SOURCE: BMO Harris Bank

BMO Harris Bank

August 27, 2014 07:00 ET

BMO Harris Bank Survey Finds 37 Percent of Illinois Millennials Believe Their Credit Score Will Decrease If They Check It

CHICAGO, IL--(Marketwired - Aug 27, 2014) -

  • A quarter (26 percent) believe carrying a balance will help their credit score
  • The majority say they are knowledgeable about how to achieve a good score
  • BMO Harris suggests maintaining a score above 680, and through Healthy Credit™ can provide advice on how to get there

According to a new survey from BMO Harris Bank about Americans and their understanding of credit, 37 percent of millennials (ages 18-34) in Illinois believe their credit score can decrease if they check it. The survey findings indicated that while most Illinoisans are slightly above the American average when it comes to being knowledgeable about a good credit score, there are misperceptions about what behavior can impact it.

The survey found across all ages:

  • A high percentage (87 percent) of Illinoisans say they are knowledgeable about how to attain a good credit score, versus the national average of 80 percent
  • In Illinois, 53 percent check their score once a year. Nearly a third (30 percent) check it every few years or less, while 17 percent have never checked or are unaware
  • Across the U.S., half check their score once a year, while 30 percent check it every few years or less. One fifth don't know their score.

Among millennials, the survey found:

  • Eight in 10 (81 percent) in Illinois say they are knowledgeable about how to attain a good credit score, compared to the national average of 72 percent
  • More than half (56 percent) in Illinois check their score every year. One fifth (22 percent) check it every few years or less, while 21 percent say they don't know their score or have never checked
  • At the national level, half (48 percent) check their score every year while 27 percent check it every few years or less. One quarter don't know their credit score.

On average, Americans believe a good credit score is 660 while those in Illinois think it should be slightly higher (665). Among millennials in the U.S. that number drops to 625, but in Illinois millennials believe it should be 654 on average.

"We generally tell our customers that a good credit score would be in the 680-720 range. Our survey shows that most feel they are knowledgeable about credit, although their idea of a good score is slightly below where it should be," said Julie Curran, Regional President, Chicago, BMO Harris Bank. "A notable number of millennials -- 21 percent -- say they don't check their credit score. BMO Harris is offering a chance for young people to change that. With Healthy Credit, anyone who opens a checking account is eligible to receive a free credit check and analysis at one of our branches. If improvements are needed, we're there to help."

Illinois residents were asked to identify a number of common credit score misconceptions as true or false. The following table indicates those who believed these inaccurate statements were true:

Statement   Total   18-34   35-54   55+
Checking your credit score can decrease your score   28%   37%   29%   17%
Your credit score improves if you carry a balance on your credit card   25%   26%   25%   25%
Your credit score will immediately improve from better behavior (such as reducing a balance)   65%   63%   65%   66%
Your level of education can affect your credit score   23%   17%   24%   30%
Your credit score is controlled by credit card companies   18%   17%   20%   17%
Closing a bank account will help improve your score   3%   4%   4%   3%
A poor credit score will stay with you forever   7%   10%   9%   4%
If you have low income you automatically have bad credit   4%   6%   5%   3%
Retail or store credit cards don't count on your credit score   6%   8%   6%   4%
Credit scores only matter if you want to get a loan   12%   11%   17%   9%
Paying cash for everything can help your credit score   6%   11%   7%   1%

"In the wake of the Great Recession, consumers have been using credit cards more cautiously, despite this method of payment remaining as flexible and convenient as before. Consumers are now much more aware that credit card loans tend to be more expensive than other forms of borrowing and escalating loan balances can quickly sneak up on you. In turn, consumers are paying off their card balances more determinedly and drawing down less of their credit limits, one of the paths to improved personal credit ratings," said Michael Gregory, Head of U.S. Economics, BMO Capital Markets. "According to the New York Federal Reserve, total credit card debt peaked above $865 billion at the end of 2008 and, by early last year, it had fallen to around $660 billion -- a near 25 percent reduction in just over three years. Since then, credit card debt has been essentially flat, even as cards in circulation and credit limits have moved higher -- a sign that the caution continues."

BMO Harris recognizes that tomorrow's financial goals require preparation today. Through BMO Harris Healthy Credit™, open a personal checking account in Illinois and a banker will help provide an analysis of your credit score along with steps to help improve it.

BMO Harris also offers number of basic tips to manage and improve a credit score, including:

Check your credit report. Checking your score will not change the number. Scores are only impacted when checking it is done in the process of applying for a loan. This should be done at least 60 days or 90 days before applying for a loan in order to make sure that the report is correct. If it's incorrect, make sure to notify a credit agency before you apply for a loan.

Pay your bills on time. When a bill is paid late, or is even 30 days past due, it can show up on your credit report for up to seven years.

Use credit when needed. If you never use credit of any kind, it doesn't mean that you'll have a great credit history. Lenders generally prefer to see some type of satisfactory payment history.

Use your cards lightly. Racking up big balances can hurt your scores, regardless of whether you pay your bills in full each month. You often can increase your score by paying the balance off or keeping it low.

Consider that credit needs to be built up. A credit score is something that can take time to improve, so don't expect immediate changes and plan ahead. Your credit behavior can take months to be reflected in your score.

Survey results cited in this report are from interviews with an online sample of 1,004 Americans, (including 401 residents in Illinois) conducted between July 2nd and July 4th, 2014. The margin of error for a probability sample of this size in Illinois is ± 4.9%, 19 times out of 20.

About BMO Harris Bank
BMO Harris Bank provides a broad range of personal banking products and solutions through more than 600 branches and approximately 1,300 ATMs in Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana, Kansas, Missouri, Minnesota, Arizona and Florida. BMO Harris Bank's commercial banking team provides a combination of sector expertise, local knowledge and mid-market focus throughout the U.S. For more information about BMO Harris Bank, go to the company fact sheet. Banking products and services are provided by BMO Harris Bank N.A. and are subject to bank or credit approval. BMO Harris® and BMO Harris Bank® are trade names used by BMO Harris Bank N.A. Member FDIC. BMO Harris Bank is part of BMO Financial Group, a North American financial organization with approximately 1,600 branches, and CDN $586 billion in assets (as of July 31, 2014).

Disclosures

The survey referenced herein was conducted by Pollara Strategic Insights ("Pollara"), an independent research firm, at the request of BMO Harris Bank. Pollara is not affiliated with BMO Harris Bank, either by common ownership, management, control or otherwise. Results cited above are from an online survey conducted between July 2, 2014, and July 4, 2014, by Pollara. Interviews were conducted with 1500 individuals, selected at random from an online research panel. A probability sample of this size would be accurate to ± 4.9%, 19 times out of 20. Data has been weighted by state, based on Census information, to ensure regional proportions match those of the actual US population.

BMO Harris Bank makes no representation or warranty, express or implied, in respect thereof, takes no responsibility for any errors and omissions which may be contained herein and accepts no liability whatsoever for any loss (whether direct, consequential or otherwise) arising from any use of or reliance on the information listed herein. Information may be available to BMO Harris Bank and its affiliates that is not reflected herein. This report is for informational purposes only, is not investment advice and is not to be used as a basis for any investment decision. BMO Harris Bank does not provide legal or tax advice to clients. You should review your particular circumstances with your independent legal and tax advisors.

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