Letters: Does checking your credit score affect your credit score?

A U.S. Postal Service letter carrier prepares to place letters in a mailbox.

It's nearly time for a new year and for some of us, that means a fresh start for our personal finance habits. "Spending less and saving more" is consistently ranked on as one of the top New Year's resolutions. Like losing weight or getting organized, it takes discipline.  But when it comes to managing money right, self-control isn't the only asset -- information is key. So, personal finance expert Liz Weston informs some listeners about how to achieve their money goals.

Weston says people go wrong when making money-related New Year's resolutions that are too ambitious and vague. She says what you need are very concrete, specific goals that you actually have a realistic hope of achieving through making small, incremental changes.

Amy from Coon Rapids, Minn., wonders whether getting a report of her credit score may negatively affect the actual score.

"If you're looking at your own credit, pulling your own credit reports, signing up for credit monitoring, it typically doesn't even show up on your credit report and it's certainly not what's known as a hard inquiry. So you're not dinging your credit score. And interestingly that's a myth that just keeps persisting," says Weston.

Jamshid from Beachwood, Ohio, has a New Year's resolution to try and save. But he's had the same resolution in the past and hasn't done such a good job. He and his wife both have a lot of credit cards -- seven with available credit of about $90,000. He makes over $500,000 a year, but has about $80,000 in credit card debt. He is the primary holder for some cards while his wife is secondary, and vice versa for other cards. They are both joint users on each other's cards. He wonders whether it would be better for their credit scores if they take off the secondary person.

"Getting off as a joint user is kind of tough. You typically would have to open a new account, transfer the balance. If your credit scores aren't sterling that could trigger a review of your account. And I'm not sure it would accomplish what you're hoping to accomplish because the debt is still going to be a significant part of your credit reports as well as hers even if you manage to separate them somehow. So unless I'm missing something significant, I think what you guys really need to do is focus on paying down that debt because paying it down will ultimately help your scores a lot more than trying to move it around or play games with whose name is on what," says Weston.

For more advice click play on the audio player above.

About the author

Veteran journalist Tony Cox has joined American Public Media as guest host of Marketplace Money.

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