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COMMON CREDIT SCORE MYTHS

Your credit score is critical to your future financial status. Don't fall into these common misunderstandings about credit scores.

Myth 1: Everyone has just one credit score

There are three different credit bureaus, and each one issues a different credit score which can vary by 50 points or more. The three bureaus are Equifax, TransUnion and Experian. The Federal Trade Commission has posted a web site where you can order all three of your credit reports once a year for free at www.annualcreditreport.com.

Myth 2: Requesting your own credit report will lower your score

This is just not true. It's important to keep tabs of your credit report to make sure your identity isn't being stolen. Just make sure to get your report from one of the three bureaus or a legitimate credit score seller.

Myth 3: Age, income and gender affect your score

Your credit score is not affected by these factors.  It's affected by your ability to pay your loans on time.

Myth 4: Disputing unfavorable information, even if it's true, will remove it from your credit report

If you dispute information that is actually true, the credit agencies will know it's a scam, so only dispute information that is actually inaccurate.

Myth 5: Shopping for a loan hurts your credit score

Although multiple credit inquiries can hurt your score, as long as the same kind of inquiry is made within 14 days you'll be fine. So shop around for the best rate — just do it within 2 weeks.

Myth 6: Credit card offers damage your credit score

The number of credit card offers you receive in no way affects your credit rating. But offers are different than accepting offers, using the cards and building up debt.

Myth 7: When you get married, your credit scores become one

Your credit score is yours, until death do you part, unless you open accounts together. Joint account information is shown on both party's credit reports.

Myth 8: Closing accounts helps your credit score

Closing accounts may actually hurt your credit score because it lowers your available credit and may shorten your credit history. By all means, pay off those credit cards and cut up the card, but keep the account open.