The Confusing World Of Credit Scores And Some Pointers For Getting FICO Scores For Cheap

by golbguru on March 6, 2007

It’s about time I checked my FICO credit score ( rather multiple credit scores ) - been 6 months since I applied for a couple of 0% APR (balance transfers) cards and transferred large balances from the cards to my HSBC Direct account. Now, I want to see if things have gone haywire (or not) after the balance transfers (this will help me plan my future credit card arbitrage moves). Trying to find the best deal for your credit score is really a pain if you don’t know where to look - this led me towards doing some research on the subject, the results of which are described below.

I have compiled all the information I could find and added some recommendations towards the end to highlight the best ways of getting your credit score for cheap (I wanted to use a ranking system…but that might mean comparing apples and oranges, because some of these products are conceptually different than the others). If you know of any other reliable sources of obtaining credit scores for cheap, please feel free to share the information.

Before I get into the details, I would like to draw your attention to the fact that Experian does not offer FICO scores through it’s website and TransUnion offers an in-house *TransUnion* score (not a FICO score) with some of it’s programs. So don’t just rush into buying any score that first comes to your attention…read and understand what it means.

I don’t know why they are making it so complicated for the common man. Between the three credit rating agencies, you can get 6 different credit scores (3 different FICO scores for 3 agencies, TransUnion score, Experian Plus score, and VantageScore). Thank god there is just one VantageScore, not three different ones for the three agencies.

To add to the confusion, each credit rating agency and myFICO.com sell different types of products with different types of scores and it really takes a while to figure out what product is using what score. The list below will make the process simpler for some of you…it includes all credit score products available through the three agencies and through myFICO.com. If there are more out there, I will update this list accordingly.

Also, just to be clear, I am talking only about credit scores…not credit reports (you can get free credit reports via AnnualCreditReport.com). My main objective is to find ways to get the score for less money …irrespective of whether it comes with a credit report or not. Another thing, there are no referral links in here…all links for your information purposes only.

Credit scores from TransUnion [Updated: March 27th, 2007]

TransUnion is the master of confusion when it comes to credit scores. It has two different websites www.transunion.com and www.transunioncs.com. On transunion.com (which takes you to truecredit.com for your scores), all scores available are ONLY TransRisk scores (not FICO scores)…which are some in-house scores generated by TransUnion. I was not aware of this before one of the readers made a comment regarding this issue.

I had to call TransUnion in order to figure out where I could get my FICO scores and then they mentioned www.transunioncs.com. I have no idea why TransUnion is doing this two-websites thing….and why there is no mention or link to the FICO scores website on their main website.

Anyways, here is what TransUnion offers on it’s www.transunion.com website (pretty much useless scores):

  • TransUnion offers a 30-day free trial of the TransUnion Credit Monitoring program. This program will give you access to your TransUnion credit report and your Trans-Risk credit score based on the credit report. The potential cost of laziness (if you don’t cancel within your trial period) is $9.95 per month. This is not a FICO score.
  • It also offers a 3-Bureau Credit Monitoring program for $14.95 per month. No free-trial offer. This thing provides all three credit reports and all three Trans-Risk scores. This is not a FICO score.
  • Watch out for this “3-in-1 Credit Report and Free Score” one-time purchase offer from TransUnion for $29.95. This is a different offer than the two above and it provides a *TransUnion* credit score….not a FICO score.

Here are the FICO score offers from TransUnion’s www.transunioncs.com (transunioncs stands for TransUnion Consumer Solutions) website:

  • TransUnionCS offers Single Credit Report + FICO score. A one time TransUnion credit report and score for $14.95. There is no trial period.
  • It also offers 3-in-1 Credit Report plus FREE FICO Score. This program offers three credit reports but only one credit score…and that is based on TransUnion credit report. The one-time cost is $34.95. No trial period.
  • There is also a credit monitoring product available through this website. This product provides you with your TransUnion credit report and FICO score 4 times a year at the cost of $19.95 per quarter($79.8 per year). No trial period.

