Parents Score Low Marks on Credit Score 101 Quiz

ING DIRECT USA Survey Shows Parents Can't ID Top Ten Actions That Negatively Impact Credit Scores; May Lead to Money Woes for Future Generations

May 06, 2010, 10:15 ET from ING DIRECT USA

WILMINGTON, Del., May 6 /PRNewswire/ -- Knowing how to achieve and maintain good credit scores can dramatically help parents save money and pass along good financial habits to their children.  Unfortunately, many American parents are unaware of the leading financial actions that truly hurt their credit scores, according to a new survey released today by ING DIRECT USA.  The survey was conducted online by Harris Interactive in March among 1,042 parents of children age 17 years or younger.


Only five (less than one half of one percent) American moms and dads out of 1,042 surveyed were able to correctly identify all of the top ten financial behaviors that impact credit scores.  

Close to half (46 percent) of all parents could only identify between one and five financial behaviors that negatively affect credit scores.   For example, moms and dads consistently missed "keeping a small credit card balance each month" as an action that may adversely impact credit scores, with only nine percent of parents scoring correctly.  Only about a third (36 percent) of parents recognized that opening new credit card accounts could lower your credit scores.

"Younger children constantly look to their parents for advice, especially when it comes to money," said Arkadi Kuhlmann, CEO of ING DIRECT USA.  "If parents can't pinpoint financial behaviors that negatively impact their credit scores, they may be unconsciously setting a poor financial example for their children. Also, parents could be overlooking some significant cost savings like lower interest rates that result by keeping their credit scores in check."  

"Building and maintaining healthy credit is essential for long term financial health," said Maxine Sweet, Experian's vice president of public education. "As an avid proponent of consumer education, Experian is proud to join ING DIRECT USA in bringing increased credit education to American families."

What Adverse Financial Behaviors Affect Credit Scores?

For the survey, parents were asked to review a list of 19 financial behaviors and select those behaviors that would negatively impact credit scores. Ten of the 19 behaviors listed were the correct answers.  Below are the ten activities that negatively affect credit scores, including the percentage of parents who correctly identified the specific behavior.

  • Keeping a small credit card balance each month (9 percent);
  • Lowering your credit limit (18 percent);
  • Closing old credit card accounts (31 percent);
  • Opening new credit card accounts (36 percent);
  • Never having a credit card (51 percent);
  • Having a short history of credit (56 percent);
  • Exceeding a credit limit (71 percent);
  • Having a lot of debt (80 percent);
  • Paying a mortgage late (81 percent); and
  • Paying bills late (85 percent).

While less than one percent of parents identified all ten behaviors, only six percent answered nine correct; 11 percent answered eight correct, 14 percent answered seven correct; and 17 percent answered six correct.

Debunking Credit Score Myths

Misleading information about what financial behaviors actually can raise or lower credit scores continues to circulate throughout millions of households nationwide.  According to the survey:

  • More than half (56 percent) of parents incorrectly thought bouncing a check or paying a fee for having non-sufficient funds in their bank account would reduce their credit scores;
  • About one in five parents (21 percent) thought checking their credit scores will have a negative effect; and
  • 18 percent thought accessing their credit report will hurt their credit scores.  

Concerned that these myths and bad financial behaviors will be passed on to future generations, ING DIRECT USA and Experian have developed five tips to help parents separate fact from fiction and educate themselves and their children about credit:

  1. Practice what you preach.  Simple financial behaviors such as paying your bills on time will keep your credit in good standing and will allow you to obtain better interest rates on big asset purchases like a house or car.  Lead by example and establish good financial habits that you can pass along to the next generation of Savers.
  2. Start Early.  Introduce basic money skills to children at an early age.  As soon as they start asking you to buy things for them, it's time to have the "money talk."  As your children mature, more complex topics such as credit can be introduced.  Show them your credit card statement and explain that credit cards are not "free money." Talk to them about interest rates and why paying off your balance in full is important.  To help start the financial journey with your children, parents can visit Planet Orange(SM) - ING DIRECT USA's free, virtual space-themed financial education website for children that teaches the basics of money and allows families to explore the world of money together.
  3. It's a family affair.  Let children in on household financial discussions.  It's important for them to see the true cost of everyday needs like food, utilities and clothing.  Show children how to budget and pay bills. Explain to them the affects of making poor financial decisions.  The more involved children are in financial discussions, the better prepared they will be to apply the financial skills and lessons they've acquired into their adulthood.
  4. Set family financial goals.  Contrary to what most children think, money does not grow on trees.  Teaching children to save for things they desire rather than spending money they do not have is an important financial lesson.  Encourage your children to set financial goals and work towards achieving them.  Children will appreciate things more when they have put in the time and effort to purchase items with their hard earned cash.  
  5. Needs versus wants.  Talk to children about the differences between needs versus wants, and do not give into children's impulse purchase requests.  Impulse buying usually leads to higher credit card bills, which could mean trouble when trying to pay it off.  Trips to the grocery store and comparing name brand versus generic goods are perfect ways to introduce this lesson.

Survey Methodology

This survey was conducted online within the United States by Harris Interactive on behalf of ING DIRECT USA from March 10-16, 2010 among 1,042 parents of children age 17 years or younger. This online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated; a full methodology is available.


ING DIRECT USA, the nation's largest direct bank, is dedicated to inspiring Americans to become a nation of savers. Since its inception in 2000, more than 7.6 million Americans have entrusted their savings with ING DIRECT, building the bank to $90.3 billion in assets.  ING DIRECT has developed a comprehensive social media Savers Community, including Twitter, Facebook and it's We, The Savers(SM) blog.  For more information about ING DIRECT call 1-800-ING-DIRECT, and for information about its commitment to financial education visit Planet Orange.  

About Harris Interactive

Harris Interactive is one of the world's leading custom market research firms, leveraging research, technology, and business acumen to transform relevant insight into actionable foresight. Known widely for the Harris Poll and for pioneering innovative research methodologies, Harris offers expertise in a wide range of industries including healthcare, technology, public affairs, energy, telecommunications, financial services, insurance, media, retail, restaurant, and consumer package goods. Serving clients in over 215 countries and territories through our North American, European, and Asian offices and a network of independent market research firms, Harris specializes in delivering research solutions that help us – and our clients – stay ahead of what's next. For more information, please visit