The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has been in the news often lately. They are they consumer protection watch dog re: the financial services industry. They released a study about credit scoring in late September 2012. This study included analysis of 200,000 credit reports from the three major credit reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.
According to the study, 20 percent of consumers will receive a credit score that is different from the one the credit grantor receives. This can impact whether consumers qualify for loans and the interest rates they pay. Of course, this can be positioned as either good, or bad, for consumers. On one hand..80% of scores are similar, but certainly not the same while on the other hand…20% of scores aren’t similar, but it’s only 20%.
Comments by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and National Consumer Law Center were very critical of this statistic. They stated that only 20% did not receive the same score as the lender, but they didn’t state that a majority (80 percent) did.
“This study highlights the complexities consumers face in the credit scoring market,” Richard Cordray, the agency’s director, said in an e-mailed statement. “When consumers buy a credit score, they should be aware that a lender may be using a very different score in making a credit decision.”
Considering there are 49 FICO credit scores, (these were displayed in an info-graphic I helped develop with CreditSesame), many generic scores have been developed by the bureaus, and custom scores developed for and by the lenders; it is amazing that the percentage is as low as 20 percent. Most of these scores are not available for consumers to purchase.
FICO scores aren’t free
Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), consumers can receive a free copy of their credit report from each of the three credit reporting agencies every 12 months. Consumers are entitled to receive some credit scores, but they aren’t available for free, including FICO scores. FICO sells their scores through their site; and the credit bureaus sell certain generic scores. Consumers can purchase the classic FICO score, but not the other FICO versions such as bankcard and auto. Since consumers can’t purchase the other versions, the version used by the credit grantor may not be the same as that the consumer purchased. FICO scores also differ by bureau.
There are many scores offered to consumers online for a fee or free. Most of these are sold only to consumers and not lenders. Since lenders don’t use them, the scores can only be used for informational purposes. They give you a gauge of how well you are doing, but are not the score used to make the credit decisions. You have to decide if they are of value to you. You shouldn’t pay for the scores that aren’t used by the lenders.
Even if you buy the same score the lender uses, the score may not be the same depending upon when you purchased it and which bureau. Credit information is updated daily and it depends upon the when the information is reported. Data varies at each bureau and also updates. Even if it isn’t the same score, it can give you a good idea of your credit standing – if you have excellent, good, average or poor credit.
Credit Reporting Expert, John Ulzheimer, is the President of Consumer Education at SmartCredit.com, the credit blogger for Mint.com, and a Contributor for the National Foundation for Credit Counseling. He is an expert on credit reporting, credit scoring and identity theft. Formerly of FICO, Equifax and Credit.com, John is the only recognized credit expert who actually comes from the credit industry. Follow him on Twitter here.