Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Getting to the heart of Valentine’s Day.

Ahhh February 14th, the day to express love to your sweetie, better-half, honey, shmoopy, snookums, pumpkin, sugar muffin, or boo boo,.  We'll buy gifts, pop champagne, and plan romantic dinners with reckless abandon but how many of us know the real story of Valentine’s Day, and the magnitude of the commercial side of the holiday? 

The origins of the holiday are shrouded in rumor and mystery, at times both attributed to ancient Christian and Roman traditions.  In fact, the Catholic Church has at least three different saints named Valentine or Valentinus, all of whom were doomed to become martyrs. 

One story attributes the holiday’s namesake to a priest named Valentine in 3rd century Rome.  The Roman Emperor, Claudius II, reasoned that single men with no attachments made better soldiers so he outlawed marriage for all young men.  Valentine disagreed with the edict out of sentiment for young love so he kept performing marriages secretly.  But when he was discovered, Claudius had him killed.    

Another version tells of a Valentine put to death for helping persecuted Christians escape Roman prisons, where they beaten horribly and tortured.  Once he was apprehended, Valentine was put in prison, himself, where he fell in love with a girl who was the jailor’s daughter and she visited him there.  Before his execution, he sent her a love letter signed, “From your Valentine,” coining the expression we still use today.  With this reputation for unrequited romance, Valentine became one of the most popular saints in England and France during the Middle Ages, where they also thought it was the first day birds mated.  But most likely, February 14th was probably the day Valentine was either buried or killed around 270 A.D.

A third tale of Valentine’s Day is even darker, as some believe that the Christian church appointed a day for St. Valentine’s feast in the middle of February to dissuade people from instead celebrating the pagan holiday of Lupercalia, a fertility festival on February 15th.   It was a dedication to Faunus, Roman god of agriculture and Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome. 

The order of Luperci, a group of Roman priests, met at the sacred cave where Romulus and Remus were raised as infants by a Lupa, or she-wolf.  During this pagan celebration a goat was sacrificed for fertility and a dog for purification.  The goat’s hide was cut into strips and dipped into the sacrificial blood and the priests walked around the streets, anointing women and the agricultural fields with blood, which was believed to ensure fertility and bounty for both in the coming year.   After that all of the women in the city would place their names in a big urn and any unmarried men of age would reach in chose a women, who he’d be paired with for the upcoming year, hopefully culminating in marriage.  (Honestly, so far it just sounds like your average Mötley Crüe concert.)

As the religion of Christianity spread around the lands, Lupercalia was outlawed as a pagan holiday by the end of the 5th century when Pope Gelasius also declared February 14th St. Valentine’s Day, instead.   It wasn’t until many centuries later that the holiday became a day dedicated to love.  Around 1400, written Valentine’s began to appear and the oldest existing evidence is a poem written by Charles, Duke of Orleans, to his wife while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London in 1415.  In this country Valentine’s Day cards and gifts took place as early as 1700 but it was later that Esther A. Howland, called the “Mother of the Valentine” brought it mainstream and established many of our traditions as she adorned cards and handmade romantic gifts with lace, ribbons, pictures and plenty of red.

Valentine’s Day is now celebrated in the United States, Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, France, and Australia. 

Now that we know some of the sordid history, let’s look at the how we celebrate the day of love in modern times, and the titanic commercial implications.

We spend about $20 billion dollars each Valentine’s Day    

According to Shopzilla, 75% of gift givers just “wing it” when it comes to Valentine’s Day gifts.

The average person spends $126.03, while the average woman plans to spend $85.76 and the average man $168.74 this Vanetines Day.

36% of women will purchase flowers for their spouse.

50% of women will give a gift of chocolate to a guy.

Spouses plan on spending $74.12 each this Valentine's Day.

71% of men will purchase flowers for their spouse. (You other 29% are in TROUBLE!)

Each consumer plans to spend $25.25 on children, parents or other family members, $6.92 on friends, and $4.52 on pets.

Yes, pets!  Interestingly enough, we’ll spend more than $722 million on furry friends every February 14th!  That takes 'Crazy Cat Lady' to a whole new level! 

To research and purchase gifts – 40% will use their smartphone, 53.8% will use their tablet.

