What's in a Credit Score? Few Know.

Photograph by Adam Gault/Getty Images Close

Photograph by Adam Gault/Getty Images

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Photograph by Adam Gault/Getty Images

(Corrects statement that some employers use credit scores in hiring decisions; some use credit reports.)

You'd think that in the years following the financial crisis, the housing collapse, the slashing of credit by lenders and the efforts by folks to shore up their personal balance sheets, people would be more familiar with credit scores and what they're used for. You'd think that but you’d be wrong, a recent report shows.

A survey issued by the non-profit Consumer Federation of America and VantageScore Solutions, a credit-scoring company and rival to the ubiquitous FICO, shows that two-fifths of those polled didn't know that credit-card issuers and mortgage lenders use credit scores in decisions about credit availability and pricing. Two-fifths also incorrectly believe that personal characteristics such as age and marital status are used in calculating credit scores. (They aren't.)

Pretty scary when you consider that these scores help determine whether you'll get a credit card and what you'll pay for it. Ditto for mortgages. And employers are using your credit report (which contains a lot of the information used in generating the scores, according to myFico.com) in hiring decisions. A number of states are trying to limit employers' use of that information.

If you want to test your credit score knowledge, Vantage and the CFA have created an on-line quiz at www.CreditScoreQuiz.org.

There was one bright spot, however: Apparently folks have gotten the message that making loan payments on time helps raise your credit score. Ninety-four percent of quiz takers got that right.

The full release is here.

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