Many people know that having a good credit score is integral to making some of life’s biggest purchases. Without one, it’s challenging to qualify for a loan to buy a house or a car someday.
However, even though credit scores are really important, they’re also a bit of a mystery. Not a lot of people know what makes up a credit score, how to improve them, or even how to check them!
So, below I’ve compiled 10 surprising things you probably didn’t know about the elusive credit score, including the fact that credit scores really haven’t been around that long at all.
1. Credit Scores Didn’t Exist Until the 1950’s
Before credit scores existed, you’d have to go and sit down and talk with a banker before getting a loan. So, the process was a little subjective. If the banker didn’t like you or think you were trustworthy, you weren’t going to be approved. In the 1950’s two statisticians named Bill Fair and Earl Isaac founded FICO, but it took until the 1970’s for the FICO score to be seen as integral to lending as it is now.
2. Your Credit Score May Predict How Long You’ll Be Married
The Federal Reserve conducted an interesting study where it followed couples for 15 years to see how credit scores affected those in committed relationships. The study found that “the initial match quality of credit scores is strongly predictive of relationship outcomes in that couples with larger score gaps at the beginning of their relationship are more likely to subsequently separate.” To put it another way, the closer your credit score is to your other half’s credit score, the more likely you are to stay together.
3. TransUnion Started as a Railroad Leasing Company
The credit bureau, TransUnion, started as the Union Tank Car Company in 1968. In 1969, it acquired a business called the Credit Bureau of Cook County, which had millions of consumer card files located in 400 different cabinets. Eventually, it became the TransUnion we know today after spending 40 years collecting consumer data and developing technology that helps people and companies around the world.
4. Employers Cannot Get Your Credit Score
There is a pervasive myth that employers can screen you by finding out your credit score. This myth likely arose because people get the phrases “credit score” and “credit report” mixed up. Some employers do request permission to see your credit report, but it’s typically a different version than the one you see and is used specifically for employment screenings.
5. Your Degrees Do Not Impact Your Credit Score
You could have lots of different letters after your name, but that doesn’t mean you’ll have a higher credit score than someone who only graduated from high school. Your education level does not factor into your credit score. There are 5 factors that determine your credit score and all of them have to do with debt and payments, not education.
A few other surprising aspects of your life that don’t impact your credit score: the balance in your savings account, your stock portfolio, your employment status, and your salary.
6. The FICO Score Has a Competitor
The three major credit bureaus joined together to create a new type of credit score called the Vantage Score, a score that competes directly with FICO. According to a recent USA Today article, the Vantage score calculates your credit score in a different way than the FICO score. More and more companies are using Vantage Scores to help determine a consumer’s credit worthiness.
7. You Can Still Get a Mortgage with a “0” Credit Score
If you don’t have any open credit accounts or you never opened any to begin with, your credit score eventually becomes a 0. However, even if your credit score is 0, you can still get a mortgage through a process called manual underwriting, where the mortgage company takes all of your assets and monthly bills (like cable) into consideration before potentially approving you for the loan.
8. Closing Your Credit Cards Can Hurt Your Score
The age of your accounts is an important factor in determining your credit score. If you close your oldest account, it could cause your score to drop. Also, all of the available “space” on your credit cards helps to show credit-worthiness. Closing cards shrinks your credit “space” and an easy way to potentially boost your score is to request a credit limit increase.
9. Car Insurance Companies Use Your Credit Score (Sort Of)
When you apply for car insurance, having good credit matters. While car insurance companies won’t use your FICO score to help determine your insurance rates, 92% of insurers use something called a credit based auto insurance score. The data in this score helps to show insurers whether or not you’re likely to file a claim along with other data.
10. Credit Scores Aren’t the Only Predictor of Bad Financial Behavior
Many people worry about their credit scores, especially if they’ve had a late payment in the past. However, many people don’t realize that there are also other financial reporting agencies that keep track of other financial transactions, like how you treat your bank account. Banks use reporting from companies like TeleCheck, ChexSystems, and EWS to determine whether or not you should be allowed to open a checking account.
So, as evidenced, your credit score is actually pretty interesting!
Not only does it help show lenders whether or not you’re a good borrower, but it can also predict your relationship success. Also, your credit score is private, but sometimes employers and insurance companies can see versions of your score and credit report to learn more about you as a consumer.
Ultimately, having a good credit score really is important, and the best way to have a good score is to keep making your payments on time, have a variety of accounts, check your credit score regularly, and keep your credit card balances nonexistent. This can help you to qualify for larger purchases down the road and can prove that you’re trustworthy when it comes to your finances.