Who do we buy Valentine's Day gifts for?

Romantic partners 56%
Family 20%
Friends 7%
Teachers 5%
Coworkers 4%
Pets 4%

Where will people buy their V-day gifts?  

37% go to a discount store, 33.6% department store, 20.2% specialty store, 19.3% online retailer, 17.8% to a floral shop, and 10.6% to a jewelry store.

For the fresh flower industry, 40% of their holiday dollar volume occurs on Feb. 14, up to $1.8 billion.

There will be 36 million heart shaped chocolate boxes sold for $1.5 billion.

18.9% of people plan on buying jewelry at $4.1 billion.

35.6% go out to a romantic dinner that night and spend a total of $9.6 billion.

Greeting cards count on that day to sell 150 million products for $1.1 billion in sales.

$1.2 billion is spent on clothing/lingerie.

Valentine's Day is the most popular day of the year for marriage proposals.  

So don’t wait for the last minute to buy that gift for your spouse or loved ones this Valentine's Day and remember: it’s the thought that counts – not how much you spend...but you better buy a card, flowers, chocolate, and some jewelry just in case!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Fun facts about airports, airlines, and the aviation industry, part 2.

The Mile High Club:
Ok, ok, so you’re dying to know about the Mile High Club.  Flight attendants are usually tipped off to some funny-business-in-the-sky by long lines for the bathrooms.  
9 times out of 10, a fellow passenger complains to the flight attendant about two people occupying a restroom.  

Technically, it’s not illegal to join the Mile High Club.  But it is strictly illegal to disobey crewmember commands (like to stop and get out of the bathroom!)

The American airline authority NTSB reports one case of the Mile High Club being responsible for a crash!

The restroom:
The standard ratio of lavatories to passengers is 1 lavatory for every 50 passengers.
Airplane bathrooms started during World War II when some big bombers carried chemical toilets, called Elsans after the company that manufactured them, though they were difficult to use and hated by flyers.

To combat the possibility of a fire (or smokers,) airplane lavatory waste bins are equipped with halon fire-extinguishing bottles and oxygen-smothering "flapper lids" and the toilets are fitted with smoke detectors. 

Ryanair, a budget airline out of Dublin, Ireland, is thinking about charging their passengers a fee to use the bathroom aboard flights of an hour or less.  The lavatory door would be coin operated and cost 1 Euro or 1 Pound (about $1.50 or so.)

Airlines have experimented with smaller 3’ x 3’ bathrooms in order to add space for 4 extra seats (and the fares they would bring.)

75% of all toilets used by airlines are manufactured by Zodiac Aerospace.  That’s a wonderfully fancy name but it should probably be called ‘Zodiac Toilets!’

Airplane atmosphere:
Why is it so incredibly arid on a plane?  The air temperature outside at cruising altitude is usually -54 degrees Celsius.  The outside air is sucked into the plane and warmed up.  Cold air contains very little moisture and the humidity level in the cabin is already low, 3-5% (compared to 60% in temperate latitudes) with most of the humidity coming from the passengers, themselves!  (Ewwww!)  

The cabin of an airline is thought to be 7 times more arid than any desert.  A passenger can lose about 1.5 liters of water from dehydration during a three-hour flight.

At only 12-14,000 feet the air is so thin that isn’t enough oxygen for humans to survive for a long time.

Pretzels make you thirsty, contributing to dehydration.

The Duty Free Shop:
The first Duty Free shop, which eliminates state and local taxes and sometimes international tariffs, opened at Shannon Airport in Ireland in 1947.  

In 2001 alone, the Dubai Duty Free sold 1,570,214 cartons of cigarettes,  2,909 kilograms of gold, 101,824 watches, 690,502 bottles of perfume, 52,119 mobile phones.

Dubai Airport has the world’s largest airport duty-free section with 161,000 square feet of shopping space.

Of duty free sales, 31% are fragrances and cosmetics, while 17% are alcohol products, followed by tobacco.  

Check In:
59% of people check-in through the airline’s main counter, which takes an average of 19 minutes.

10% check-in at curbside, which averages 13 minutes. 

18% use a self-check-in kiosk, which averages 8 minutes.

5% of passengers obtain their boarding pass through the Internet.

