Credit Scores More Complex Than You Think

As if keeping up with one credit score isn’t hard enough, consumers are now learning that there are actually dozens of different credit scores which help determine an overall credit health.

According to a former manager at FICO, the national credit scoring company, there are actually 49 different scores that determine your credit worthiness depending on what kind of loan you’re trying to get — a mortgage, credit cards or a car loan.  Lenders are able to pick and choose from a variety depending on what they need.

Experts say the disparity between the 49 numbers can be as much as 20 percent. If you are trying to get a car loan and you have a lower score in that area, you’re going to have a harder time getting a decent interest rate on the loan.

Scoring Models

The number you see when you request your credit score is just the general FICO score. This is actually a composite of all 49 scores for specific credit types.

FICO scores are developed by Fair Isaac Corporation, a Minnesota-based company that specializes in creating credit-scoring systems for lenders and businesses. FICO scores are based on a mathematical formula that includes outstanding debt, payment history, credit history and unsettled new credit. The typical FICO score ranges from 300 to 850, with a lower number indicating a higher credit risk.

Other types of scores go as high as 950. Credit bureaus such as Experian, Equifax and TransUnion base their numeric credit scores on the FICO model, but the three companies have slightly different formulas. Each company has a different name for FICO scores: Equifax calls it a BEACON or Pinnacle score; TransUnion calls it a FICO Risk Score; and Experian calls it a FICO Risk Model.

Experian said it offers different lenders different scores based on what they need. The company’s public education director said that consumers don’t need to see all the scores because they’re all based on similar information.

Issues With Credit Scoring

Last year, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), a federal agency that regulates consumer protection in the United States, pointed out that there is a lack of general information about credit scoring. A survey of 1,000 Americans found that almost half of consumer didn’t know that credit scores are used to determine if consumers are credit risks. Some consumers didn’t know that there are a variety of credit-reporting agencies and there is no such thing as a single score.

The organization also said that the numerous credit score formulas are too complicated and difficult for the average consumer to understand.

In a July 2011 report to Congress, the group said, “Given this complexity, it is unlikely that a consumer will often be able to know the exact score that a particular lender will use to evaluate them.”

Bill “No Pay” Fay has lived a meager financial existence his entire life. He started writing/bragging about it seven years ago, helping birth Debt.org into existence as the site’s original “Frugal Man.” Prior to that, he spent more than 30 years covering college and professional sports, which are the fantasy worlds of finance. His work has been published by the Associated Press, New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Sports Illustrated and Sporting News, among others. His interest in sports has waned some, but his interest in never reaching for his wallet is as passionate as ever. Bill can be reached at bfay@debt.org.

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    Sources:

    1. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (2011, July 19). The impact of differences between consumer- and creditor-purchased credit scores: Report to Congress. Retrieved from http://files.consumerfinance.gov/f/2011/07/Report_20110719_CreditScores.pdf
    2. Ellis, B. (2012, August 28). You have 49 FICO credit scores. CNN Money. Retrieved from http://money.cnn.com/2012/08/28/pf/fico-credit-scores/index.html
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