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Maxed Out Your Credit Smarts?

More than half of Americans think that age is a factor in determining their credit score.

Forty-one percent don't know that the way they have managed credit can affect whether they get a job offer. Nearly 16 percent say that credit scores have no bearing on their credit cards' interest rates, and more than half think that income is used to derive a person's overall credit GPA.

These are the findings from a recent Capital One (NYSE: COF  ) and Consumer Action financial IQ survey querying 1,000 consumers about the basics of finance and credit scoring.

As with driving and singing ability, most people (65%) overestimate their mastery of money, claiming that they are very or highly knowledgeable about matters of personal finance. In reality, age and income are not factors in determining credit scores, and how you rate on the credit scoring spectrum can indeed affect the credit card interest rates you pay. It's also true that some employers do check your credit before making a hiring decision. (But you already knew all that, right? Plus, you're an excellent driver.)

Even the savviest consumers can get tripped up by some common credit misconceptions. For example, closing an account does not remove it from your credit record. The credit reporting industry has a long and somewhat unforgiving memory. If you've got a few unseemly entries, here's how long they'll haunt you.

Another misconception is that you and your spouse have a combined credit score. Sorry, but the togetherness stops at your credit score, although untying the bonds of a bad financial union can sometimes make it seem much more complicated.

Some people think that paying off an account instantly boosts their credit scores. While it might be an instant shot to your balance sheet, the truth is that lenders are on their own schedules when it comes to reporting account activity. Even though millions of bits of credit info are being reported daily, updates to your account may take place only once a month. In fact, lenders aren't required to report to the credit bureaus at all. Some lenders purposely withhold certain information -- such as your available credit line -- to keep competitors from poaching customers.

The plus side of the lag in reporting is that a late payment or other unflattering remark may also be delayed, giving you enough time to call customer service, apologize, and ask that they refrain from reporting this one gaffe.

For the truth about other urban credit legends, click here, where we reveal all. MyFico.com clears up some other common credit misconceptions. To unearth any untruths in your credit file, see what the three major bureaus are saying about you. And if you haven't already, get your free credit reports.

Dayana Yochimhas excellent credit and always uses her turn signal. Plus, she can carry a tune. The Motley Fool is air guitarists writing for other air guitarists. Sing along to ourdisclosure.


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