Consumers need to know that as of February 14, 2009, Experian based FICO scores and reports, previously available at myfico.com, are no longer available to consumers. As Barry writes at myfico.com, “The change will be effective on February 14th, 2009. While Experian’s decision eliminates the consumers’ ability to see their own FICO® scores, it will not impact your (lenders) ability to use FICO® scores in your lending decisions.”
Experts agree that FICO® scores are the most widely used measure of consumer creditworthiness used by lenders in the Unites States. FICO® scores are credit scores computed by Fair Isaac Corporation using the company’s proprietary computational formulas. Fair Isaac Corporation uses the credit information that Experian, Transunion and Equifax compiles about each consumer and runs this information through their complex formulas to arrive at three FICO® scores – one score per credit report.
Why is Experian’s decision important to consumers? Those individuals interested in augmenting their credit scores, repairing their credit, or understanding how lenders are making credit decisions about them, now have one less reliable avenue through which to try to assess their credit position prior to borrowing. If knowledge is power, consumers now have even less power to understand their credit score and if need be, understand that they need to fix bad credit scores.
Before any appreciation can be gained about what this change means in terms of consumer rights, it is important to understand the limitations that already exist on a consumer’s ability to accurately live skor assess their credit score. The three major credit reporting agencies – Experian, Equifax, and Transunion – each gather information about a consumer and compile that information into a credit report. A consumer recently gained the right to an annual, free copy of these 3 reports. However, each of these CRAs use their own credit scoring models, different from the model used by Fair Isaac Corporation.
For this reason, consumers who wish to know what their FICO® scores are must request, and pay for, 3 FICO® scores from myfico.com. The reason for this is that each CRA compiles their own, and often different, credit information on a consumer. Each FICO score is based on one of the three CRA reports, and the three FICO® scores can differ by very significant numbers.
Many consumers incorrectly assume that the FICO® scores they retrieve from myfico.com are the same ones that lenders see prior to assessing their creditworthiness and therefore, the price they will pay for that credit. As of February 14, this is not necessarily the case. Not only will consumers not know what score (if any) is being provided based on Experian credit data, they will not know if a lender is basing a decision on one, two or three scores.
As Smartmoney magazine reports, Experian spokeswoman Sue Henson describes Experian’s relationship with Fair Isaac Corp. as “not strategic” and refers to the scores consumers access at myfico.com as “educational”. She further points out: “They are not necessarily by any means the scores lenders are using.”
What scores are lenders using? Good question. What scores and/or credit reports should consumers focus on if they want to heighten credit scores or repair credit? Good question.