Credit scores from Experian

  • Experian offers a 30-day free trial of the Triple Advantage program, through which you can get all 3 credit reports and Experian Plus Score. Note that the Plus score offered by Experian is not your FICO score. Plus and FICO are similar scoring systems but not the same. Personally, I only care about the FICO scores…so this doesn’t sound attractive to me. Potential cost of laziness (if you don’t cancel within your trial period) is $12.95 per month. (annual cost: $155.4)
  • A one-time, non-subscription purchase of Experian credit report and score will cost you $15.
  • Experian also offers credit scores calculated using a new credit rating called VantageScore for $5.95. Again, as in the case of the Plus score, this score has nothing to do with your FICO score and hence, doesn’t impress me.

Credit scores from Equifax

  • Equifax offers the Score Watch program through which you can get your FICO scores based on Equifax credit report. Monthly subscription cost is $8.95 and there is no free trial offer. (annual cost: $107.4)
  • Equifax also offers a non-subscription (one time purchase) program called Score Power for $15.95. With this you will get your Equifax credit report and your FICO score based on that report.

Other sources of credit scores

There are a multitude of third-party credit score providers that go through one of the above agencies to obtain your credit score. Personally, I would not punch in my all my personal information on such third party websites. Apart from the risk of having your identity stolen (or misused), there is also a risk of finding yourself signed up for a ton of trashy snail-mail and junk email if you go through some arbitrary credit score information provider. If you insist on using such websites, make sure you comb through the privacy statements and opt out of any optional services that they might stick to your application.

  • The only exception to this rule is AnnualCreditReport.com on which you can get a credit score for $7.95 with your once-a-year free credit report from each credit rating agency (I need to verify this in a better way). AnnualCreditReport.com does not offer credit score as it’s own product…ultimately it’s offered through the individual credit agency.

Credit scores directly from myFICO

Buying your scores directly from myFICO has one advantage..they are just FICO scores (duh!). myFICO offers 5 products as follows:

  • myFICO® Identity Theft Security Deluxe: this one gives TransUnion credit report and the corresponding FICO score at $4.95 per month. No free-trial offer. (available for 1 annual payment of $49.95)
  • Score Watch: provides Equifax credit report and corresponding FICO score for $8.95 per month. 30-day free trial is available with potential cost of laziness at $89.95.
  • FICO standard: just gives a one-time score and credit report for any of the three credit rating agencies for $15.95 each. This is an incredibly bad deal…just stay away from this one.
  • FICO Deluxe: All three credit reports and credit scores with a one-time purchase for $47.85.
  • Suze Orman’s FICO kit: Suze Orman’s advice and all three credit reports and credit scores with a one-time purchase for $49.95. I don’t know why myFICO has special love for Suze Orman. But, it is noted that the product above (FICO Deluxe) has everything except the Suze Orman advice and it just costs $2.1 less than this Orman-endorsing product. I wonder if Orman’s advice is not much worth than $2.1 then, is it? :) I won’t recommend this.

Some recommendations on purchasing credit scores for cheap

[Updated March 27th, 2007: according to TransUnion, it does not provide *FICO* scores on www.transunion.com. When I called them up to ask about checking my FICO scores, they directed me to www.transunioncs.com. The following information has been updated to reflect the change]

Based on the above information, it is clear that the cheapest way to get your credit scores is by signing up for free trials and cancelling them before the trial period expires (some people may have ethical issues here and I understand that). If you are just looking at scores for one-time comparison purposes, here are my top recommendations:

  • If you want a score based on Equifax credit report, the best option is available on myFICO website through the Score Watch program. Free trial for 30 days. If you forget to cancel, it’s $8.95 per month.
  • If you have exhausted the free trial offers in the past, your next best bet is myFICO® Identity Theft Security Deluxe through myFICO website for getting a TransUnion credit report and score. Cancelling within a month will cost you just $4.95.
  • If you want to look at all three credit scores and reports just once using a single product, your best choice is FICO Deluxe through myFICO website. It will cost you $47.85. Alternatively, you could buy individual credit scores from myFICO website for Equifax ( Score Watch , $0 free trial - cancel within one month), TransUnion (myFICO® Identity Theft Security Deluxe, $4.95 - cancel within one month), and Experian (FICO Standard, $15.95)…this way all three credit scores will cost you only $20.9. Just remember to cancel them during the trial period.
  • Stay away from Experian’s website unless you want the Plus score or the VantageScore.
  • Stay away from TransUnion’s www.transunion.com website. FICO scores are only available on www.transunioncs.com.

