Reporting from Washington—Here's a quiz to test your knowledge of credit scores, that all-important number on which mortgage lenders and most other creditors base their decisions not only to grant you a loan but also how much to charge.
A high score means you can obtain a home loan at the best possible rate. A low score and you'll pay dearly, if you can get a loan at all. The difference between a 720 score and 580 could be as much as 3 percentage points, according to the Consumer Federation of America.
Many people -- including lenders -- seem to know little about the way in which credit affects scores.
"Our sales reps are continuously hearing feedback from mortgage professionals that they, along with their borrowers, do not understand the ramifications their actions have on their credit scores," said Steve Grant of Credit Plus, a Salisbury, Md., credit-services firm.
To educate its clients and their customers, Credit Plus developed the following 11 true-or-false statements.
1. Paying off an account that has been turned over to the creditor's collection department or a collection agency will increase your credit score.
2. Closing a credit card account will increase your score.
3. Having cash on hand in a savings account will improve your score.
4. Borrowing money from a finance company is no different from borrowing from a bank.
5. Seeking the help of a qualified consumer credit counselor will automatically improve your score.
6. You need to worry about your credit score only when you are buying a big-ticket item, such as a house or automobile.
7. Your credit score differs, depending on the item you are purchasing.
8. A finance company credit card scores the same as any other credit card.
9. Negative credit information can stay on your record forever.
10. There's nothing wrong with using your maiden name when pulling your credit report and your married name when applying for credit.
11. If you have poor credit and cannot obtain credit on your own, the best ways to start rebuilding your credit record are by obtaining a secured credit card or asking someone to cosign with you for a major credit card.
1. The correct response is false -- most of the time. Only if the account has gone into collections recently is it wise to pay it off. Older accounts should be left alone.
Scoring systems place the most emphasis on the most recent activity in your credit record. And paying off collection accounts, no matter their age, registers as recent activity. If the date of the last activity exceeds 12 months, leave it alone.