Credit score myths that will. not. die.

th-1More than half of U.S. consumers (mistakenly) believe that carrying credit card balances will help improve their credit scores.

It won’t. It won’t. It won’t!

Yet according to the 2016 Capital One Credit Confidence Study, 52 percent of us still think it will. The study also mentioned a new (to me) credit score myth, one that’s believed by about the same number of people.


Some 53 percent of consumers in this country believe that paying their cellphone bills will also improve their scores. Guess what? It doesn’t!

However, if you fail to pay it in full and on time then the delinquency could have a negative impact on your score.

Despite these two major myths, eight in 10 respondents (81 percent) are “confident” they will improve their credit. A good start would be learning to separate credit score myths from credit score realities.


Building and guarding credit

Websites and entire books exist to debunk credit score myths. Here are a few to get you started:

Your Credit Score, Your Money & What’s At Stake: How to Improve the 3-Digit Number That Shapes Your Financial Future,” by Liz Weston


Building A Better Credit Report,” a free publication from the Federal Trade Commission

The Debt Escape Plan: How to Free Yourself From Credit Card Balances, Boost Your Credit Score and Live Debt-Free,” by Beverly Harzog


Building A Better Credit Report,” a publication from the Federal Trade Commission

GerriDetweiler.com, which includes a great free book (PDF) called “Debt Collection Answers: How to Use Debt Collection Laws to Protect Your Rights.” Look for it under “credit resources.”

Sean McQuay’s work at the NerdWallet website. Also on that landing page are tools to improve credit and manage debt.

Credit.com, a site that Business Insider included among the “11 websites to bookmark if you want to get rich”


Working within the system

Looking for decent deals on credit cards? Try these sources:

Beverly Harzog’s eponymous website


NerdWallet again

Credit.com too

All the resources in the world won’t help unless you’re willing to do the work of building and guarding your credit. Totally worth the effort: A respectable credit score will help you pay less in interest – maybe a lot less – during your lifetime. Paying with plastic provides some other protections as well.

I know that some people have a hard time managing credit. Some frugality experts think it’s a terrible idea. “Cash is king!” they trumpet, pretending that the current credit-score system doesn’t exist.

In part I agree, since it basically penalizes those who prefer to pay in cash. That isn’t especially fair. However, it’s what we have right now. Work within it.


Related reading:





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  1. Good article….I would add that making sure information about your credit score is correct. A while back I checked my credit score and it had taken a hit…like 100 points. Upon review the report sighted a landlord/tenant case which I actually won and a $17 medical lab fee from a wellness visit that I was challenging. I sent a detailed e-mail with case numbers, dates and contact phone numbers to the credit bureau. Took about 6 months but it was corrected as was my score.

  2. spiffikins

    When I moved to the US back in 2000, I basically was a newborn, in terms of credit. Although I had stellar credit in Canada, my SSN was only days old in the US – prior to that, I didn’t exist!

    I did however, qualify for a car loan (through the local credit union) and signed up for a secured credit card at the same credit union – I gave them $500 to hold, and they gave me a credit card with a $500 limit.

    Within a year or two, I was receiving credit card offers and was able to graduate to non-secured cards, which I made sure to use regularly in order to build some credit history.

    It all worked out – 10 years after I got my SSN and started living in the US, I applied for my first mortgage, and found that my credit score was in the low 800s – woohoo!

  3. Cathy in NJ


    Merry Christmas and a Happy Healthy, Prosperous New Year:)

    Do you have a short list of what improves the number and what doesn’t.

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