PhotoMillennials may be experts on the latest Starbucks concoctions and "Portlandia" episodes but a new study finds they're not quite as plugged in when it comes to credit scores. 

In fact, a survey by the Consumer Federation of America (CFA) and VantageScore Solutions reveals that millennials know less about these scores than other adult Americans. 

Those 18-34 years of age know less about which businesses use the scores and less about who collects information on which the scores are based, while being more likely to erroneously think that credit repair companies can always or usually be useful in correcting errors and improving scores.

An important reason for their lower knowledge appears to be that millennials are much less likely than other adult Americans to have ever obtained the free credit reports (49% vs. 74%) on which their credit scores are based. 

“Obtaining their free credit reports not only allows consumers to check the accuracy of the reports but also appears to motivate them to learn more about credit scores,” noted CFA Executive Director Stephen Brobeck.  The easiest way to obtain one’s reports is to visit or call the toll-free number, 877-322-8228.

CFA also recommends that consumers take the free online credit score quiz at  “This easy-to-use quiz provides basic information about the complex world of credit scores and how consumers can improve their scores,” said Brobeck. 

To date, nearly 45,000 Americans have taken the quiz, which was developed and has been updated by CFA and VantageScore Solutions, displays no advertising, and collects no personal data.  Everyone who completes the quiz in May will be given the opportunity to enter a drawing for a $500 gift card.

The telephone survey was undertaken by ORC International April 17-19, 2014, using a representative sample of 1004 adult Americans interviewed on landlines or cell phones.  The margin of error is plus or minus three percentage points.

Survey findings

The survey found that most Americans have a grasp of these essentials:

  • Well over four-fifths know that credit card issuers (88%) and mortgage lenders (87%) might use these scores.
  • Well over four-fifths know that missed payments (92%), personal bankruptcy (87%), and high credit card balances (87%) are factors used to calculate credit scores.
  • Nearly three-quarters (72%) know that they have more than one generic credit score.
  • Nearly three-quarters (72%) know that the three main credit bureaus – Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion – collect the information on which credit scores are most frequently based.
  • Nearly three-quarters (72%) know that it is very important to check the accuracy of one’s credit reports at the three credit bureaus.
  • Nearly three-quarters (74%) know that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is the federal agency best suited to help consumers solve individual problems.

However, far fewer Americans understand other important facts about credit scores. 

“Most troubling is that only 42 percent know that a credit score measures the risk of not repaying a loan rather than factors such as knowledge of, or attitude to, consumer credit,” noted Brobeck.  “Consumers should be aware that they can take steps to reduce this risk and improve their scores, most importantly, by making all loan payments on time,” he added.

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