According to JD Power & Associates, airport satisfaction is lowest among passengers who check-in at the main counter, although the majority of people continue to use this method over self check-in procedures.

Internet and On-Line check-in was first used by Alaskan Airlines in 1999.

Wait times at security checkpoints have increased from an average of 13 minutes in 2003 to 15 minutes in 2004.

The average wait time at large airports is 16 minutes, 15 minutes at medium airports and 13 minutes at small airports.

According to the TSA, 400 full-body scanning machines are in operation at 69 airports nationwide.

TSA inspectors account for 33% of their time inspecting, 8% on incidents, 5% investigating, 5% on “outreach”, and 49% of their time on “other.”  (I wish I could spend half my time in the office on “other” instead of actually working!)

On average every year, the TSA screens about 700 million passengers in U.S. airports and screens 530 million pieces of luggage!

On an unrelated note, in 2007 a man traveling to New York City from Puerto Rico smuggled a baby alligator in his pants.

In its first year in existence, the TSA confiscated 4.8 million items including 1.4 million knives, 1,101 firearms, and 39,842 box cutters.  They used to confiscate 22,000 cigarette lighters a day, but now they are approved to take on a plane.

Between 2002 and 2006, TSA screeners lost or misplaced 3,674 badges and uniforms – SCARY!

Airline baggage:
Throughout the world, 26 million checked bags go missing every year.

1.8 million to a high of 4.5 million (in 2007) go missing per year in the United States.

Airlines lose 3,000 suitcases every HOUR of every day, every year!

Airlines make upwards of $3 billion a year on baggage fees in the U.S. alone!

Of the major airlines, American Eagle, United, and Southwest are the worst for losing baggage, while Jet Blue and Virgin America are the best (lose the least.)

U.S. Dept. of Transportation rules stipulate that if your bag is lost, then the airline must refund your checked bag fee, on top of providing up to $3,300 in compensation for the lost items.

Many airlines are now charging to check any bags, creating a trend of smart passengers who actually send their clothing Fed Ex or UPS to their vacation destination for far less money than fees.

Unique airports:
Don Mueang International Airport in Bangkok, Thailand has an 18-hole golf course sitting between its two giant runways!

Singapore’s Changi airport has a swimming pool on the roof!

Newark International Airport has a luxury spa in its terminal.   

Chicago O’Hare International in Chicago, Illinois has been ranked one of the best airports for families traveling with kids.

At Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, you can download movies for your laptop or smart phone before getting on a plane.   

Kansai International Airport in Osaka, Japan sits an incredible 3 miles off shore, built on a manmade island that is 2.5 miles long and 1.6 miles wide.

At Nashville International Airport in Tennessee, passengers can take in a live music concert at one of their six stages in the airport.  

Atlanta may have the busiest airport in the world but it’s also the most relaxing, as they were the first to odder Minute Suits, private rooms or pods with beds for a one-hour nap for a price.
General Mitchell International Airport in Milwaukee Wisconsin has ping pong tables for games at the boarding gates.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Should employers pull credit reports to screen applicants?

By now it’s common knowledge that some employers check applicant’s credit when making hiring decisions, but the debate about the ethics – and effectiveness – of that practice are under fire.  The results of a study by the Society for Human Resource Management were just released with interesting conclusions that may have both thrown fuel and water on that fire.  

In fact, nearly 50% of companies check credit reports of at least some potential employees during the hiring process.  To do so companies need to get applicant’s written permission, but any applicant that says “no,” most likely just disqualified themselves from contention on suspicion that they’re hiding something, alone.  If allowed, employers access an amended credit report but not a credit score – a common misnomer.  

Employers see a bad credit history as an indication that employees are more likely to steal, cheat, commit fraud, embezzle, or engage in other “harmful acts” on the job.  However, this new study dispels the myth that people with bad credit scores are more likely to make bad employees

Said Jeremy Bernerth, the lead researcher and professor at Louisiana State University “The idea is that if you have a bad credit score, you’ll engage in deviant acts. We found no relationship there.”

