"Closing an account will never help your score," says Ryan Sjoblad, public relations manager for Fair Isaac's online service www.myfico.com. "More than likely, it will hurt your score. You're closing the door on credit history."
The only time to even consider closing an account, says Weston, is when you're seeking a large loan like a mortgage and a lender asks you to close it to reduce the chances that you'll become overextended.
Here are some of the other common myths, according to Weston, the Consumer Federation and Fair Isaac:
Checking on your own score will lower it. Not so, say the experts. In fact, you should check your score at least once a year (myfico.com charges $12.95 to obtain a FICO score that is based on any one credit bureau and $38.85 to get FICOs from all three reporting services).
What can downgrade your score, notes Weston, is having a friend or family member who works at a bank or mortgage company pull it for you. That counts as a "hard" inquiry from a lender, and too many of those can hurt.
Shopping around for the best loan rate can count against you. Fair Isaac recognizes that smart consumers do this and therefore doesn't penalize them. So the company lumps together as one all inquiries on mortgages or auto loans made within 14 days before the score is created. Also, any inquiries you make 30 days before the score is drawn up are automatically ignored.
Marrying someone with a good score will improve yours. More than half of those surveyed by the Consumer Federation believed that a married couple has a combined score, not individual ones. In fact, each spouse has an individual credit score, but these will be similar if they share most accounts.