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The Top 5 Credit Mistakes

If you're looking to improve your credit, you've probably heard a million suggestions on how to go about it. Some advice may be right, but a lot may be wrong. What should you believe?

I'm here to help clear up the confusion. Below are five of the most common misconceptions about credit. Get to know the facts, and it'll be a lot easier to keep your credit happy and healthy. So, the top five credit misconceptions are...

#5: Closing old accounts will improve your credit score Not true. The key word here is "old." When you close old accounts, you shorten your credit history. And that can actually lower your credit score. If you want to close your accounts, be sure to start with the newer accounts first. This will help keep your long established credit history on your credit reports.

#4: Co-signing a loan doesn't make you responsible for the account Wrong. If you open a joint account or co-sign a loan, any activity on those accounts will show up on your credit report. For example, if you co-sign a car loan for your brother and he misses a payment, that will show up on your credit report. Think of any joint account or co-signed loans as your own account.

#3: Paying off a negative record will get it removed from your credit report Not quite. Negative records such as collection accounts, late payments and bankruptcies can stay on your credit report for 7-10 years—even if you pay it off. But let me point out that paying off your debts is still a smart move because they will be marked as "paid" on your credit report. Lenders may look more favorably on your credit report if your debts are paid. Of course, the big improvement will happen when the negative record expires.

#2: Paying off a debt will make your credit score jump up 50 points right away This one's not true either. Here's why: credit scores are calculated with so many different factors and values that it's hard to say exactly how many points you can gain—or lose—by doing one thing. Every person's situation is different. The fact is, there's no one quick fix to perk up your score. Instead, doing things like paying on time...reducing your debts...and making sure your credit report is accurate are the recipe for a stronger credit score.

And the number one credit misconception is...

#1: Checking your credit reports will lower your credit score Heck, no! Checking your credit reports on a regular basis is one of the best ways to monitor your credit and lessen the damage of identity theft. When you check your own credit report, it won't affect your score. However, an inquiry will appear when a lender or creditor looks at your credit reports because you're applying for a loan or credit. Keep those applications to a minimum and you'll be in good shape.

About the Author:

TransUnion's TrueCredit.com empowers consumers to manage their credit health, providing information on credit-related issues that range from the significance of a credit report to identity theft protection. TrueCredit.com's offerings include educational materials, free monthly newsletters and online products, including credit reports, credit and insurance scores, credit monitoring, debt management tools and identity theft insurance services.

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