The Society’s study polled thousands of participants, who fill out a comprehensive survey designed to measure the personality traits of applicants.  They also polled their immediate work supervisors and managers about those employee’s on-the-job performance and decorum with the company.  Finally, they pulled the same employee’s credit scores and lined the three branches of data up to look for correlations, and found no direct evidence that lower credit scores meant bad employees.
But there were some interesting findings that keep the debate – and use of credit pulls by employers – a live issue.  Two of the survey questions had to do with employee task performance and citizenship behavior.  The study did find correlations that those with higher credit scores rated higher in these.  Task performance is how well people do in their day-to-day job functions, while citizenship behavior is “discretionary actions that either benefit the company or the individual.”  Of course positive measures in both of these factors equate to a positive impact on the company.  
“It’s really about consistency,” a spokesperson says. “We’re all driven towards consistency. If we’re being reliable and dependable in terms of our financial behavior, there’s a consistency in us that drives us towards those sorts of behaviors on the job.”
But many advocates worry that employers will start looking at credit reports as a panacea for determining the psychological makeup and character of potential employees.  While they may have some place as a supplemental hiring tool, they definitely shouldn’t be taken as gospel.  Remember that online 35% of credit score is repayment on time, the other 65% a combination of length of credit history, type of debt, and other factors which aren’t even relevant to employee makeup.  Likewise, there are many reasons why an applicant may have blemishes on a credit report that are anomalies, not indicators of long term character patterns.  For instance, we’ve seen many people take a hit on their credit report because they were laid off from a job, downsized to part time, went through a divorce, medical crisis, or had a bad mortgage loan, all things that are either out of their control or excusable, especially considering the recession and real estate bust.  

With that in mind, should employers even be allowed to check credit reports?  Employers say, “Yes,” and with good reason – pointing to the data that every year, retailers lose $30 billion because of employee theft and $55 million from workplace violence.  Up to 1/3 of applicants lie on their resumes.  The same Society for Human Resource Management states that right now about 13% of employers pull credit reports for all candidates and 47% check those for selected positions.  They’re deemed most useful for jobs that involve handling finances, fiduciary responsibility to clients, access to confidential information (like Human Resources) and executive level positions.  Of companies polled, 54% say the primary reason they used credit checks was to prevent theft and embezzlement, while 91% use credit checks for applicants applying for positions with fiduciary or financial responsibility.

It seems that is the Mason-Dixon line of this debate, and civil rights and workplace rights advocates are mainly trying to regulate the widespread practice of discriminating hiring based solely on credit pulls.  Lawmakers from a dozen states have proposed bills that will prohibit credit checks during the hiring process, with the exception of those sensitive financial positions mentioned above.  Three states have passed these laws so far.  Representative Steve Cohen, a Democrat from Tennessee, has introduced his own legislation on a Federal level.  

Legislators in more than a dozen states have introduced bills to curb the use of credit checks during the hiring process, and three states have passed such laws.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Some amazing facts about airports, airlines, and the aviation industry. (Part 1)

I’ve been in a lot of airports lately, flying all over the country for business.  During one of my many long layovers in yet another anonymous terminal, I got to thinking: everywhere I looked there were people - sitting, standing, in line, and even running to catch their flights.  On top of that, there were new groups of people showing up constantly, others leaving, and still more waiting along side me.  How many people a day came in and out of this one airport?  Thousands?  Tens of thousands?  Trying to add up the numbers was staggering.  And how many airports are there in the country, and in the world?

How could these places possibly run flawlessly (most of the time)?  The inner workings of an airport must be the largest customer/retail endeavor on the face of the earth, yet we almost never hear anything about them.  The movie The Terminal (when Tom Hanks actually lives in an airport terminal) notwithstanding, I decided to do some digging into the magnitude and mechanics of how our airports and airlines worked.  Information was surprisingly hard to find but that’s ok – I had hours to wait until my next flight.

Best rated airports in the US:
Passengers rated Orlando and Denver’s airports the best for large-sized, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky best for medium-sized, and San Antonio and Austin the top for small airports.

The world’s biggest airport:
The world's Largest Airport used to be Kansai International Airport in Osaka, Japan as recent as 2012. But in 2013, Al Maktoum International Airport in Jebel Ali, Dubai, United Arab Emirates opened their doors to passenger travel, making it the largest.  It’s still being expanded and the final completion isn’t expected until around 2025 at a total price tag of about $37 billion dollars.  Already, it’s described as an “Aviation city” or “Airatropolis.”