If you are looking for year-round continuous monitoring, then go for this:

  • myFICO® Identity Theft Security Deluxe ($49.95 per year, no free trial) for TransUnion credit report and score. A better option is to purchase the plan and then cancel within a month. That will cost you just $4.95 per month. Doing this every three months will cost you just $19.8 per year……and quarterly monitoring is sufficiently *continuous* for credit scores, in my opinion.

Update: Free credit score offer suggested by a reader

An avid reader of this blog, Gaming the Credit System, mentioned a credit card offer from Washington Mutual that comes with free online acces to credit score. In case you find the card attractive, the free score is an additional incentive. :) Thanks GCS.

Most credit scores will come in a combination of score+ credit report, so don’t go about buying a separate report if you are ordering a score.That’s all for now, good luck with your next credit score purchase. I think by now you fully understand why this stuff may be really confusing to some people. :) If you have something more to add, just drop a line and I will include it.

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{ 53 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Sun 03.06.07 at 11:59 am

I always buy FICO score directly from FICO (now $15.99 for one score and one report) and from the same agency. In this way, I can compare the changes over time. In addition, I get a free credit report every four months from annualcreditreport to monitor the activities. Personally, I don’t feel it’s very useful to use the credit monitoring service.

2 golbguru 03.06.07 at 12:08 pm

Sun, that’s an expensive option. :) I hope you have some use of the cheaper options that I have listed above. How many times to do purchase the credit report per years? As I understand, the $15.99 is a one-time charge product (not a subscription)…and you will have access to your data only for 30 days after paying that amount.

Yeah, I am not all that supportive of continuous monitoring either. But some people might still prefer it. Btw, if you buy your score and report at $15.99 for 4 or more times a year, you are already spending an amount almost equal to the cheapest continuous monitoring product.

I have exhausted the free trials, so I check my score by pulling up the $4.95 TransUnion score + report option that I mentioned, every 3~4 months.

3 Gaming the Credit System 03.06.07 at 1:12 pm

As I have written here, I get a monthly free FICO score from my Washington Mutual credit card. I haven’t used the card at all for over a year. I just log in every month to check my credit score. When I want to see a full report (not very often), I buy one from MyFICO or use AnnualCreditReport.com.

Thanks for the rundown of the options, golbguru.

4 BudgetFreak 03.06.07 at 5:08 pm

Nice! Thanks for putting this together.

I know it’s generally better to know your score BEFORE you apply for a loan, but usually the loan company will tell you your credit score after you’ve applied. You just have to ask for it.

5 golbguru 03.06.07 at 9:29 pm

Gaming the Credit System: thanks for the input, I think I will mention a link to a specific post on your blog that talks about Washington Mutual’s free score offer. If I understand it correctly, it’s a one-year trial offer, right?

Budget Freak: Thanks for the info.

Let me tell you why I prefer it prior to applying. A couple of months ago, my brother was looking for a car loan…and we were not sure what interest rate he would get for his credit score….so we were looking at about 5~6 places for the loan. Obviously, if he had applied to 5 places..there would have been 5 hard credit inquiries on his credit report (which would have knocked off some points of his score eventually)…and that wasn’t good because he is looking to borrow some more in the coming year or two.

So what we did is, we pulled up his credit score…and then approached some local credit unions. Even before he applied, he showed the credit score to the managers and asked them to estimate what the loan interest would be for this score.

