March 26, 2023

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U.S. News Survey: Many Are Unaware of What Actually Affects Their Credit Scores

Many Americans still have a fundamental misunderstanding of how credit scores work, a U.S. News survey found. More than 44% of respondents say carrying a balance on their credit card improves their credit score, when in fact it does the opposite.

While 40.7% of respondents say they had checked their credit report in the past three months (and 60% had checked in the past year), 31% don’t know the impact of having a bad credit score, like getting denied for a loan or needing to pay higher interest rates.

Other survey findings include:

  • About one-third of respondents say they received their credit knowledge by doing their own research, and only 3.3% say they got the information from a class at school.
  • Respondents recognize they need to learn more about credit – out of a variety of financial topics, 22.4% say they need to learn the most about how credit scores work.
  • The survey had good news, too: 38.2% of respondents say they avoid credit card debt by paying their card balances every month.

Most respondents recognize that missing payments hurts their credit, but nearly one-third can’t identify at least one action out of several that would hurt their credit score.

By a wide margin, respondents note the easiest way to improve their credit score: making payments on time.

About half of respondents connect bad credit scores with consequences such as not qualifying for a loan or being charged higher interest rates.

More than three-quarters of respondents know the myth about combined credit scores isn’t true – when two people get married, their credit scores and reports stay separate.

Unfortunately, other credit myths are more durable. Close to half of respondents say they need to carry a balance on their credit card to improve their credit score, when in fact the opposite is true.

Most people are keeping up on their credit, but about a quarter don’t ever check their credit reports.

Respondents have obtained their credit knowledge in a variety of ways, with about one-third doing their own research.

Respondents acknowledge they still need to learn more about credit.

More than a third of respondents say they haven’t made any credit mistakes, but nearly 1 in 5 say they have been late on a bill.

The most straightforward way to avoid credit card debt is to pay your balance every month, and that’s what more than one-third of respondents say they do.

  • U.S. News ran a nationwide survey through Google Surveys in late February and early March 2021.
  • The sample size was the general American population, and the survey was configured to be representative of this sample.


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