Get Smart About Credit

The American Bankers Association sponsors a program called Get Smart About Credit. We take this program into several local high schools throughout the school year, hoping to educate young people about how credit affects all aspects of their life.

Since October 18 is Get Smart About Credit Day we thought it would be a good idea to provide a crash course in credit for our readers by debunking some common myths.

MYTH #1 – I don’t use credit cards so I don’t need a credit score.
Your credit score is enormously important to your financial health and impacts more than just your ability to get a credit card. In fact, your credit rating affects many aspects of your life that you may not consider. Your ability to get a job, to insure a home, to borrow money and to get a cell phone contract are impacted by your credit score. With a mediocre or poor credit score, a consumer may be able to borrow money but may only qualify for a higher interest rate than a consumer with good credit.

MYTH #2 – Credit is tied to how much money I have.
Credit has nothing to do with how much money you have in the bank. A consumer who earns $35,000 a year has the same ability to earn an excellent credit rating as someone who earns $350,000. It’s not about how much wealth you have but it is about how you manage your credit usage.

MYTH #3 – Debit cards will help my credit
A debit card is attached to your checking account. That means you are simply accessing your own funds rather than borrowing money like you would with a credit card. Using a debit card will not improve your credit score.

MYTH #4 – Closing a credit card will help my score.
Closing an unused credit card will not help your score. In fact, it could actually hurt your credit score because closing a credit card lowers your total available credit. Since credit utilization and the debt-to-credit ratio are big factors in your credit score, lowering your available credit is detrimental to your credit health. In other words, it reflects more favorably on a credit report to use $500 worth of $3,000 in available credit than to use $500 of $1,000 in available credit.

MYTH #5 – Once a credit score is bad, it cannot be rebuilt
Fortunately, credit can be rebuilt over time. A credit report is really just credit history. It keeps a record of all credit opened in a consumer’s name and whether each item is closed, active or inactive. Rebuilding credit isn’t always easy but it can be done with easy tasks like paying bills on time and playing close attention to the amount of debt carried each month.

What questions do you have about credit? Tell us in the comments!