That worked like a charm, and he hit the sweet spot with the third bank and made a formal application there. So instead of 3 credit inquiries, he got away with just one and also got the rate he wanted. All three banks he visited had some kind of a interest rate-credit score lookup table, from which they estimated his interest rate. I don’t know if this will work for everyone, but there is no harm in trying such a thing.

6 Gaming the Credit System 03.07.07 at 7:34 am

Actually, no, it’s a continuous thing for as long as you have the card. You log in to the WaMu website and they have a special page that shows you your score, along with the past year’s worth of monthly scores (although obviously it only tracks for as long as you’ve been a customer).

And w/r/t your reply to Budget Freak, supposedly FICO has an algorithm to limit the effect of multiple hard hits within a short period of time when you’re shopping for an auto or home loan. They encourage people to shop for loans and as long as all of the inquiries take place within 2 weeks or 45 days (depending on the formula), they shouldn’t affect your score more than a single inquiry would (which is to say, barely if at all). See for more info. Also, the “inquiries lower my credit score” effect is highly overstated by most people. The most it would ever count is 10% or about 50 points. I wrote about this issue in January.

7 golbguru 03.07.07 at 7:51 am

GCS: I will go over the details of the WaMu thing and will include it in the article when I am done.

I do understand that inquiries are not too much of a worry. But, FICO website says:

Inquiries can have a greater impact, however, if you have few accounts or a short credit history.

I think that’s what we were worried about. My brother doesn’t have those two things in his favor.

But then here is what I found on the same page (about the inquiry-limiting algorithm that you mentioned):

Looking for a mortgage or an auto loan may cause multiple lenders to request your credit report, even though youre only looking for one loan. To compensate for this, the score ignores all mortgage and auto inquiries made in the 30 days prior to scoring. So if you find a loan within 30 days, the inquiries won’t affect your score while you’re rate shopping. In addition, the score looks on your credit report for auto or mortgage inquiries older than 30 days. If it finds some, it counts all those inquiries that fall in a typical shopping period as just one inquiry when determining your score.

I am an idiot for not reading that before.

8 Sun 03.07.07 at 8:21 am

It’s true that when you have multiple inquiries in a span of a couple of days, they all will be treated as a single inquire, indicating that you are shopping around for one credit. And this is why people can apply dozens of credit cards in one single day (App-o-roma) for the sole purpose of 0% BT without worrying too much about their credit scores getting a big hit. You need to know the rules if you want to play the game :D.

9 golbguru 03.07.07 at 8:47 am

Sun: I am not sure that’s applicable to credit card inquiries. The FICO website specifically states that “the score ignores all mortgage and auto inquiries made in the 30 days prior to scoring”…if this is true then, it’s not applicable to credit cards.

There are two implications in what they say. First, it’s about mortgage and auto loan and second, there has to be a “scoring” at some point of time…meaning you should have at least one of them approved and availed.

Also, for those of us who are doing balance transfers (including me)..I think the effect of credit inquiries are relatively small as compared to the effect of carrying huge balances immediately after the cards are approved. So even if some of us loose a lot of points for credit inquiries, there is no way to separate the two effects. I don’t have any controlled experimental proof for this claim….although I might try something soon.

10 Mandie 03.07.07 at 9:16 am

Getting your actual credit score is actually harming your score. So it may be cheap in price, but it brings your points down in the end.

11 golbguru 03.07.07 at 9:21 am

Mandie: that’s not true. :) but probably many people have that misconception. You can check you own credit score as many times as you want.

From myFICO website, here are the things that won’t effect your credit score.

“Your own credit report requests, credit checks made by businesses to offer you goods or services, or inquiries made by businesses with whom you already have a credit account do not count toward your FICO score. Credit checks by prospective employers also do not count. These types of inquiries may appear on your credit report, but they are not included in your FICO score.”

12 Gaming the Credit System 03.07.07 at 9:37 am

golbguru,

“Also, for those of us who are doing balance transfers (including me)..I think the effect of credit inquiries are relatively small as compared to the effect of carrying huge balances immediately after the cards are approved.”

