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Credit Reports: Interesting Equivocations

There are a number of credit report or even credit score companies which seem to market themselves on a fallacy: knowing your credit makes it better. For example, Micah interpreted one commercial as implying that if only this guy had gotten his credit report before going car shopping, he would have been able to buy an awesome car. Apparently it’s magic.

Or in another a guy apparently wouldn’t have married his wife if he’d known she had such bad credit. He shouldn’t worry, she won’t hurt his credit score…they may just have to apply for things in his name. And could he really check her credit? That would be illegal. If he’s eligible for the home loan, he wants (and seems to think he could get without her) he could have gotten it himself.

The ditties are amusing and cute or scary, but the implications are off.

First, knowing your score/report doesn’t actually give you better credit.*

Second, while the companies provide a credit monitoring service (what the third commercial, with pirates, talks about) that’s not the free part. Which is why’s name pisses me off (splendid marketing, though). You can’t even get the report without signing up for their program, complete with payment info if you forget to cancel.

* Some companies offer to clear up your credit, which they’ll do by contesting every claim. Bad idea. First it’s fraud. Fraud = bad. Second, it’s only temporary and once they figure out that you really did make those late payments you lose the shiny score. And third, once your fraud is exposed you could very well lose the good loan rate you’d gotten.

To truly clean up your credit, start repaying debt and the like. Don’t look for quick fixes and ask for lots of details from anyone who’s offering to help you with it. Don’t go for anything shady. Consider reading Suze Orman, since she likes to talk about it.

If you do want a free credit report, visit Even if knowing is half the battle it’s not a magic formula.

And if people feel knowing about their credit and activity is that important to them, I have no trouble with someone comparison shopping and signing up with a service for their peace of mind. It’s just not free and it won’t fix any problems.

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Recommended Readings for 1/20/08 | Millionaire Money Habits
January 20, 2008 at 6:17 pm

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Hilda January 15, 2008 at 10:43 pm

I hate, too. The name is sooo misleading.

RacerX January 15, 2008 at 11:09 pm

We belong to It is owned by Trans Union, one of the big 3 credit agencies. For 14.95 a month the monitor for any changes to our credit file and we can run a report anytime that give you you FICO numbers for all three agencies and all 3 full credit reports.

We had our checks stolen out of our mailbox and it was really ugly to fix. So fr 14.95 it gives me peace of mind without freezing the reports (which you can do for free)

Aaron Stroud January 16, 2008 at 12:54 am

I hate those commercials as well. They’re a truly dishonest company, cashing in on the public’s faint awareness of their “right” to a free credit report every year.

Ricardo Bueno January 16, 2008 at 12:57 am

Hi Mrs. Micah,

I had visited your blog just before the new year and I’ve now stumbled upon here through BankerGirl’s blog…

I’m a Mortgage Broker and I run a site called The Industry Report. Given my background you would think that I’m all for “telling people to run their credit…it’s best for them…they can improve their scores to qualify…etc., etc.” Well, quite the contrary! I’m in agreement with most of what you’ve said, if not all of what you’ve said here.

1. IS NOT FREE! You have to sign up for their program to view your tri-merged Credit Report and once you sign up, it’s a pain in the @$& to cancel! I know because I tried it out before running my own Credit Report.

2. Knowing your Credit Score is only part of the equation in developing better credit. Paying down your debts one by one so as to increase your credit availability (aka paying off debt) is the other part. Paying off any liens you have against you is another.

If you’re going to dispute any (30), (60), or (90) day lates reflected on your Credit Report, you’d better have the paperwork to prove that your payment was not in fact late.

3. If a company promises you better credit…or better yet, if they give you a guarantee…run! Don’t walk….R-U-N-! It’s most often a scam waiting to happen.

Just thought I’d share my thoughts! Did I miss anything?

Aaron Stroud January 16, 2008 at 12:57 am

One more thing. Fixing one’s credit really isn’t complicated or a big deal. Simply paying your bills for two or three years can have a huge impact on your score.

