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The Top Three Credit Myths

Monday, 11 Aug 2008 | 8:59 PM ET
Debunking Credit Myths
Discussing the top three credit score myths, with CNBC's Carmen Wong Ulrich.

Think of your credit score as your grown-up report card – the ultimate deciding factor in your finances. You might even think you know all about your credit score; what it is, how it’s decided, why it matters. On the Money Contributor and credit expert John Ulzheimer explains why you’re probably wrong:

Myth #1: Closing credit card accounts if you don’t use them helps your credit score.

No, closing cards you don’t use doesn’t actually help your score. The best thing to do is keep your cards open so that your total credit limit grows, but be sure to keep the usage to a minimum and aim to use less than 10% of the total credit limit. Also, having several cards in good standing gives you options, flexibility, access to capital and it also shows lenders and credit score developers that you know how to manage that type of revolving debt.

Myth #2: Paying bills on time is the best way to get a good score.

Negative. On-time bill paying falls into the category of “credit performance,” which is worth 35% of the points that make up your score. The other 65% comes from keeping debt down and growing credit organically. While paying your bills on time is important, it isn’t the one and only way you’re going to raise your credit score.

Myth #3: Debit cards establish good credit.

Nope, debit cards are nothing more than plastic checks. Your checking account, and thus your debit or check cards, do not make an appearance on your credit report.

Other important things to remember with regard to credit: your credit score is held by three different companies: Experian, TransUnion and Equifax, with a FICO score for each of these. Having more credit does not necessarily ensure a better FICO score, so the best thing to do to raise your FICO score is to have enough credit so that you can function efficiently but not so much that it becomes a burden.