This is another misconception (assuming that I’m reading you correctly). See my post about the credit/limit ratio. If you open up a new card and transfer a balance to it, the immediate effect on your credit score should be go to up. Look at the effect:

Before: 2 credit cards, Credit Card A has limit of $5000 and balance of $4500, Credit Card B has limit of $3000 and balance of $2500 (total limit ratio 7/8 — pretty bad for your credit score)

After: one new inquiry (minimal effect on your credit score), Credit Card A limit $5000 new balance $0, Credit Card B limit $3000 new balance $0, new Credit Card C limit $10,000 balance $7000. Total limit ratio now is 7/18 = pretty decent (less than 50%), and I would expect to see a bump in your credit score in the 75-100 point range (assuming no other changes).

Almost this exact scenario happened to me, as you can read in the post I linked.

13 Sun 03.07.07 at 9:58 am

As I understand, the credit card inquiries won’t be “ignored” as you said for mortgage and auto loan, but multiple inquiries will be treated as one instead of multiples. Personally, I never applied more than one credit card at the same time, so I don’t have first hand experience, but from what I heard from other people, this seems to be true (I am pretty sure nobody wants to have a dozens of hard inquiries show up on their report).

Yes, checking your credit score directly from the agencies won’t affect your score. But if this is down through a third party (like freecreditreport), then it will probably be different.

14 R.G. 03.07.07 at 6:12 pm

I have enjoyed reading your blog.

Why are you only interested in FICO scores?

It is the most popular score but it is not the only score businesses use when trying to decide whether or to give you credit.

Also just so you know there is more than one version of the FICO score. The FiCO score has been developed over time and different businesses use different versions of the score . The vantage score may be the most accurate of them all for predicting derogatory activity it was developed jointly by all 3 credit bureaus.

15 golbguru 03.08.07 at 5:24 am

R.G. : Simple answer: Habit. :)
Seriously, I have never giving a thought to other credit scores. Also, since I am interested in tracking my score over a period of time, and have been using FICO in the past..I want to stick with it just to be consistent.

Yeah, I am aware of the two FICO scores…but I am hoping that most businesses use the later version of the score (post 1989 or something?). Have you heard (or come across) a business that’s using the older versions? It will be interesting to know what kind of people still use the earlier FICO algorithm.

Hopefully, in future, VantageScore will get more visibility…and then I will also start using it as my tracking score. From what I know, it definitely reduces the confusion..and is probably a bit more accurate.

16 anonymous 03.14.07 at 6:47 am

If you have Suze Orman’s new book, you can use the code to log onto her website for additional material. There, you can get her $49.99 3-score FICO kit from myFICO.com for 20% off.

17 golbguru 03.14.07 at 12:07 pm

Till March 31st, you can directly go to myFICO.com and use this code: 6YEAR
That will give you 20% off on any myFICO products.

18 Uncle Foobar 03.18.07 at 9:23 pm

One Fico Score warning: Beware of Countrywide Bank and opening a CD.

These jerks hit my credit score even though **i was lending *** them money!

I hope they burn in sub-prime lending hell…they deserve it.

Foob

19 Anon 03.20.07 at 1:14 pm

After subscribing to the TransUnion/TrueCredit 3in1 Credit Monitoring program I discovered a 60 point difference in their score and the score from myFICO.com both based on my Equifax credit report. It turns out that they give a Trans-Risk score for all 3 reports and not a FICO score as claimed in this article.

20 golbguru 03.20.07 at 1:19 pm

Did you read the in the above post? If you didn’t, please read it now…carefully. :)

Watch out for this “3-in-1 Credit Report and Free Score” one-time purchase offer from TransUnion for $29.95. This is a different offer than the two above and it provides a *TransUnion* credit score….not a FICO score.

21 Anon 03.21.07 at 5:25 am

“It also offers a 3-Bureau Credit Monitoring program for $14.95 per month. No free-trial offer. This thing provides all three credit reports and all three FICO scores. (annual cost: $179.4)”

I bought the Monitoring program for $14.95, not the one time purchase.

