Older Consumers Understand Credit Scores Better, But Not Too Much Better

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- On the surface, it seems like a no-brainer: The more you know about credit and your own credit score, the better credit you'll have and the more money you save by having good credit.

Easy, right?

Not exactly.

A survey from VantageScore Solutions and the Consumer Federation of America reports that consumers don't really know what credit scores mean in their lives:

  • Only 42% of consumers know that a credit score measures the risk of not repaying a loan rather than factors such as knowledge of, or attitude to, consumer credit.
  • Only half of consumers understand the three instances when lenders who use generic credit scores are required to tell borrowers of the credit score used in a lending decision: after application for a mortgage loan, whenever an application for a consumer or mortgage loan is rejected and whenever the best terms, including lowest interest rate available, aren't offered on a consumer or mortgage loan.

While older consumers have a good handle on their credit, millennials are significantly lacking. According to the study, only 47% of Americans under the age of 35 understand that age is not used in the formulation of personal credit scores, compared with 60% of Americans between the ages of 45 and 64.

In addition, older Americans are more likely to know that the three primary credit scoring companies -- Experian, TransUnion and Equifax -- gather the personal financial data of Americans used to calculate credit scores.

That knowledge gap between the generations could really bite younger Americans where it hurts most -- in the bank account.

"It isn't a big surprise that older consumers know more than younger consumers about credit scoring, but the generation of consumers coming into the workforce is particularly challenged by massive student loans," says Barrett Burns, president and CEO of VantageScore Solutions. "A student loan can actually help establish good credit for these consumers, but the concern is that many of these consumers could miss payments and begin their financial lives deep in debt with low credit scores, putting them in a very difficult position."

There is some good news in the study. Most Americans do know that credit card providers and mortgage lenders depend heavily on credit scores. Most also know that missed loan and credit payments hurts their scores.

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