Last Sourced: 2017-08-01
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Credit score in the United States
A credit score in the United States is a number representing the creditworthiness of a person, the likelihood that person will pay his or her debts.
Lenders, such as banks and credit card companies, use credit scores to evaluate the potential risk posed by lending money to consumers. Widespread use of credit scores has made credit more widely available and less expensive for many consumers.
Credit scoring models
The FICO score was first introduced in 1989 by FICO, then called Fair, Isaac, and Company. The FICO model is used by the vast majority of banks and credit grantors, and is based on consumer credit files of the three national credit bureaus: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. Because a consumer's credit file may contain different information at each of the bureaus, FICO scores can vary depending on which bureau provides the information to FICO to generate the score.
Credit scores are designed to measure the risk of default by taking into account various factors in a person's financial history. Although the exact formulas for calculating credit scores are secret, FICO has disclosed the following components:
Getting a higher credit limit can help a credit score. The higher the credit limit on the credit card, the lower the utilization ratio average for all of a borrower's credit card accounts. The utilization ratio is the amount owed divided by the amount extended by the creditor and the lower it is the better a FICO rating, in general. So if a person has one credit card with a used balance of $500 and a limit of $1,000 as well as another with a used balance of $700 and $2,000 limit, the average ratio is 40 percent ($1,200 total used divided by $3,000 total limits). If the first credit card company raises the limit to $2,000, the ratio lowers to 30 percent, which could boost the FICO rating.
There are other special factors which can weigh on the FICO score.
There are several types of FICO credit score: classic or generic, bankcard, personal finance, mortgage, installment loan, auto loan, and NextGen score. The generic or classic FICO score is between 300 and 850, and 37% of people had between 750 and 850 in 2013. According to FICO, the median classic FICO score in 2006 was 723. The FICO bankcard score and FICO auto score are between 250 and 900. The FICO mortgage score is between 300 and 850. Higher scores indicate lower credit risk.
Each individual actually has 65 credit scores for the FICO scoring model because each of three national credit bureaus, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion, has its own database. Data about an individual consumer can vary from bureau to bureau. FICO scores have different names at each of the different credit reporting agencies: Equifax (BEACON), TransUnion (FICO Risk Score, Classic) and Experian (Experian/FICO Risk Model). There are four active generations of FICO scores: 1998 (FICO 98), 2004 (FICO 04), 2008 (FICO 8), and 2014 (FICO 9). Consumers can buy their classic FICO Score 8 for Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian from the FICO website (myFICO), and they will get some free FICO scores in that moment ( FICO Mortgage Score 2 (2004), FICO Auto Score 8, FICO Auto Score 2 (2004), FICO Bankcard Score 8, FICO Bankcard 2 (2004) and FICO score 9). Consumers also can buy their classic FICO score for Equifax (version of 2004; named Score Power) in the website of this credit bureau, and their classic FICO Score 8 for Experian in its website. Other types of FICO scores cannot be obtained by individuals, only by lenders. Some credit cards offer a free FICO score several times per year to their cardholders.
The NextGen Score is a scoring model designed by the FICO company for assessing consumer credit risk. This score was introduced in 2001, and in 2003 the second generation of NextGen was released. In 2004, FICO research showed a 4.4% increase in the number of accounts above cutoff while simultaneously showing a decrease in the number of bad, charge-off and Bankrupt accounts when compared to FICO traditional. FICO NextGen score is between 150 and 950.
Each of the major credit agencies markets this score generated with their data differently:
Prior to the introduction of NextGen, their FICO scores were marketed under different names:
The FICO Small Business Scoring Service (SBSS) score is used to evaluate small business credit applicants. This score can evaluate the personal credit report of a business owner along with the business credit report of the business itself. Financial information of the business may be evaluated as well. The score range for the FICO SBSS score is 0-300. A higher score indicates less risk. Applications for SBA 7(a) loans for $350,000 or less will be prescreened using this score. A minimum score of 140 is needed to pass this prescreen, though most lenders require scores of 160 or less.
In 2006, to try to win business from FICO, the three major credit-reporting agencies introduced VantageScore, which differs from FICO in several ways. According to court documents filed in the FICO v. VantageScore federal lawsuit the VantageScore market share was less than 6% in 2006. The VantageScore score methodology initially produced a score range from 501 to 990, but VantageScore 3.0 adopted the score range of 300–850 in 2013. Consumers can get free VantageScores from free credit report websites.
CE Score is published by CE Analytics and licensed to sites such as Community Empower and iQualifier.com. This score is distributed to 6,500 lenders through the Credit Plus network but is free to consumers. It has a range of 350 to 850.
