Want to See the FICO Scores Lenders See? Now You Can
Consumers who want to know everything they can about their credit scores seem to be getting more options by the day.
Last month, the White House announced that more than half of American adults would soon have access to free credit scores through their credit card issuers. Soon after, Citi began sharing scores with its cardholders. Last week, upstart VantageScore announced it was making in-roads with lenders and is about to serve its 1 billionth score. This week comes word from FICO, the folks who supply the most commonly-used credit score, that it will for the first time make 18 different versions of its FICO score available to consumers — for a fee.
Consumers have more than one credit score. There are several different scores based on the needs of the lender, tailored specifically towards car loans, mortgages, credit cards, and so on. Also, scores based on one credit bureau’s data may differ from a score based on that of another.
Until now, FICO allowed consumers to see only their “base” FICO score at the firm’s subscription-based MyFICO.com site, or through the free FICO Score Open Access program used by some credit card issuers. Those scores generally are not the same score used by lenders when they make credit decisions, however.
Now, the company will offer up to 10 additional FICO score versions — five based upon Equifax data and five based upon Experian data. These will include industry-specific scores used for auto and credit card lending, the firm said. Scores based on TransUnion data will be added in the next few weeks.
“By making these scores available along with FICO Score 8, we have created the most complete consumer credit score product ever available, and set a new standard for consumer empowerment,” said Jim Wehmann, executive vice president for scores at FICO. Taken together, the 18 FICO scores that will be available are used in 92% of all lending decisions using any FICO score, the company said.
“In other words, if you are applying for any type of loan, the chances are overwhelming that one of these 18 scores is being used,” FICO spokesman Jeff Scott said.
Getting scores from MyFICO.com isn’t free. It requires a monthly subscription to the site — which starts at $24.95 per month for a minimum of three months — or a one-time purchase for $59.85.
Consumers may be surprised to find variance among the scores — let alone surprised at the number of different “grades” they might receive for their credit history. It can be especially frustrating if you are working to improve your score. In that case, it’s smart to make sure you’re comparing the same score from month to month. You can see two of your credit scores for free on Credit.com every month, along with information on how your scores compare to the average American and personalized advice for improving it.
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Bob Sullivan is author of the New York Times best-sellers Gotcha Capitalism and Stop Getting Ripped Off. His stories have appeared in The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and hundreds of other publications. He has appeared as a consumer advocate and technology expert numerous times on NBC's TODAY show, NBC Nightly News, CNBC, NPR's Marketplace, Terry Gross' Fresh Air, and various other radio and TV outlets. He helped start MSNBC.com and wrote there for nearly 20 years, most of it penning the consumer advocacy column The Red Tape Chronicles. See more at www.bobsullivan.net. Follow Bob Sullivan on Facebook or Twitter. More by Bob Sullivan