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Quick question: On a $20,000, 60-month auto loan, about how much more would a borrower with a low credit score pay than a borrower with a high score? Would you say…

  • Under $1,000
  • $1,000-$3,000
  • $3,000-$5,000, or
  • More than $5,000

The correct answer is more than $5,000. But in a new survey from the Consumer Federation of America (CFA) and VantageScore Solutions, only 16% of respondents got that one right.

With so many opportunities for consumers to get their free credit scores these days, you’d think we would all be super smart when it comes to understanding how they work. But the CFA/VantageScore survey finds there are still some key facts consumers get wrong when it comes to how credit scores work.

Ready for another credit quiz? Which of the following factors are among those used to calculate a credit score?

  • Ethnic Origin
  • Marital Status
  • A Person’s Age
  • High Balances on Credit Cards
  • Personal Bankruptcy
  • Missed Payments
  • Don’t Know

Correct responses are high balances, bankruptcy and missed payments. But only 7% of consumers accurately identified all correct answers.

Millennials (those under age 35) demonstrated less knowledge than older consumers overall. For example:

  • Less than half (47%) of millennials know that age is not a factor used in calculating credit scores, compared to 60% of those 45-64 years of age. (You may be surprised at what else isn’t included in your credit scores.)
  • Less than two-thirds (65%) of millennials, but three-quarters (75%) of older adults, know that the three main credit bureaus collect information on which credit scores are based.

The survey also shows that one way to get smarter about scores is to get yours. “Not surprisingly,” the organizations say in their report about the findings, “those who have obtained one or more of their credit scores in the past year know more about scores than do those who have not.” 

When you do review your credit scores, however, make sure you understand what you are looking at. In particular it’s helpful to receive your credit score along with an explanation of the factors influencing yours. “Without contextual information and an understanding of how information in your credit report influences it, a credit score is, for all intents and purposes, just a three digit number,” says Barrett Burns, president and CEO of VantageScore Solutions.

You can see two of your credit scores (including a VantageScore) and get a complete explanation of the reasons behind it every month on Credit.com.

More on Credit Reports and Credit Scores:

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