A sample Visa card is shown.

A sample Visa card is shown. Credit: VISA Inc.

What is it about credit scores that confuses people? A recent survey by Bankrate.com showed a big disconnect between myth and reality.

Fifty-five percent of those surveyed made an expensive false assumption, believing that they must carry a credit card balance in order to improve their credit score. The vast majority of those polled also were unaware that closing accounts lowers their credit score and that limiting themselves to only one credit account has a negative impact.

Credit score misperceptions cost you money. Know the facts.

One mistake won't hurt. "People think one or two missed or late payments won't affect their score. Truth is, one on-time payment has no impact on your credit score, but even one late payment can lower your score!" says Rakesh Gupta, a business school professor at Adelphi University in Garden City.

People believe once a late payment is paid, it's off their credit report. "The credit bureaus don't automatically remove them. Negotiate with the creditor to have it removed or 're-age' the account," says Harrine Freeman, author of "How to Get Out of Debt: Get an "A" Credit Rating for Free."

A good credit score solves everything. Your credit score is significant, but a lender wants more. "A bank wants to see that you are employed and what your income is, for example," says MagnifyMoney.com CEO Nicholas Clements.

Asking for help carries a stigma. Says Gary Herman, president of Consolidated Credit in Fort Lauderdale, "It's not true that using debt relief services, such as consolidation and credit counseling, negatively impacts your score. Even enrollment in a debt management program can have a positive impact on your credit."

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