICO scores range from 300 to 850. While it is theoretically possible to have an 850 score, it is fairly elusive. Your credit score is a measure of the risk you will not paid back what you borrowed, and even if you had a 75-year history of on-time payments, there is always some risk, no matter how small. Still, while having a perfect credit score is next to impossible, having a good credit score is achievable with hard work. And if you have an 800 credit score, you will likely get just as favorable terms for credit cards and loans as if you had an 850.

If you scored less than 100%, don’t feel bad. Few people are born credit experts. However, by taking this quiz, you are well on the way to becoming one. To learn more about credit reports and scores, visit our Publications page.