22 MARIA 03.21.07 at 5:51 am

THIS INFORMATION WAS VERY HELPFUL, I’M LOOKING TO REFINANCE MY AUTO THRU STATEFARM AND THEY TOLD ME THEY ONLY USE TRANS UNION. SO ALSO I WAS LOOKING FOR A WAY TO PULL MY REPORT NOW AND THEN AGAIN IN AUGUST TO SEE IF THERE AS BEEN ANY CHANGE. WHAT DO YOU THINK, I WOULD LIKE TO KNOW MY FICO FROM ALL THREE AGENCY.

23 golbguru 03.21.07 at 7:09 am

Anon: I will try to verify this with TransUnion. In the meantime, if you suspect that the score is not FICO score, I suggest you cancel you membership asap. TranUnion does not *publicize* the 30-day trial period for the product you mention, but I remember seeing something about it in the fine print that goes with your product. Please read the fine print again and see if you can get your money back.

24 Anon 03.21.07 at 9:38 am

Thanks! I’d be curious to know what you find. I suppose it’s entirely possible that the person I spoke with was confused about which product I had purchased, although they did pull my account up before taking my question. I was just shocked to find a 60 point difference between the score from myFICO, which is known to be a FICO score, and the one from TrueCredit/TransUnion’s monitoring. It’s such a frustration since I am trying to see if I could qualify for an intro 0% credit card for an extremely urgent and important purchase and one score puts me in the fair category and the other good.

25 golbguru 03.21.07 at 10:47 am

Anon: As luck would have it…TransUnion’s “Truecredit.com” website (the one that handles all the credit score stuff) is down since morning.
However, I have sent them an email about these questions and hopefully we will have an answer by tomorrow. None of the phone numbers they list on their website is of any use (I hate it when that happens)

26 golbguru 03.23.07 at 7:20 am

Anon: You are right. I was on the phone with a TransUnion representative and he told me that scores available at http://www.transunion.com are NOT FICO scores. Like you said, they are Trans-Risk scores. To get your FICO scores from TransUnion, visit this website:
http://www.transunioncs.com

I have no idea why would transunion sell different scores on different websites.
Thanks for bringing this to my notice. I will be changing the content soon to reflect this change.

27 golbguru 03.23.07 at 7:30 am

MARIA: your best option is to just go for TransUnion scores by using this:

myFICO® Identity Theft Security Deluxe through myFICO website. Cancel it within a month and it will cost you just $4.95.

For all 3 credit scores…let me get to this new monster: http://www.transunioncs.com and I will have some fresh information for you on that.

28 m.l. 03.24.07 at 6:22 pm

Price is not the ONLY ISSUE here! Some of those reports you’re going after are WORTHLESS, in fact MOST of them are!
Let me share my last year + with you kind folks! During that time I have been attempting to correct my husband’s credit scores. I have never been thru anything as frustrating, unfair, unjust, malicious, callus, damaging, expensive, incompetent, uncaring, unprofessional, idiotic, etc., etc., etc., in my 50+ life!!! And I’ve been thru some whoppers! FICO scores are the important ones. So, according to CreditFactors.com, (and they tell you how to get some free reports too) if you MUST see what is REALLY going on for, say a mortgage, get the FICO scores. For credit cards and auto loans you’ll be needing to look at Fair Isaacs Beacon scores. Since you’re talking scores, tri-merged, TU, Experian, and Equifax let me say…the TU reports from TrueCredit, I also thought were the best deal like some of you, but it is the WORST!!! I cost us 30 points on our scores when I watched, watched and watched our TU score on their site, and after months of disputing and it not budging a point one way or the other, I made a bold move in disputing a point on a VERY good acct and hence, it was DELETED! THEN TU hounded our local bank, when I told them NOT to even contact them again, and today I find out that the bank deleted like 10 of our beneficial accounts! The banker loves to play power and was really pretty antagonistic about having to report on those accounts at all, so he just didn’t the last time when TU was stupid enough to push him one more time! How much motivation in this world has come from how BANKERS have treated us??? This small town banker in as much called me a liar when he said, “oh, those credit reports are probably NOT wrong! They are probably CORRECT!” AH!!! That stupid score on that stupid TU site STILL HASN’T MOVED in 6+ MONTHS!!!! …neither has the other two CRA scores shown there! I’ve checked the true FICO scores and reports and went straight to the TU site (TruCredit, etc.) and they were WAY, WAY, WAY off! That TU site is worthless and I wrote that to their corporate office, but never heard a word. I’m going to ask for months and months of subscriber fees be returned. We’ll see!

