Do credit scores really drop if you check them too often?

CATONSVILLE, Md. — Does your credit score really go down if you check on it too much? A new study suggests it actually does, but only if it’s sinking already.

Researchers found that the impact of viewing a credit report largely depends on the state that person’s finances are already in. For people with declining credit, viewing an updated report sends the number falling even further. However, for people with healthy credit scores, checking on their finances can help send that score even higher.

In 2021, a previous study found that money went back to being the top stressor for Americans — even more than the coronavirus pandemic. As many set their New Year’s resolutions for 2022, financial stability is likely to be a top goal. With that in mind, study authors wanted to see what drives these crucial scores in either direction.

The team examined a financial tracking website that allows consumers to see their credit report for free each month. That study revealed 38 percent of users never return after getting their first credit report.

“We wanted to find out why those users did not return,” says Jessica Fong from the University of Michigan in a media release. “So, we decided to focus our research and answer two questions: What drives an individual’s demand for information? And, how does information affect outcomes?”

No news is good news?

Fong and co-study author Megan Hunter of Boston College found that the further consumers thought their credit score would drop, the less likely they were to check their report moving forward. In fact, most of the consumers who found out their credit was in bad shape on the first visit never returned to the free website.

However, that may actually turn out to be a good thing for people with declining credit.

“On average, users who had declining credit scores prior to checking their credit report experienced a 23-point decrease in credit score after viewing their updated report, whereas users who had non-declining credit scores experienced a nine-point increase in their credit score after viewing their updated report,” Fong reports.

“It’s interesting that one of our findings is that avoiding information may actually be helpful to some users in increasing their credit score,” adds Hunter. “Avoidance of repeat exposure to a negative score may better allow them to concentrate on solutions and improvement.”

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The team notes that consumer finance firms which frequently email customers with decreasing credit scores about free credit checks likely drive these people to leave their platforms faster. Instead, the study authors recommend that these firms actually target consumers whose credit is already in good shape or email everyone equally.

The study is published in the INFORMS journal Marketing Science.

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