According to a recent TransUnion survey, many consumers are confused about what does and does not affect their credit score, even if they check their credit report on a regular basis. For example, 47% of those surveyed incorrectly believe that their cell phone payments are reported to the credit bureaus on a regular basis, and nearly as many thought getting a pay raise would help their score.
With that in mind, here are a few things that many people mistakenly believe have an effect on their credit score.
Many of your regular monthly payments are not included
As I mentioned already, 47% of people believe cell phone payments are included in their credit report. Also, 45% believe that rental payments (like an apartment) directly affect their credit score. However, both of these assumptions are incorrect.
Rental payments, utility payments, and many other monthly obligations are not regularly reported to the credit bureaus and won't help your credit score. Most of the payments that are regularly reported can be categorized as:
- Installment loans (mortgages, car loans, personal loans from a bank)
- Revolving accounts (credit cards)
- Lines of credit
- Collection accounts
Even so, it's worth noting that if you don't pay your rental or utility bills, it could negatively affect your credit score. If these accounts become late enough, they can be sent to collections, which can show up on your credit report and remain there for seven years, even if you end up paying them off.
Checking your own credit won't affect your score
Many people correctly believe that credit inquiries (or credit checks) can show up on your credit report -- and potentially hurt your score.
However, not all credit inquiries are counted equal. Generally, the only inquiries that show up are the ones you directly authorize a lender to conduct, which are referred to as "hard inquiries."
Sometimes lenders or other parties can check your credit without your permission, for reasons like pre-qualifying you for a credit card offer. These are referred to as "soft inquiries," and won't affect your credit score. You may be able to see soft inquiries when you check your own credit, but they won't appear on the report a lender would see.
Speaking of checking your own credit, it won't affect your score one bit. So, feel free to check yours as often as you'd like. It can't hurt, and it could help you find possible erroneous information and prevent identity theft.
Your income has no effect whatsoever on your credit
Among survey respondents who had checked their own credit within the last year, 48% believe that an increase in income will help their score.
However, your income level has absolutely no direct effect on your credit report. Sure, a higher income has the indirect effect of making it easier to pay your bills and other financial obligations, but any income-related data is completely absent from your credit report and is not factored into your credit score.
It is worth noting that even though your income isn't a factor in your credit score, lenders can and will use your income when making credit decisions. Still, the fact remains that someone with a $30,000 annual income has just as much of a chance at a great credit score as someone with a $300,000 annual income, provided that they pay their bills on time and otherwise use their credit wisely.
So, what is in your credit score?
According to myFICO.com, there are five basic categories of information that do affect your FICO credit score, which is the credit score most lenders use when making decisions. Your payment history on loan accounts (mortgages, personal loans, credit cards, etc.) makes up the largest part of the formula, and the amounts you owe on those accounts is a close second.
The amount of new credit you've been applying for, the mix of different account types you currently have, and the length of your credit history also play a role in determining your credit score. There is no information that contributes to your credit score that doesn't fall into one of these five categories, so don't believe the myths that say otherwise.