By  Updated on Wed May 21, 2014

Are FICO Scores Calculated by What You Want to Buy? The Answer May Surprise You

 
Are FICO Scores Calculated by What You Want to Buy? The Answer May Surprise You

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Did you know that when you request your credit score, you may not get the same score that others may see? That’s because your FICO score is calculated in different ways for different types of lenders.

The three major credit reporting agencies each repackage FICO calculations into their own products. It was reported last year that a consumer has around 49 different FICO scores.

To understand how this works, it’s important to know how your credit score is calculated. To determine your credit score, the credit reporting agency looks at:

  • Your income
  • Payment history, which includes late payments and collections
  • Your balances and available credit
  • How much your credit is used as a percentage of the total
  • The length of time you’ve been establishing credit
  • Any signs that you might be taking on new debt, like new credit inquiries

Some of those credit scoring systems weigh the metrics of each of the scoring parameters differently for an auto loan, a mortgage, credit cards, and even insurance.

When you apply for a car loan with a bank, the bank may purchase one of these more specialized scores from Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion. The idea is that your ability to pay a car loan may be better or worse than your ability to pay other debts. Or, perhaps you have a few late payments on credit card bills, but you have a history of always paying your car payment on time — that might be reflected in a score specific to what an auto lender might want to know.

Why are there different methods of calculating a credit rating?

Having different methods of calculating a credit rating is also a way for the major reporting agencies to compete with each other by offering different products. It’s also a practice under review by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). In a report to congress, the bureau wrote, “How consumers could be negatively affected if the scores they obtain are different than the scores used by prospective lenders depends on why consumers obtain scores and what they do with the scores they purchase. It also depends on what they believe they are obtaining and what they believe they learn from scores.”

Other companies keeping track of your financial history

To complicate matters even further, the main credit reporting agencies aren’t the only ones keeping tabs on your financial history. Nationwide specialty consumer reporting agencies (NSCRAs) by the CFPB may keep track of medical payments, places where you have lived, your check writing history and other information.

In November 2012, in accordance with the Fair Credit Reporting Act, the CFPB requires that consumers be able to obtain free reports from such agencies once a year. That’s terrific, except that how would you know if any of those agencies have a collection of financial data about you?

The good news is that if your credit is in good shape and you don’t have any outstanding medical bills or a history of evictions, then variations in the reports shouldn’t matter.

However, if your score is below 750 or your debt-to-income ratio is high, you may encounter some problems. The best course of action is what we always like to remind our readers at MyBankTracker: take care of your credit. Know your score, look for and correct any mistakes on your report, pay your bills on time, and don’t max out your cards.

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