Q&A: So many credit scores — here’s how to get yours

Dear Liz: You recently discussed FICO scores. Please let me know how I can get mine. My bank says it can only give my husband his score because he is the principal on our account.

Answer: Remember that you don’t have one FICO credit score, you have many. Lenders use different versions and generations of the FICO formula. In addition, FICOs will differ based on which credit bureau was used. So your bank may give your husband a FICO Bankcard Score 2 based on information from Experian, while an auto lender might use a FICO Auto Score 5 from Equifax. These scores almost certainly will differ from his FICO 8 scores, which are the most commonly used scores. The FICOs for credit cards and autos typically are on a 250-to-900 scale, while FICO 8 is on a 300-to-850 scale.

Anyone can get free FICO 8 scores based on Experian data from Experian’s consumer site, Freecreditscore.com, and from credit card Discover at Discover.com. Several other credit card issuers — including American Express, Bank of America, Chase, Citi and Wells Fargo — offer FICOs of various kinds to cardholders.

If you want to see a broader range of your FICO scores, you can buy a three-bureau report from MyFico.com for about $60 that includes FICO 8s, FICO 9s and the most commonly used scores in mortgage, credit card and auto lending from each bureau.

Bureaus fined for credit score confusion

51w4H0Y7W7L._SX333_BO1,204,203,200_The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau today ordered Equifax and TransUnion to pay more than $23 million in restitution and fines for deceiving consumers about the usefulness and actual cost of credit scores they sold to consumers. Regulators said the bureaus also lured customers into expensive subscriptions when people thought they were getting free scores.

The CFPB said the bureaus were selling scores without making it clear that they weren’t the FICO scores lenders typically use in their decisions. TransUnion was selling VantageScores and Equifax sold a proprietary score. (Important to note here that VantageScores are now offered for free by many sites, including my employer NerdWallet.)

Credit scoring can be complex, and people are easily confused about the different types of scores and how they’re used by lenders. For example, many people think they have one credit score, when in fact we have many, and those scores change all the time.

People often don’t understand that the scores they’re seeing aren’t necessarily the ones used by lenders. Most lenders use some version of the FICO credit scoring formula, but FICOs come in many different versions and iterations. There are different generations of FICO scores and formulas tweaked for different industries, such as credit cards or auto loans. Furthermore, the FICOs you get from one major credit bureau will differ from the FICOs you can get from the two other bureaus.
Before VantageScore, the bureaus often sold proprietary scores that were used by few, if any, lenders. That led consumer advocates to label these proprietary scores as “FAKO” scores. VantageScores definitely aren’t FAKOs, since they’re used by 20 of the 25 largest financial institutions. But they may be used behind the scenes–for marketing or testing, rather than for deciding whether you get a loan or the interest rate you’ll get.
A VantageScores can give you a general idea of how lenders might view you as a credit risk. If you’re in the market for a major loan such as a mortgage or auto loan, however, you should consider buying the appropriate FICOs from MyFICO.com to get the clearest idea of where you stand.

Q&A: Where to find FICO scores

Dear Liz: I’m looking to buy a car and I’d like to see the FICO scores that lenders use. I already visited MyFico.com, but I want another site that shows my real FICO scores for auto lending. If you could point me in the right direction, that would be great.

Answer: You were at the right site. When you buy one credit score for $19.95 from MyFico.com, you actually get several scores from the same credit bureau. Those include FICO 8, the most commonly-used score, as well as the FICOs that bureau typically supplies to mortgage, auto and credit card lenders. If you want to see FICOs from all three bureaus, you can buy them for $59.85 and get a total of 25 different scores.

The scores lenders actually use to price your loan may be somewhat higher or lower from the ones you’ll see because credit scores change all the time. But if you apply for a loan shortly after buying your scores, they should be pretty close to the ones you see.

Monday’s need-to-know money news

air-miles-cardToday’s top story: How your medical debt impacts your FICO score. Also in the news: Signs your parents are victims of a financial scam, what you need to know when hunting for scholarships, and how to fly first class on the cheap.

The Impact of Medical Debt on FICO Scores
A new formula treats medical debt differently.

5 Signs Your Parents Are the Victims of a Financial Scam
Older adults are more susceptible to scams.

Everything You Need to Know When Hunting for Scholarships
Helping your kids on the road to college.

How to fly first class for free (or on the cheap)
Bargain your way out of coach this summer.

My FICO score is 846. And 796. And 878. And…

Zemanta Related Posts ThumbnailOne of the most persistent credit scoring myths is that you have one.

