Test your credit knowledge
Creating a foundation for your financial future involves more than balancing your checkbook and budgeting. Although those tent poles to managing your money and attaining your financial goals are important, understanding your credit and how to repair it when it’s falling off the mark is a step in the right direction.
According to the Pew Research Center, 40% of all households with children under the age of 18 include Solo Moms who are either the sole (or primary) source of income for the family. This statistic might not surprise you, but it does put into perspective how diligent we must be when it comes to how we spend and save our money.
I asked a few Solo Mom friends what they wanted to know about credit. Some of the questions they asked included these: “Beyond a credit card, what is credit, exactly?” and “How can having bad credit impact one’s financial future?”
Test your credit knowledge by taking the quiz that follows, which was created from their top questions. Answers are below the quiz!
1. What kind of credit is available?
A. The only credit available to consumers is through credit cards.
B. Borrowing money from friends and family, credit cards, charge cards, and mortgages
C. Installments, revolving credit, service credit, and charge cards
2. Which are the three major credit bureaus in the United States?
A. Citibank, Bank of America, Chase
B. Experian, Equifax, TransUnion
C. FICO, Federal Reserve, Vantage
3. What is a “good” credit score?
4. What is the most important factor that determines your credit score?
A. The types of credit that you have
B. Your payment history
C. Amount of credit available to you
D. Amount of debt you owe
5. What information can be used to assess your credit score?
A. Public records
B. Bank account information
B. Bank account information
C. Creditor and/or mortgage company records
D. All of the above
6. What information does not determine your credit score?
A. Missing a car payment
B. The balances on your student loan
C. Your birth date
D. Taking out a mortgage
7. What is your credit score and report used for?
A. To apply for a mortgage
B. To get an apartment
C. To apply for a job
D. All of the above
8. At minimum, how often should you check your credit score?
A. Only during tax season
B. Once per month
C. Once per year
D. Once per quarter
9. Can you fix your credit score?
How did you do? Here are the answers:
1. C: Installments, revolving credit, service credit, and charge cards
These are the various types of credit that are available to us:
- Installments are the type of credit in which a creditor, such as an auto or home mortgage company, allows you to borrow a specific amount of money, and you agree to repay the money with interest in regular installments over a specific period of time.
- Revolving credit is any of your credit cards that carry a maximum credit limit. Each month you either pay the entire balance (ideal!) or carry the revolving debt by making payments.
- Service credit comprises your monthly payments for your electricity, cable, cell-phone service, Internet service, even your gym membership—any monthly payment agreement. Sometimes these service agreements will not show up on your credit report.
- Charge cards sound like something from the 1950s, and they seem like regular revolving credit cards, but they are not. With charge accounts, you must pay the total balance every month.
2. B: Experian, Equifax, TransUnion
These are the major credit reporting companies in the country. Initially, they each served different regions, but with the onset of technology, they can now track everyone all over the country. Each company tracks and handles credit differently.
3. A: 720
Your credit number is a “score” created that summarizes the history of your credit on the credit report. The score determines whether or not you might become delinquent on a loan.
FICO—the company that created the credit score—and VantageScore, another credit score model created by VantageScore Solutions, have a range of 301 to 850, which have different categories from “bad” to “excellent”:
- Excellent credit: 750+
- Good credit: 700–749
- Fair credit: 650–699
- Poor credit: 600–649
- Bad credit: below 600
One of the advantages of having a favorable credit score is that you can get a lower interest rate, meaning you will pay less over time.
4. B: Your payment history
The score is based on how often you pay your bills on time or if you are late on payments.
5. D: All of the above
Public records, bank account information, creditor and/or mortgage company records can be used to assess your credit report, which contains information on your credit cards, auto loans, mortgages, bankruptcies, applications for new credit cards, tax liens, civil judgments, and anything that has gone to a collection agency.
6. C: Your birth date
Your personal information, such as your age, birth date, and where you live, does not affect your score. If you are a divorced Solo Mom, your divorce proceedings will not affect your credit score; however, if you have had joint accounts with your former spouse and this person does not pay his or her share, even though the two of you are divorced, those issues will affect your credit score.
7. D: All of the above
Your credit extends beyond whether or not you can get a credit card but is also used by potential employers and landlords as part of their selection process. Is this fair? No, but it is legal.
8. C: Once a year
You should check your credit once a year, and no, it does not hurt your score if you check your credit more often. The reality is that our credit score is constantly changing and is different at each of the credit bureaus. The Fair Credit Reporting Act entitles you to one free credit report from each credit bureau every 12 months. You can purchase your score from the bureaus for a small fee. There are also websites that offer free versions of your score. And thanks to the Dodd-Frank Act, creditors are legally required to tell you your score if you are denied credit.
9. A: Yes
Yes, yes, yes! Credit reports are not perfect (and neither are you, Solo Mom, and that’s OK!). Sometimes there is inaccurate or negative information (e.g., you have been late on a payment or two). Unfortunately, it can take a while to remove information, and the process can be arduous. The good news is that it can be fixed. You have to go to each bureau to fix each discrepancy, and credit bureaus have to respond and resolve a dispute within 30 days. Beware of “We can fix your credit” scams. The Federal Trade Commission has some information on how to fix your credit yourself.
Many organizations can help you sort out your credit issues and finances. Although our credit does not define us, having this knowledge gives us the power to make choices.
Do you have financial questions? Join Sister Chat to ask other Solo Moms how they cope—go ahead, it’s confidential!
Tanisha Christie is an interdisciplinary performing artist and filmmaker. After years of working at the nexus of arts, media, social justice, and healing, she is currently finishing her master of social work (clinical specialization) at Hunter College in New York City. A child of a Solo Mom, she loves to ride her bike to the beach.
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