Longest runway:
Qamdo Bangda Airport in the Peoples Republic of China has the longest runway in the world at 5.50 kilometers in length (as of 2011).

World’s most dangerous airport:
That dubious honor goes to the tiny Tenzing-Hillary Airstrip at the base of Mount Everest in Nepal at 9,325 feet.  Built by Sir Edmund Hillary in 1965 – 12 years after he became the first man to conquer Everest – they have to deal with extreme weather and icing but also the runway is unusually challenging.  It’s one of the smallest in the world at 55 meters long, barely 20 meters wide, and slopes a precipitous 12 degrees.  They’ve suffered fatal airplane crashes in 2004, 2008, and again in 2010.

U.S. airport at the highest altitude:
The commercial airport at the highest elevation in the United States is Telluride Regional Airport in Telluride, Colorado, which sits at 9,070 feet above sea level.

What's up with our cell phones, tray tables, and seat backs?
Cell phone signals can interfere with the plane's electromagnetic communication signals.  It's reported that 1/3 of passengers still keep their electronics on but the National Transportation Safety Board never issued a mandate or even recommendation to turn our phones off for safety.  It has more to do with interfering with what the pilots have to do regarding instrumentation and their cockpit electronics, which it does affect.  

They turn the cabin lights off during takeoff and landing for safety reasons.  Your eyes will adjust to the low light so in case there’s an accident and they have to activate the emergency slides, passengers will be adjusted to the dark and more alert in evacuation.

They require you to put up tray tables and seat backs because in the event of an emergency landing, statistics show those can be deadly factors when combined the G-force of a crash.

World’s safest airport:
Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv Israel is the world’s safest, with anti-terrorism security that makes the Secret Service look like Boy Scouts.  Their screening process is far and above what we have even in the United States.

In terms of airport crashes in American airports, Cincinnati/Kentucky’s International airport (CVG) is the safest.  They reported only 4 runway incidents between 2006 and 2010 and only 1 from 2008 to 2010, both leading the way for safety.

World’s safest airline:
QANTAS Airlines out of Australia still has the world's best safety record with no crashes as of 2011.

World’s most dangerous airline:
Russia's Aeroflot Airlines has a startlingly horrible safety record with 8,231 fatalities on record. Air France is ranked second with 1,783 passenger deaths in its history.

Airline with the largest fleet:
Delta Airlines has the largest fleet in the world with 744 aircraft and 121 aircraft on order as of March 2011.

Largest commercial passenger plane:
The largest commercial passenger plane is the Airbus 380, standing nearly 240 feet long, 80 feet high, and has a wingspan of more than 260 feet. This double-decker plane has a seating capacity of 555 passengers.

World oldest airline:
KLM of the Netherlands (which stands for Koninklijke Luchtvaart Maatschappij, or Royal Dutch Airlines) was the world’s oldest as it was established in 1919.  However KLM recently merged with Air France, leaving Australia’s Qantas airline (Queensland And Northern Territories Air Service,) born in 1920, is now the world’s oldest.

World’s oldest airport:
Sydney Airport claims to be the world’s oldest continuously operating commercial airport, beginning operations in 1920.

However, the world’s oldest continuously operating airfield (not passenger or commercial) is in College Park Airport, Maryland, set up by Wilbur Wright in 1909.

The best movie about commercial flying:
Speaking of which, the classic comedy Airplane as #1, #2, and #3, followed by Snakes on a Plane (in my opinion.)

What country has the most airports?:
That would be the USA hands-down, as we have 1/3 of the total airports in the world, 6,597 at last count.  Canada is next with 661 and then Brazil 589, Australia 475, and France 275.  There are 37 countries with only 1 airport.

Most traveller traffic:
The world’s busiest commercial airport is Hartsfield-Jackson Airport (ATL) in Atlanta, with 970,000 airplanes and 88 million passengers shuffling through a year a year. They have an airplane taking off or landing every 37 seconds.

Cutting back to save $:
Airlines are getting notoriously cheaper, cutting back anywhere they can and diminishing the passenger experience from luxury travel to sardine-packed human shipments.  To save a little coin, American Airlines was the first to announce that they will no longer provide pillows during flights. But they promise to keep those thin, fuzzy blankets to keep us warm during flights.

