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My Ever Confusing FICO Score

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I received my quarterly FICO score through myfico.com over a week ago. Unfortunately, the FICO score is just from one of the three credit reporting agencies (TransUnion, Experian & Equifax). I decided to pay the extra money to see all three at once since I have never done it before.

Here’s what I saw.

Back in May, my TransUnion FICO score was 732. Since then, I’ve paid off a bit more of my debt and I was pleased to see it raise to 742.

TransUnion also had some very nice positives about me since I haven’t had any late payments and I’ve had credit lines over 10 years. They still don’t like how much debt I have, but I expect that negative to be there for a while.

TransUnion

Can anyone explain why I have a positive for the length of my credit history yet a negative for the length of time with my revolving accounts? Especially since my credit history started with a revolving account?

I’m scratching my head on that one, but let’s move on.

Here’s the positive/negative information for the highest score I received from Equifax.

Equifax

Equifax is showing me some love because they say I have a low proportion of debt to credit limits on my credit cards (33%). So perhaps that is the magical percentage to be under – eureka!!

Wait…but TransUnion gave me a negative there so why is there a difference? I thought perhaps the debt balances were showing different but they aren’t. They even give the same exact percentage of 33%.

I’m still scratching my head. The only thing I can think of is the fact that Equifax says the average proportion is 40% and TransUnion says 36%.

Now, Experian gave me the lowest score of them all. They didn’t list any positives 🙁

Experian

The biggest difference with my Experian report is that my Prosper loan is only reported to their agency. Therefore, Prosper shows as an inquiry as does the last credit card that I obtained (to do a balance transfer). With only 2 recent inquiries, they put that as a negative. Ouch.

I suppose if Prosper reported to the other two agencies as well, I would have taken a hit on all three scores. I really wish I pulled my Experian score before my Prosper loan was reported because I could do more comparisons.

I feel that one of the biggest problems with a FICO score is that it is just a snapshot in time. As far as I know (and someone please correct me if I am wrong), you cannot go back at a certain point in time and look at your FICO score. The only way you could know is if on that day in time you paid for your score and you kept it on file for future reference.

Overall, reviewing all three FICO scores at once leaves me feeling like my score is somewhat of a crap shoot. You never know if all of your creditors will report to all three agencies and if you apply for a mortgage what agency will the company pull your credit report from? And then the information they give as to the positive and negatives? Your credit history is long enough…your revolving credit history isn’t long enough…you’ve opened a new account recently…AAAAHHH!

Seriously – that’s how I feel. It makes my head spin trying to figure out what they want me to do to increase my credit score.

I’m not bothering to pull all three scores ever again. I probably shouldn’t have done it this month since things were going to be tight but I was just too curious. I also pulled another score (which I thought was a FICO score but wasn’t) and I’ll post about that one later. I think I will just stick with the one I get with my yearly subscription and that’s it. It just boggles my mind on how they come up with the scores so I’m just gonna continue paying my bills on time and paying down my debt.


17 Comments

  • Reply Steve Heath |

    It is interesting that they assume recent inquiries are always a negative thing. For example, if you apply for a lot of 0% credit balance transfer cards, or switch cards because they change the rewards (which is why I moved from an Amex to a Visa recently) it counts against you.

    And yet, from my perspective it is not a negative at all, I’m making my money work harder for me, or getting more rewards for my actions, which is a smart thing.

    From the company’s perspective, they want my business, which is why they are making a better offer, so they shouldn’t be concerned that I switch to take advantage of better offers, since that is how they intend to get me as a customer.

    It seems like the credit reporting agencies are still using the model they used when everyone offered the same thing… maybe we need to point out to them the benefits that exist in switching regularly.

  • Reply Jason |

    Well, your scores are high enough to get some of the best interest rates so I wouldn’t worry too much about it. As long as you don’t apply for credit 6 months before applying for a mortgage or other loan then you shouldn’t have to worry about the volatility of the scores.

    As far as the positives and negatives…I think its best to think of the positives fico gives you as reason why your scores are high and the negatives as reasons that it is not perfect, ie not 850.

    So thats why having a long history has helped your score but a “short” history, ie not 30+ years long, is why your score isn’t perfect. In regards to the balances I would bet that 30ish% is where it really starts to hurt your score. So some of the agencies have you on one side of the fence while others have you on the other.

  • Reply Jen |

    Congrats on the high scores! They are pretty good.

    As for the contradictory comments on lengthof credit history AND debt amount, I’m wondering if it’s a difference between your overall history and the history of one card. For instance, since you have at least card for a while, that gives you a long history. But if you have on card that’s fairly new, then maybe that’s in the negative for a short history? Nutty, I know…

    And for the debt amount. Maybe Equifax was looking at the combined debt and available credit across all your accounts, and Transunion was factoring in a credit card that has most of your debt? I had the same comment on my credit scores when the bank pulled them for my mortgage app. But, I have one card that I put 90% of my charges on, so maybe that one card signaled a high debt ratio, even though all my other cards don’t have a balance.

  • Reply KIM |

    What I found out with my credit history is that if i switched a balance to another credit card company and closed the account with the former company, it is then that my score started declining and I received the reason why as the same that you are confused about — length of time with new card, short, even though I have been establishing credit for 20 years now.

