In order to acquire and maintain access to credit, one must have a working understanding of how credit works – namely, how credit scores are established and tracked by the three major credit bureaus.
As discussed in “The Larry Rule,” people who repetitively apply for credit are viewed with suspicion by the credit agencies. However, there are some caveats to the Larry Rule. First, multiple inquiries for the same purpose – shopping for the best deal on a home loan, for example – count as just one inquiry. Secondly, it is never harmful for you to check your own credit report – only applications for credit (not mere inquiries) count against you. Third, and most importantly, inquiry data is only kept on file for six months. So in other words, the Larry Rule has a six month statute of limitations.
The exceptions to the Larry Rule outlined above are all good news for consumers. Unfortunately, not everything contained in this article is so pleasant. For example, you may believe that your permission must be given in order for someone to check your credit. Unfortunately, this is a myth, except where it applies to employers. A potential creditor, an insurance company, a landlord, or virtually anyone else can access your credit report without your permission.
Credit Repair Myths
Many people believe that paying off debts immediately improves their credit score. Unfortunately, this one of many credit repair myths. While a paid debt is marginally preferable to an unpaid liability, the truth is that missed payments and past delinquencies are still ugly marks on your credit report, and simply paying off an old debt may not improve your credit score by even one point.
The good news is that late payment and old delinquency information will disappear after seven years. But the idea that all negative information is wiped out after seven years is another credit repair myth. The truth is that Chapter 7 bankruptcy stays on your record for 10 years, and unpaid judgments can potentially remain on your credit report forever.
Another popular myth is that the act of closing your credit cards is good for your credit score. This myth is perhaps the most painful, as many people who close open accounts have difficulty opening new ones in the future. The truth is that open, active, and up-to-date accounts help your credit. Unused credit capacity (i.e. available credit) is a positive factor in determining your credit score.
Credit Counseling Myths
Credit counselors and debt management services have received a bad name over the years, and much of the negative publicity has been deserved. It is, for example, a myth that you can simply pay a company to “fix your credit.” Any firm that claims to perform this hands-off service should be avoided.
But there are good, reputable credit counseling and debt management services who truly do help people. And despite the myth that using such a service inevitably hurts your credit, the truth is that many of these companies are able to reduce their clients’ debts and maintain or improve their credit scores at the same time. When considering a credit counselor, look for firms that have these dual goals, not companies that focus solely lowering your liabilities.