The kings of frugal flying, AA only saved $40,000 a year starting 1987 by removing one extra olive from each salad served in first class.

In-flight food:
Virgin Atlantic lists catering as their third biggest expense, after fuel and maintenance.

American Airlines spent $425 million on food for domestic passengers in 2001.

In one year, British Airways passengers consume: 40.5 tons of chicken, 6 tons of caviar, 22 tons of smoked salmon, 557,507 boxes of chocolate and 90 thousand cases of sparkling wine.  Wow, remind me to fly British Air and not American!

In-flight catering is an $18 billion industry worldwide that employs up to 200,000 people at any given time.

In 2009 alone, Southwest Airlines served 63.2 million cans of soda, juices, and water; 14.3 million alcoholic beverages; 14 million bags of pretzels; 90 million bags of peanuts; 17.7 million Select-A-Snacks; and 33.5 million other snacks.

Singapore Airlines spends about $700 million on food every year and $16 million on wine alone. First class passengers consume 20,000 bottles of alcohol every month and Singapore Airlines is the second largest buyer of Dom Perignon champagne in the world!  (I’m the first.)

Cathay Pacific out of the Philippines carries rice cookers, toasters, cappuccino makers and skillets on board their airplanes.

Becoming a plot:
It used to be obscenely easy to be a pilot - in the United Kingdom in the 1920s you didn’t even need a license to fly people or goods around – you didn’t even need to pass a test!
Nowadays it’s a lot more regulated and there’s immense competition to be a pilot.  About half of commercial pilots come from the military and the other half from pilot schools.  They have to pass a physical exam every six months, a checkride twice a year, and keep up to date on new technologies and procedures.

All International Airline Pilots need to speak English as well.

Is being a pilot as lucrative and glamorous as it seems?:
Yes and no, because seniority is everything.  Newbie pilots might only make $25k to $50k a year, and everyone is trying to work there way up to a job with a big commercial airline.  Experienced pilots with 10 years or more seniority might make up to 300k a year.

The perks are great - pilots only usually fly between 9 and 14 days a month but fly free on all domestic routes, regardless of airline (there’s an all-airline agreement.)
Pilots work in teams – all flights longer than 8 hours require 3 pilots to rotate flying in shifts.  Flights longer than 12 hours require 4 pilots.

During the flight, each pilot is required to eat a different meal to minimize the risk of all pilots on board being ill at once! (Just like the movie Airplane.)

Flight attendants:
The standard ratio of Flight Attendants to passengers is 1 to 50.

If pilot jobs are hard to get, flight attendant positions are even more competitive.  When Delta announced 1,000 openings in 2010, it received over 100,000 applications!
Stewardesses used to bear the brunt of some strict and sexist practices – they had to be taller than 5’ 2”, couldn’t weigh more than 130 lbs., and had to retire by 32 years old.  They also couldn’t be married or even have children!  As a result, most stewardesses lasted just 18 months on the job.

But in the 1970s, the organization Stewardesses for Women’s Rights forced airlines to change their ways. The mandatory retirement age was the first thing to go, followed by the marriage restriction in the 1980’s. These days, as long as flight attendants can do the job and pass a yearly training program, they can keep flying.  They do, however still have a height requirement but that’s just so they can capably reach overhead safety equipment.

Fact: Flight attendants hate when you order Diet Coke.  Of all the drinks they serve, Diet Coke takes the most time to pour because it fizzes the most, especially at 35,000 feet.  So in the time it takes to pour one Diet Coke they could serve three other passengers other beverages.

Stay tuned because next week in Part 2 of this article we'll look at the statistics on airline crashes, the coolest airports in the world, and the official airline policy on the Mile High Club!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

10 Urban myths about credit score debunked.

Did you know that if you drink Coca Cola and eat Pop Rocks at the same time, your stomach will explode?  It happened to Little Mikey – you know, “Mikey likes it” from the old Life cereal commercials?

And that if you play the Beatles album “Helter Skelter” backward you’ll hear messages from the devil?  (On a related note, I tried listening to Britney Spear’s latest album forward and it sounded like the devil.) 

