Poll: Women better at credit than men, they just don't know it

More men boast of 'excellent' credit score knowledge, but the data favor females

Brady Porche
Managing Editor
Personal finance journalist with an eye for industry news

Women understand credit scores better

Women understand credit scores better than men, despite men’s beliefs to the contrary, according to a new survey by the Consumer Federation of America and VantageScore.

In a national telephone survey of 1,000 U.S. adults, 61 percent of men said they consider their credit score knowledge to be good or excellent. Only 54 percent of women said the same. But a higher percentage of men incorrectly said that a person’s age (47 to 41 percent), marital status (48 to 38 percent) and ethnic origin (17 to 13 percent) are credit scoring factors.

Additionally, a higher percentage of women (66 percent) than men (59 percent) correctly identified three actions a consumer can take to raise a low credit score or maintain a high one. Women (67 percent) were also more likely than men (63 percent) to have obtained a free credit report in the past year. Plus, more women (72 percent) than men (64 percent) understand the importance of checking their credit reports for accuracy. 

Lack of knowledge grows
Meanwhile, more consumers are getting their credit scores, but many of them don’t know who uses them besides lenders and card issuers. The poll showed 56 percent of respondents obtained at least one credit score in the past year, up from 54 percent in 2016 and 49 percent in 2014. Fifty-nine percent of consumers know their credit scores are used by cellphone companies in making available and pricing their services – down from 68 percent in 2016. Additionally, only 44 percent know electric utilities use consumers’ credit scores – a 9-percentage-point decrease from last year.

“I wish the results were more positive,” Barrett Burns, CEO of VantageScore, said at a June 26 news conference. “Credit scores and credit reports are almost ubiquitous in today’s credit-driven economy.”

Credit scores can be also used by other noncredit entities, including insurance companies, employers and landlords.

Consumers’ understanding of scores is lacking in other areas as well. Since the last survey was done in 2016, fewer consumers are aware that a low credit score can increase auto loan charges by more than $5,000, and that credit scores represent the risk of not repaying a loan. A smaller percentage of consumers know that individuals have more than one credit score and that it’s important to check your credit reports at all three credit bureaus for accuracy.

The survey was conducted by landline and cellphone by ORC International and had a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

See related: What is a good credit score?, How couples can recover from financial infidelity

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Updated: 02-19-2019