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Millennials Have No Idea How Credit Scores Work

3 minute read

Millennials have a reputation for being pretty savvy with technology and social media—not to mention their finances—but today’s young adults are clueless when it comes to knowledge of their credit.

A new study conducted by the Consumer Federation of America and VantageScore Solutions finds that 18-34 year-olds lag behind older Americans on credit knowledge. Not that older generations are whiz kids when it comes to credit—just over 40% of consumers surveyed even know what their credit score measures, for instance—but millennials have the dubious distinction of being even less-informed than other age groups.

Only around half of millennials have ever even bothered to order a free copy of their credit report, as compared to about three-quarters of older people surveyed.

They’re more likely to think age plays a role in credit scoring, that the government keeps track of consumer credit data and that credit repair services can legitimately fix your credit (by and large, they can’t). And while most of them know that a lot of credit card debt, declaring bankruptcy and missing payments can affect their credit, only 6% got everything right when they picked from a list of factors that could potentially impact their score.

Young adults have a pretty poor grasp on how far-reaching this impact is: Only 18 percent knew that utility companies, cell phone carriers, mortgage lenders and home insurers, landlords and credit card companies can all use a consumer’s credit when doing business with them.

They’re also unaware of the financial consequences of bad credit. Just 15% knew that a bad credit score could cost more than $5,000 in higher interest payments over the life of a car loan.

One factor that seems to make a difference in how much credit knowledge people have is whether or not they’ve actually gotten their free credit report (if you’re one of the many who haven’t, you can do so at annualcreditreport.com). Interestingly, people who got their credit reports knew more than those who had just gotten their credit scores.

“Those who are interested in their credit reports are probably also interested in their credit scores,” CFA executive director Stephen Brobeck says in a statement. “It’s so easy to go online and get your free reports that this action likely motivates people to learn more about credit scores.”

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