Credit may not be a topic that comes up often in your daily life, but its role is central to so many aspects of our life. From auto and home financing to monthly budgeting and even employment  credit is an essential element.

Since credit is so important, it can be helpful to know what people understand about their credit score and overall credit health.

Discover surveyed more than 2,000 adults across the country to learn how credit impacts their life and emotions, and whether different generations have varying views on these themes. The survey also explores U.S. consumers’ confidence in their credit, the frequency with which they check their credit score and more.

While some of the results were predictable, there were some surprises regarding generational behaviors as well as how people share credit details  both within and outside of relationships.

  1. How Much Do We Really Know About Credit?
  2. Does Credit Awareness Lead to Credit Confidence?
  3. How and When Do We Check Our Credit Scores?
  4. How Personal Is the Issue of Credit to You?
  5. Does Your Partner’s Credit Matter?

How Much Do We Really Know About Credit?

Credit scores are determined by many factors, primarily including: the credit bureaus’ ratings of our payment history, credit utilization, length of credit history, new credit and total accounts open (including types of credit).

Discover’s 2018 Credit Health Survey revealed that credit awareness among U.S. consumers is increasing, but many still cannot fully identify everything that influences credit score ranges. Age seems to play a very real factor in credit knowledge.

When asked which features had a direct impact on their credit standing, just 20 percent of survey respondents were able to identify all the primary factors that directly influence credit scores. A little more than a quarter of people knew that a credit mix was a direct factor, and 52 percent said their credit payment history had a direct impact on their credit standing.

Credit Awareness and Understanding

Generationally, baby boomers were the most likely to wholly understand the primary factors that impacted their credit standing, with millennials ranking as the least informed.

Checking your score through a service like Discover’s Free Credit Scorecard* does not negatively impact your credit score, but this fact is not universally understood, according to the survey.

Nearly a quarter of respondents believed checking their credit score negatively influenced it, while 62 percent did not believe so and 16 percent of respondents remained uncertain.

Is It OK to Check Your Score?

Does Credit Awareness Lead to Credit Confidence?

Most survey respondents said they wanted to improve their credit score and were more confident than in previous years that a good score was attainable. Eighty-five percent were also aware of their credit standing, up from 73 percent last year. Less than half of respondents believed a good score was easy to achieve.

General awareness of personal credit scores and creditrelated activities across generations increased overall compared to last year, and 54 percent believed their credit was “very good” or “exceptional” (above 740).

Sixty-one percent of consumers were actively trying to build or improve their credit, but further examination showed an even higher rate of younger respondents who were working to build their score. Eighty-three percent of millennials were actively trying to improve their credit score compared to the more established baby boomers at just 34 percent. Sixty-six percent of Gen Xers were also focused on building their credit.

The data support confidence readings among the different generations as well. Ninety percent of baby boomers were more likely to believe their credit standing was within their control versus 65 percent of millennials.

How and When Do We Check Our Credit Scores?

Regularly checking your credit score can help build credit awareness. While there’s no perfect frequency, credit score provider FICO1 suggests regular checkups to ensure you’re on the right path, especially when new accounts are opened or closed.

Twelve percent of consumers said they checked their scores 12 or more times last year, and 69 percent of these consistent checkers also believed their credit score had improved during that same period.  

Don't Be Afraid to Check Your Credit Score

The survey found that 82 percent of all consumers checked their score at least once in the last year. Millennials were the most active when it came to checking their credit scores as 70 percent said they checked their score more than once in the past year, compared to 61 percent of baby boomers.

Seventy-six percent of millennials also felt that checking their score helped them make smarter financial decisions, compared to 38 percent of baby boomers and 62 percent of Gen Xers.

How Personal Is the Issue of Credit to You?

With the rise in credit score checking revealed in Discover’s study, it’s likely that more consumers are aware of where their credit stands. A majority of respondents even said that knowing their credit score gave them peace of mind.