There’s been a law suit over the Suze Orman items on the FICO site. The plaintiff said they were led to believe if they followed the advise given on this site, their scores would go up, and in fact they went DOWN. THAT’s WHAT WILL HAPPEN MOST TIMES YOU BLINDLY FOLLOW THOSE SUGGESTIONS ON THOSE SITES…the scores actually go DOWN! There’s so many factors in play that are not explained…again, keeping us in the dark!!
The CreditExpert site is pointless as well as is the mycreditreport.com. The evening that I looked at the mycreditkeeper.com report was the FIRST TIME EVER that I saw the reports’ accounts, good and bad, and their effects shown in a CHART, ANYWHERE. The chart shows all the accounts from ALL 3 bureaus listed in decending order of importance on your score. The negative accounts report, of course, to the negative side, etc. Since then I’ve figured out that some of the other tri-merged accounts have the same…like privacyguard.com and it sounds like identity guard might show the same. CreditFactor.com that is a forum of consumers with issues like these talk about what to do with a monitor that is taking these jerks to court, one at a time and she’s not even a lawyer. [There's a $5,000 fine (at least in IL)for each issue the CRAs do not correct and report properly BUT you must file in Civil Court]. Small Claims court is a place to try it too, but the fines only apply in Civil Court as I understand. This is what helped me AFTER probably 11 months see what accounts were reporting incorrectly on the reports! Aging is tough to catch, but if you have, for example, a 7 yr old acct with late payments, but it is “aged” showing that those lates were say, in 2006 instead, it will devastate your scores! We had an ‘01 bankruptcy and it was discharged in ‘02. I’ve read that people with correct reporting can have a score in the 700s TWO years after bankruptcy, and we’re at 7 years and still not there because of the mistakes, errors, new errors, incompetence…don’t get me started! The scores were actually better BEFORE I started this project!!! Soooo, I have a YEAR and NOTHING TO SHOW FOR IT!
The consensus of those that experience what I have is to go to COURT! These CRAs are LEGALLY supposed to work to report what is true. They are supposed to be diligent! AH!!! They are costing us all money on our mortgages, insurance, car financing, etc., etc., etc.,….fact is, they love to keep us in the subprime market since sooo many make soooo much more $ off of keeping us under their thumbs! Capital One even has a sneaky and creepy way of reporting that assures IT WILL HURT YOUR SCORES!!!! It has to do with the all powerful B/L ratios. I’m not one to EVER give up and especially not EASILY but this experience has STUMPED me! Truth doesn’t win. Honesty doesn’t win. Facts don’t win. (TU has had me send them the same BANKRUPCY docs 4 times now.!!! The women at the courthouse are ready to kill us as well! It’s just MAJOR incompetence I tell you!) Equifax has their calls go to Jamaica to their call center there and the reps are told to keep each call to FOUR minutes and the processors are to complete 250 cases a day!!! Doesn’t sound like there’s much time for “in depth truth revealing/finding” work there does it? For those of you worried about not paying enough money for these reports, Equifax was listed in Money Magazines’ top FIVE income companies at millions and millions of income! And they’re simply selling us our own information and in our case, our own INCORRECT information! Experian has had us living in Huntington Beach, CA now for years. We’ve told them over and over that we’ve NEVER EVEN BEEN THERE, but they just say “we get the addresses from credit grantors or public records!!!” So they think we don’t know where we’ve lived!!??

