Inflation and interest rates: We can’t blink without running into an article, newscast, or discussion around these topics. Yes, these are top-of-mind topics, but they are not the sole indicators of how individuals make financial decisions. Let’s talk about something else that is more individual and personal: credit scores.

Credit scores become an important and potentially anxiety-inducing part of life as we approach certain personal financial milestones. Life stage, the motivations that drive individual financial decisions, and the score itself will greatly influence whether we approach these different milestones with excitement or dread (or both). Either way, there is no avoiding the importance of the credit score when it comes time to apply for a loan or line of credit.

According to a new CivicScience survey, one-quarter of U.S. adults plan to apply for some sort of loan or line of credit in the next six months. Currently, the most popular financial instruments among potential loan / credit applicants are credit cards (30%), auto loans (26%), and personal loans (24%).

Regardless of intent to open a loan or line of credit in the near future, an even greater proportion of U.S. adults report that they check their credit scores on a regular basis. The majority (59%) of respondents check their credit score at least once a year, and over one-third (37%) check monthly or more often (n=3,048).

Respondents who are younger, less affluent, and who self-identify in racial or ethnic minorities are more likely to be extra vigilant about checking their credit scores. 

When it comes to money management, those who report that they do not manage their money well are the faction who check their credit score the most frequently; they are more than twice as likely to check daily (4%-5% vs. 11%).

Apart from a credit score, what are some additional reasons (aside from the much-discussed issues of inflation and Federal Reserve interest rate hikes) that might give a potential loan or credit applicant reason to reconsider?

Two of the greatest points of concern among U.S adults are website security (35%) and distrust in an offer or source (30%). At a not-too-distant third, we come full circle to the fear of a negative impact to one’s credit score (27%).

Among those who check their credit scores most frequently, the most prevalent reasons to reconsider completing an application are the negative impact on their credit score (36%) and concern about site security (32%). 

As for those who intend to apply for the most popular credit or loan instruments in the next six months, the potential negative impact to their credit score is once again causing the greatest sense of apprehension in completing a credit application. This is slightly more evident in regard to loan applications than credit card applications.

Credit anxiety is a real thing. The more importance our credit score carries in a moment, the more we are compelled to check it obsessively and fear the repercussions of completing a loan or credit application.

The very thing that drives these financial decisions can also be their undoing.