Your Sister January 16, 2008 at 1:00 am

I actually had heard that once you take out any kind of loan/account with someone they impact your future credit. When I was watching the commercials, I thought that was what the newlywed was referring to. Is this a misunderstanding on my part?

Andrew Stevens January 16, 2008 at 2:12 am

I think what is going on here is that he needs his wife’s income in order to qualify for the loan he wants, but if he’s including her income, he has to include her credit score as well. Without her credit score, he can only qualify based on what he personally makes.

So Mrs. Micah is 100% correct that if the guy is eligible for the home loan himself, he can get it without her, but what he’s (probably) trying to say is that he could get the home loan if he had married a woman with the same income as she has, but better credit.

Andrew Stevens January 16, 2008 at 2:14 am

It’s not the case that taking out a loan/account with someone can impact your future credit. The loan itself can, of course, and will impact it negatively if it isn’t paid back or if payments are made late, etc. (This is why you should never cosign for something unless you are absolutely 100% prepared to pay the entire loan back yourself should they default.)

mrsmicah January 16, 2008 at 7:20 am

Well, he says that he and his dog could be playing in their yard—seeming to imply that he could get it himself without her.

Her status would affect loans they apply for and if she defaulted and he didn’t cover it, that would affect his credit as well. But people can no longer get credit just by being put passively on someone’s credit card. They changed that.

vh January 16, 2008 at 8:52 am

Right on about the deceptiveness of these companies’ advertising.

Hmmm… “Or in another a guy apparently wouldn’t have married his wife if he’d known she had such bad credit. He shouldn’t worry, she won’t hurt his credit score…they may just have to apply for things in his name.”

Is that true in a community property state? The way I learnt it, community DEBT is also “community property.” Now, presumably bad debt she incurred before they were married would, at least at the outset, be sole & separate. But…what if they put his name on one of her cards? It would be like putting a spouse’s name on a pre-existing bank account: poof! With a wave of your wand-like pen you turn it into community property. What if they charged furniture or appliances–community property–on one of her cards…would that convert the card’s debt from “hers” to “theirs”? If either were the case, it might affect his credit rating.

Running a credit report on your fiancee…snort! Ain’t life grand?

Jeremy January 16, 2008 at 10:25 am

The only thing missing from the Annual site is your credit report. Each company has their own score, but if you want the one the car dealers and mortgage brokers see, I would head over to

Candice January 16, 2008 at 11:14 am

I love and hate those commercials, too. What I don’t get – it seems to me that this guy is implying he wouldn’t have married his wife if he had known he wouldn’t be able to get a house.

If he’s willing to forgo being with me because he has to live poor for a few years, then he’s not worth it, and possibly not a very good character choice for a spokesman.

I’m LOL at the fact I’m acting like this guy isn’t just an actor reading a script.

Andrew Stevens January 16, 2008 at 4:35 pm

But people can no longer get credit just by being put passively on someone’s credit card. They changed that.

They made that decision right after I had put my wife as an “authorized user” on my own card. So I ended up adding her to my card as a full user. Surprisingly, this ended up working and they accepted that (even though it was a card she couldn’t possibly have qualified for herself). This may be because her credit report didn’t reflect anything bad (like a habit of outliving her means or something); she just didn’t have any credit at all.

deepali January 16, 2008 at 5:09 pm

I was under the impression that commercial referenced a community property issue – that she had a ton of debt he didn’t know about, they got married, she now has access to his money,and the debt collectors are calling. He’s not responsible for debt incurred before the marriage provided it’s kept separate, but now he can’t get divorced either…

Jake June 5, 2008 at 4:40 pm

I’m a customer of the FICO Score Watch service. Then I can still check my free annual credit report and be fully informed and still have my inexpensive monitoring service to help protect against identity theft. Plus I’m a credit score junkie so I get my FICO fix that way as well.

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