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How Much Do People Know About Credit Scores?

Have you taken a financial literacy quiz? See how you compare to myFICO customers and the general population.

As part of Financial Literacy Month, myFICO recently conducted a survey to gain insights into consumer credit score knowledge. We asked survey participants to self-report their credit knowledge, and then asked them questions about credit score fundamentals.

The survey was provided to two population segments (both segments were 18 years of age or older):

  • a random set of ~1,000 current myFICO members, and
  • a random set of ~1,000 consumers.

Key Findings:

  1. myFICO members were more likely to be confident they have a higher level of credit score knowledge. 76% self-identified as very knowledgeable/knowledgeable about credit scores. This compared to only 59% of the general population who self-identified as very knowledgeable/knowledgeable.
  2. On average, the myFICO segment answered 80% of the credit score questions correctly, compared to 51% of the general population.
  3. While both segments demonstrated a level of credit score knowledge, the results also illuminated a need and opportunity to enhance credit score awareness and understanding for both groups.

Survey participants' self-reported credit scoring knowledge level (before taking the quiz):

myFICO Members

General Population

Very Knowledgeable 32% 20%
Knowledgeable 44% 39%
Somewhat Knowledgeable 22% 31%
Not Knowledgeable 2% 10%

Survey participants' credit score quiz results (figures represent the % of quiz questions answered correctly by consumers within each self-reported knowledge level)

myFICO Members

General Population

Very Knowledgeable 85% 53%
Knowledgeable 80% 52%
Somewhat Knowledgeable 75% 51%
Not Knowledgeable 57% 47%
Total 80% 51%

The myFICO members' segment appears to have a substantially higher credit score knowledge overall compared to the general population and a higher correlation between their self-awareness about credit score knowledge and their quiz results. Potentially concerning, 59% of the general population self-reported as Very Knowledgeable/Knowledgeable, yet only answered approximately 50% of questions correctly. These respondents may think they are making wise credit decisions when, in reality, they may be mistakenly making credit decisions negatively impacting their credit scores.

When evaluating the survey participants' responses across the credit score quiz questions, the following dynamics surfaced:

  • For each question, the myFICO members' group had a higher percentage of responders answering correctly compared to the general group.

  • Awareness was relatively high, with more than the majority of both survey groups selecting the correct answer to the following questions (indicated in bold):

    • You have an extra $500 this month that could be used to pay down some of your debt. Generally speaking, which strategy would likely maximize the impact on your credit scores?

      A. Apply the $500 against revolving debt (e.g., credit cards) first.

      B. Apply the $500 against installment debt (e.g., mortgage, auto loan) first.

      C. Apply the $500 against all your credit accounts equally.

    • Having no debt is the best strategy for having high credit scores.

      A. True

      B. False

    • A missed payment is immediately removed from your credit report when you have paid the balance in full.

      A. True

      B. False

  • On average, the general segment was more likely to incorrectly answer the following fundamental credit score questions:

    • What information in your credit report has the greatest impact on your credit score?

      A. If you've paid your bills on time?

      B. If you've been pursuing new credit?

      C. How much debt you have?

      D. How long have you've had credit?

    • What information is used to calculate your credit scores?

      A. Your income.

      B. Your address.

      C. Your gender.

      D. Your employment.

      E. None of these

    • You recently applied for a student loan. What type of inquiry was posted on your credit report?

      A. A "soft inquiry."

      B. No inquiry as student loans prohibit accessing the applicant's credit report.

      C. A "hard inquiry."

      D. None of the above.

  • Both segments struggled a bit on the following:

    • For optimal impact on a credit score, reported revolving balances should

      A. Be a very low percentage of your revolving credit limit, but not $0.

      B. Should be $0.

      C. Should be around 30% of your revolving credit limits.

      D. It doesn't matter as they have no impact on your credit score.

87% of the myFICO members' segment and 57% of the general population segment who answered incorrectly selected 30% revolving utilization as the answer, when the correct answer is A.

The confusion may be driven by the fact that the Amounts Owed category accounts for 30% of a FICO® Score. While revolving utilization is considered in the Amounts Owed category, so is other information such as balance related characteristics and installment loan balance & utilization assessment.

While credit score exposure has increased over time and many consumers have increased their credit score understanding, there are still many people who could benefit from incremental access to credit score education information. A wealth of free educational content can be found at www.myfico.com/credit-education. In addition, consumers can sign up for one of FICO's free Score A Better Future virtual educational seminars.

Tom Quinn

Tom Quinn is the Vice President of Business Development for myFICO and has over 25 years of experience working with consumers, regulators, and lenders regarding credit related questions and initiatives.