While some consumers are feeling better about the future of their credit score  and are perhaps comforted by that knowledge  it doesn’t mean details are shared with others.

Nearly 70 percent of those surveyed did not openly discuss their credit score with others, and even more were embarrassed or afraid to discuss the topic at all.

How Do You Feel About Your Credit Score?

Despite the importance that it plays in our financial lives, credit remains a very personal topic. For most of us, it’s perfectly normal to keep our credit score private.

With consumers reluctant to share credit details, we were curious when they were comfortable opening up to their significant others about their credit, if ever.

Does Your Partner’s Credit Matter?

The research revealed interesting details on credit scores and relationships. Based on what we found, 72 percent of consumers said their partner’s credit score was important to them.

More than a quarter of respondents thought credit scores should be exchanged within the first three months of dating, perhaps before things get too serious. A small contingent of respondents wanted to know their partner’s score before even meeting in person.

How Many People Would Share Their Credit Score With Their Partner

For those who have worked hard for a strong credit score, it’s logical to want that same ethic in a partner. The data from this survey are in line with a recent study Discover conducted alongside Match.com, in which online daters found a good credit score more attractive than a fancy car.

Just as we found with individuals reluctant to share their credit score with others, 20 percent of those surveyed said they’d never share their credit score with a partner.

Whether you’re one to share everything or someone who wants to keep his or her credit details private, it’s probably not a bad idea to discuss your partner’s wishes so that you’re both on the same page about this personal topic.

While credit awareness and confidence seem to be on the rise, there are still gaps in U.S. consumers’ credit knowledge. The first step to addressing any credit shortcomings is knowing what’s inside your credit report.

You can easily check your FICO® Credit Score, without negatively impacting it, through a service like Discover’s Free Credit Scorecard. From there, you can access Discover’s Credit Resource Center, which offers plenty of useful, free information to get many of your credit-related questions answered.

Staying on top of your credit can give you more control of your financial future and make life just a little easier.

Methodology

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from a Research Now/SSI survey conducted on behalf of Discover Financial Services. The survey was conducted online, fielding from June 9 through June 19, 2018, with a total sample size of 2,005 U.S. adults (ages 18+). The maximum margin of sampling error was plus or minus two percentage points with a 95 percent level of confidence. The following generational breaks were used when examining the data: millennials (18–34), Gen Xers (35–54) and baby boomers (55+).

 

*Credit Scorecard Information: Credit Scorecard is provided by Discover Bank, and includes a FICO® Credit Score and other credit information. Credit Scorecard information is based on data from Experian and may differ from credit scores and credit information provided by other credit bureaus. This information is provided to you at no cost and with your consent. You must be 18 years old and a U.S. resident or a resident of America Samoa, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico or the Virgin Islands. Your Credit Scorecard will be refreshed the later of every 30-days or the next time you log in to Credit Scorecard. Discover and other lenders may use different inputs, such as a FICO® Credit Score, other credit scores and more information in credit decisions. This product may change or end in the future. FICO® is a registered trademark of the Fair Isaac Corporation in the United States and other countries.

 

1FICO® Credit Score Terms: Your FICO® Credit Score, key factors and other credit information are based on data from TransUnion® and may be different from other credit scores and other credit information provided by different bureaus. This information is intended for and only provided to Primary account holders who have an available score. See Discover.com/FICO about the availability of your score. Your score, key factors and other credit information are available on Discover.com and cardmembers are also provided a score on statements. Customers will see up to a year of recent scores online. Discover and other lenders may use different inputs, such as FICO®Credit Scores, other credit scores and more information in credit decisions. This benefit may change or end in the future. FICO® is a registered trademark of the Fair Isaac Corporation in the United States and other countries. If you prefer not to receive your FICO® Credit Score just call us at 1-800-DISCOVER (1-800-347-2683). Please give us two billing cycles to process your request. To learn more visit Discover.com/FICO.