  • Reply KIM |

    We purchased a new house within the last year. The mortgage lenders we checked with pulled ALL THREE scores. I called approx. 6 different mortgage lenders to see what could be done for us as far as interest rates. I was give a range from 5.75 to 9.75 — amazing. Our credit scores are in the low 600’s. I was even told by one of the mortgage reps (who was at the high end of the range) that I should jump fast at his offer, because I would be lucky if any other company would give me a lower rate. I didn’t fill him in, and waste my time, but we did lock in at 5.75. The reason we were given this rate was due to my husband’s0.21 retirement account balance and a few other investments that we hold, and also that we put 15%-20% down. We do have considerable other debt also, so I was very relieved that this bank gave us the opportunity. On the other hand, my inlaws had declared bankruptcy about 4 years ago. When they recently purchase their new home, they were still given a pretty decent rate at 6.25, and this was due to the awesome income that he rakes in yearly. So lenders take into consideration different aspects.
    Credit scores can fall very quickly. When we first were pre-approved for a mortgage loan, our scores were in the high 600’s and every lender was eager to lend to us. When we had to get pre-approved again 6 months later (preapprovals expire), after I had closed a couple of accounts, our scores had fallen that quickly.

  • Reply Tricia |

    Steve – I agree. With paying off my debt, of course I want to take advantage of low balance transfer offers and that could require getting cards. So to get ahead with my debt I’ll have to take a hit on my credit score. They probably do have to “get with the times.”

    Jason – I guess I will just keep paying down my debt and watch my TransUnion score. The main confusion about the length is that my revolving credit length = my credit history length. The one card I received in college was the beginning of my credit history and I still have that card.

    Jen – thanks! Thankfully my scores are fairly high and I am happy about that.

    KIM – I guess that makes sense if you close a card. I plan on keeping mine open at least for a while. That’s awesome that you locked in a 5.75% rate. A few years ago when we tried to get a mortgage, the best we could get was 8%. But back then my credit was in the 600 range.

  • Reply Mike |

    Impression I get:
    You’ve had some credit cards (or other revolving debt) for a long time, but have also recently added some. You also owe too much money on them.

    Have you obtained your actual credit history from each of the 3 agencies? ( http://www.annualcreditreport.com ) If not, you might be surprised to see some differences between them — different subsets of your credit, or actual errors. One of the agencies had someone else’s credit history mixed with mine.

  • Reply Tricia |

    Hi Mike – yeah, I have recently opened another credit card to take advantage of a balance transfer offer. And yes, I do owe too much money on them. Anything over $1.00 is now too much in my book 😉

    I have obtained all three credit reports and none had errors (thank goodness). But the one agency didn’t have my Prosper loan included since Propser only reports to the one agency.

    That’s pretty aweful that someone else’s credit history was with yours! I think I’d faint if I saw that!

  • Reply Dawn |

    We were given the FICO kit by Suze Orman as a gift. I have decided not to put off using it any longer. The kit comes with 3 FICO scores included. So I could use them to get my score from all three companies or use one for mine and one for my husband’s and still have one left. We are hoping to buy a new home next year and I think figuring out exactly where we stand now would be in our best interest. Do you have any suggestions as to how to decide which company to get our score from? I was thinking of contacting our current mortgage lender and asking what company they obtain scores from as we may finance our next home purchase with them. Any advice would be appreciated!

  • Reply Tricia |

    Dawn – it probably depends on what company they look at. They might not even use a FICO score – there’s another thing out there called a VantageScore from Experian. Some places might even use something like that. I guess it doesn’t hurt to ask to see if they will tell you. Otherwise, you might want to look at all three. Right now myfico.com has a 30 day free trial for ScoreWatch. That’s how I received one of my scores 😉

    Thanks for the link for the national average. I see those ads on Yahoo claiming the average but wonder if they are correct – LOL.

  • Reply Dawn |

    My cousin is a mortgage broker. I spoke to her about which company’s score I should watch the closest in my situation. She said in her area (Louisiana) and in her company they check all three FICO scores and use the one that is in the middle. Not an average but the actual one that is the middle number. When we get closer to getting a mortgage I will probably spend the money so that I can know where we stand….depending on what I find out when I check one of them this time 🙂

  • Reply tim |

    We just had our FICO score dropped 60 points because we missed one payment on a house that we were selling. We had a bunch of medical bills from our 5 year old daughter who has several congenetal issues, and knew money would be tight, so we asked our lender for help in the form of a forbearance for one month until we sold the house. Their response was that we could not file for a forbearance until we were late on a payment, and that the decision process would take several months.

    One additional thing that I find interesting is that our credit score dropped 30 points (60 total) for each of us because we missed one payment, even though we have made payments on time for four to five properties going all the way back to 1999. A quick mortgage calculation of 4 properties at 12 months, and 9 years yields 432 payments on time not to mention the additional payments of credit cards, utilities, medical payments, etc, which would probably double the number to around 800 payments on time over the last decade. I am not sure how the numbers are calculated, and according to the search that I did, neither is the rest of the country.

    http://www.ezinearticles.com/?FICO-Score-Scale&id=408238

    What is clear to me is that after reading the following paragraph,

    “Calculating one’s FICO scores is a closely guarded secret, companies consider several factors prior to interpreting one’s FICO score. Usually, finance firms and banks take into account as much as five credit accounts that have been in use for at least a year in order to determine one’s capacity to be given credit to and his/her ability to pay for loans or credits. Pre-determined weighted factors are then used to calculate one?s FICO scores which are then checked against the given FICO score scale”.

    is that it behooves the financial corporations to have people with low FICO scores so that the interest rate charged on lended money is high enough to provide financing/Lending institutions the largest ROI for any corporation sector in the US for the last several decades. It seems to me that there is a bit of a conflict of interest when it comes to the lending institutions calculating ones ability to repay loans. Maybe it is time for the closely guarded secret to be a little less opaque.

    This is a deceptive way to herd people and their finances off the cliff. Meanwhile the institutions that have made bad decisions on who to lend money, are getting a big bailout. I wonder what the FICO score is for Fanny Mae?

So, what do you think ?