The non-FICO scores are called "educational" credit scores or FAKO scores by some. Experian has a credit score for educational use only (Plus Score) between 330 and 830, and Experian Scorex PLUS score is between 300 and 900. Equifax has the Equifax Credit Score of between 280 and 850. Some lenders use an Application Score of between 100 and 990, and Credit Optics Score by ID Analytics of between 1 and 999. TransUnion's TransRisk New Account Score in the website Credit Karma is between 300 and 850, and Experian National Equivalency Score in Credit Sesame and Credit.com ranges from 360 to 840. Several websites (TransUnion, Equifax, Credit Karma, Credit Sesame etc.) offer different credit scores to consumers but are not used by lenders. ChexSystems Consumer Score ranges from 100 to 899, PRBC credit score from 100 to 850, and LexisNexis Attract Insurance Score from under 500 to 997.
Free annual credit report
As a result of the FACT Act (Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act), each legal U.S. resident is entitled to a free copy of his or her credit report from each credit reporting agency once every twelve months. The law requires all three agencies, Equifax, Experian, and Transunion, to provide reports. These credit reports do not contain credit scores from any of the three agencies. The three credit bureaus run Annualcreditreport.com, where users can get their free credit reports. Non-FICO credit scores are available as an add-on feature of the report for a fee. This fee is usually $7.95, as the FTC regulates this charge through the Fair Credit Reporting Act.
Non-traditional uses of credit scores
Credit scores are often used in determining prices for auto and homeowner's insurance. Starting in the 1990s, the national credit reporting agencies that generate credit scores have also been generating more specialized insurance scores, which insurance companies then use to rate the insurance risk of potential customers. Studies indicate that the majority of those who are insured pay less in insurance through the use of scores. These studies point out that people with higher scores have fewer claims.
In 2009, TransUnion representatives testified before the Connecticut legislature about their practice of marketing credit score reports to employers for use in the hiring process. Legislators in at least twelve states introduced bills, and three states have passed laws, to limit the use of credit check during the hiring process.
Credit scores are widely used because they are inexpensive and largely reliable, but they do have their failings.
Because a significant portion of the FICO score is determined by the ratio of credit used to credit available on credit card accounts, one way to increase the score is to increase the credit limits on one's credit card accounts.
Some have blamed lenders for inappropriately approving loans for subprime applicants, despite signs that people with poor scores were at high risk for not repaying the loan. By not considering whether the person could afford the payments if they were to increase in the future, many of these loans may have put the borrowers at risk of default.
According to a Fitch study, the accuracy of FICO in predicting delinquency has diminished in recent years. In 2001 there was an average 31-point difference in the FICO score between borrowers who had defaulted and those who paid on time. By 2006 the difference was only 10 points.
Some banks have reduced their reliance on FICO scoring. For example, Golden West Financial (which merged with Wachovia Bank in 2006) abandoned FICO scores for a more costly analysis of a potential borrower's assets and employment before giving a loan.
According to the experts at MyFico.com, credit scores are enhanced by having multiple credit cards, the use of credit cards, and having installment loans. However, financially secure individuals who do not use multiple credit cards and/or self finance installment type expenses may be inaccurately assessed a lower credit score.
Experian, Equifax, TransUnion and their trade association (the Consumer Data Industry Association or "CDIA") have all gone on record saying that employers do not receive credit scores on the credit reports sold for the purposes of employment screening. The use of credit reports for employment screening is allowed in all states, although some have passed legislation limiting the practice to only certain positions. Eric Rosenberg, director of state government relations for TransUnion, has also stated that there is no research that shows any statistical correlation between what’s in somebody’s credit report and their job performance or their likelihood to commit fraud.
The use of credit information in connection with applying for various types of insurance or in landlord background checks has drawn similar amounts of scrutiny and criticism. This is because the activities of finding secure employment, renting suitable accommodation and securing insurance are the basic functions of meaningful participation in modern society, and in the case of some types of auto insurance for instance, are mandated by law.
- What Is A Fico Score : Saint Anselm College [anselm.edu]
- Credit Scores And Committed Relationships [brookings.edu]
- The Impact Of Credit Scoring On Consumer Lending [web.stanford.edu]
- Impatience And Credit Behavior [citeseerx.ist.psu.edu]
- Credit Scores And College Investment [economics.lafayette.edu]
- A Theory Of Credit Scoring And Competitive Pricing Of Default Risk ... [economics.sas.upenn.edu]