You don’t have one, you have many, and they change all the time.

The dominant model is the FICO, but even that comes in many flavors. You can get a taste for how many at MyFICO.

When I bought my scores there recently, my FICO 8 from Equifax was 846 on the 300-to-850 scale. But my FICO 5, the score Equifax most commonly sells to mortgage lenders, was 797.

There was even wider variation in my auto and credit card scores, are calculated on a 250-to-900 scale. My FICO Auto Score 8 was 867, while my FICO Auto Score 5 was 810. My FICO Bankcard Score 8 was 869 and my FICO Bankcard Score 5 was 797.

My scores from Experian ranged from 796 (FICO Score 3, used by some credit card issuers) to 878 (FICO Auto Score 8). The clutch of numbers from TransUnion ran from 806 (FICO Score 4, used by some mortgage lenders) to 874 (FICO Auto Score 8).

MyFICO used to serve up just one score per bureau. I like this wider view, since it better reflects the fact that lenders use different versions and generations of the formula.

TMI? Maybe. But I’ll take it over the days when credit scores were such a closely-guarded secret that you weren’t even supposed to know they existed.

Tuesday’s need-to-know money news

FICO-score-calculation-300x281Today’s top story: Unraveling the mysteries of the FICO score. Also in the news: What you shouldn’t buy with your tax refund, teaching your kids good money habits, and 11 common money mistakes to avoid.

How Many FICO Scores Are There?
More than you’d think.

5 things not to buy with your tax refund
Put down that solid gold Apple watch.

How to Use Allowances to Teach Kids About Money
Instilling good money habits early.

Don’t Make These 11 Common Money Mistakes
Avoid getting caught in a spending trap.

5 Vital Questions To Ask Before Retirement
Remember, this isn’t a permanent vacation.

Tuesday’s need-to-know money news

credit-cardsToday’s top story: The pros and cons of paying your taxes with a credit card. Also in the news: Discharging private student loans, financial rules for 40 year-olds, and what FICO’s new credit score means for you.

Should You Pay Your Taxes With a Credit Card?
The pros and cons.

Can You Discharge Private Student Loans in Bankruptcy?
It won’t be easy.

40 Financial Rules For 40 Year-Olds
It’s time to get serious.

FICO Will Use a New Credit Score That Includes Your Bill Payments
What this means for your score.

Smart Ways to Trim Your Water Bill This Spring
Gardening season is nearly upon us.

Thursday’s need-to-know money news

Zemanta Related Posts ThumbnailToday’s top story: Big changes are coming to your FICO score. Also in the news: Lessons learned from selling a house, building a financial dashboard, and how much you should really set aside for retirement.

New FICO Score Factors in Utilities & How Often You Move
Changes are coming to your credit score.

Lessons Learned from Selling My First House
How to get through the selling process unscathed.

How to Build a Financial Dashboard
Putting all of your financial goals in one place.

How Much Should You Really Set Aside for Retirement?
Finding your magic number.

Q&A: Will having no debt affect our FICO score?

Dear Liz: My wife and I have paid off our mortgage, we have no car loans, and we pay our credit card balances completely each month, which means that we basically pay no interest. We have four credit cards that are active and a couple more that are rarely used. My FICO score is currently just above 800. At some point we will need to replace our cars and will need car loans, so our FICO scores will be important. Since we currently have no mortgage, no car loans or any other loans, will our FICO score slowly drop, and will that affect our car loans?

Answer: Paid-off loans typically don’t disappear from your credit reports, at least not immediately. Many lenders continue to report these closed accounts for years, which contributes positively to your scores.

Even if none of these paid obligations show up on your reports, though, your responsible use of credit cards should support your high scores. Just continue to use your cards lightly but regularly and pay off all balances in full.

Since you have time before you plan to replace your cars, consider paying cash for them, or at least making a substantial down payment. It’s typically best to use loans only for assets that appreciate — and cars certainly don’t do that.

Tuesday’s need-to-know money news

Zemanta Related Posts ThumbnailToday’s top story: How the way you think about money could be hurting your finances. Also in the news: Determining the right time to buy a home, six secrets to getting a good deal on that home, and why your FICO score is about to look very different.

3 Money Maxims that Hurt Your Finances
Changing the way we think about money.

When Should You Wait to Buy a Home?
How to determine when the time is right.

6 secrets to getting a good deal on a house
Tips for when the time is right.

How credit scores are about to change: a Q&A
Your FICO score is about to get a makeover.

Why it’s easier to rob bitcoins than banks
Not that you should do either one, of course.