Or, how about this one…there was this family who drove down into Mexico for their family vacation and found a cute little scraggily street dog and took him back home with them.  When they got back and took the dog to the veterinarian, the vet told them that the dog was in fact a giant sewer rat.

Ok that one is actually true - my cousin’s friend’s brother’s auto mechanic heard it from his ex-girlfriend who worked at the vet’s office - but the rest of them are just urban legends, myths that float around but no one really knows where they came from – or if they’.  Today we’re going to cover a few urban myths that are still prevalent, but these rumors have to do with your credit score.  I know, not as exciting as a sewer rat as your family dog, but debunking these myths about your credit score will probably be far more helpful.

Here are 10 Credit Score urban myths debunked:

1. Previous occupants of your home could affect your credit score.
Your home address has nothing to do with your credit rating or credit score, and certainly no one else’s name, social security number, or credit history is tied to your own credit report through your address.  The bureaus do keep track of your current address, but that’s to track stability, not to conjoin you to anyone who’s lived there before.

2. Credit bureaus make lending decisions.
Credit bureaus like Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax don’t ever make decisions about if you get credit.  They do, however, collect data about your use of debt and compile a credit score to share that with banks, lenders, or retailers who are considering lending you money so they can better gauge risk.

3. If you don’t use your credit or don’t hold debt, your score will be good.
Not true – if you have blank credit history, that only shows future lenders that you don’t have an established history of managing debt responsibly and paying on time.  Sometimes, no credit history can be a big negative than a marginal credit score!

4. You could be on a credit score blacklist.
There’s no such thing as a list of people who are blackballed from getting credit.  Each company or bank makes their lending decisions independently based on the data in your credit history, your score, and other factors like income.  Credit agencies also don’t even register personal data like religion, race, gender, or political orientation – it’s just the facts.

5. You only have one credit score.
You have three credit scores because there are three major credit bureaus and they each have different algorithms for calculating your credit score.  There are usually similarities but each bureau reports independently so it’s important to monitor and manage each one.  Equifax may have something reported incorrectly while TransUnion has it right, so your scores will vary based on errors, duplicates, and their formulas. 

6. Items from your credit history stay with you forever.
Missing a payment or even something as big as a bankruptcy won’t haunt you forever.  Everything that posts to your credit report, positive or negative, will remain for approximately 6 years before dropping off for inactivity, depending on what type of item it is and the level of activity.

7. You should pay off and close your credit lines to increase your score.
It seems like common sense – pay off a credit card to $0 balance and close it down and you’ve just demonstrated financial responsibility so your credit score will go up.  Unfortunately, that’s not the case – what you just did was erase an established history of responsible payments.  Credit bureaus are all about assessing your risk, and the more evidence that you can manage your existing credit lines correctly, the better.  Some old accounts are worth closing, but for your oldest accounts, (length of history matters) you should pay the balance down below 30% of the total available credit limit and keep making monthly payments to improve your score.

8. Checking your credit will really hurt your score.
We’ve all been tackled by a concerned friend as they scream, “OMG! Don’t let them pull your credit – it will ruin your score!” at the car dealership.  (No?  Just me?)  But in reality, having someone pull your credit won’t harpoon your credit rating.  Sure, you want to be careful about who pulls it (rent-a-centers, retail credit lines, etc. are seen as irresponsible use of credit and therefore higher risk) and any grouping of frequent pulls could be seen as a desperate grab for credit to the bureaus, but having your credit pulled to shop for a home loan, a car, or even search for a good new credit card won’t by itself hurt your score.

9. Co-signing on a loan won’t affect your credit score.
You may think you’re “just” the cosigner, but what you did when you signed the paperwork was assume full responsibility for the debt obligation.  That means the trade line will show up on your credit report and you’re 100% accountable to make the payments if the first signer or loan holder defaults.  Sorry, but you can’t swim without getting wet, and if you’re a cosigner you’re on the hook for repayment of the debt. 

10. You automatically get a joint credit report when you get married.
Getting hitched means sharing almost everything, but merging credit scores is not one of them.  Different states have different rules for obligation of your marital partner’s debts but you’ll always still have your own separate credit report, not one that is combined between husband and wife.