After months and months of this battle…Experian only lets you dispute the same item really like ONE time, so after that you have to fax or write since they stop taking your calls and put you over to the automated system(they had my husband filing bankruptcy 4 x in 2 years and NO DATES were correct even the YEARS!!!) Once you dispute, you are open season!!! I can’t begin to tell you how many NEW mistakes were added too, now looking back, the once simple mistakes! All 3 bureaus were reporting a Cap One acct that was included in a 2001 bankruptcy as currently delinquent and currently past due like 90 days –aging to 2006! When I asked Cap One to report to the CRAs to clear it up, it THEN showed us with a brand new bankruptcy!!! You can dispute for months to get one date changed on your report that’s killing your score, and still not get it done! Equifax was reporting an old mortgage as open to the tune of $1000+ pmt per month so I asked them to show it as closed; so they didn’t show as closed, they just DELETED!!! NOT the mortgage but a GOOD auto loan from the same bank; and when I pointed that out; they proceeded to delete the good old mortgage as well! TWO GOOD ACCOUNTS GONE IN A FLASH! THEY DON’T CARE!
I’ve read that others report the same thing…with corrections you’ll get countless deletions of GOOD accounts and here’s a good one for you….a DELETED account can NEVER report and count toward your FICO score AGAIN! That’s who loosing these good accounts to malicious deletions is soooo damaging. (ONE TIME I had a VERY KNOWLEDGABLE Equifax rep on the phone after threatening court, that told me if you have the creditor call the business office of the CRA, they will tell the creditor how to report it so that it WILL count, but no one else has heard of that one, but I’m willing to try!?)
SOOOOOOOOOOOOO, save your money. The CRAs are RICH enough at our expense. There’s some great reading in regards to how little they care about their reporting CORRECT information, so roll up your sleeves! See you in court. CreditFactors.com says they will only fix the system when it costs more to go to court and the litigation expense, than it costs to be malicious and careless in their reporting.

29 golbguru 03.26.07 at 2:05 pm

m.l: wow ! that’s a lot of information. I appreciate the time you have taken to share your experiences with us. I have a few comments, but it will take me a while to gather my thoughts on your information.

30 Anon 03.28.07 at 11:23 am

Thanks for checking that out!

31 Jeff 04.05.07 at 12:43 pm

I can attest to the TransUnion chaos as well. I just now from reading know there is another TransUnion page.

I currently have the monitoring through Equifax. I recently gathered the FICO through Equifax and Experian and both of them were almost identical, so I assume they were correct.

However, on the TransUnion(whichever the bad page) had my score at 60 lower. So now knowing that wasn’t a true FICO, I am assuming now that the Washington Mutual card (which I have had) is using the wrong scores (not FICO). Just a little FYI…

32 Jeff 04.05.07 at 1:13 pm

Just an update. Got my correct FICO through TU and it is indeed 60pts higher than the other TU site AND the WashingtonMutual info…so don’t rely on WaMu to provide the accurate info.

Best,

Jeff

33 Reverend Ike 05.22.07 at 4:52 pm

Golbguru - Great informative article!

Regarding the Providian/Washington Mutual score - it is actually what is referred to as the “bankcard-enhanced” FICO score, which is what many (most?) credit card companies use when qualifying applicants. If your credit card history is especially positive, your bankcard-enhanced score will be higher than the classic FICO score you receive from MyFico or TransUnionCS. If your credit card history has negatives, the bankcard-enhanced score will be lower than your classic FICO score, which is likely the situation in Jeff’s case.

Note: Most Providian/WaMu customers receive a “bankcard-enhanced” FICO score based on their TransUnion credit file, but some will receive a score based on their Experian credit file - it depends on their geographic location.

There are other special FICO scores, such as an “auto-enhanced” FICO score used by car dealers, so in some cases the classic FICO score the consumer receives may differ slightly from the FICO score being reviewed by the lender.

34 Michael 10.20.07 at 5:09 pm

There is another credit card company that offers free “Trans Risk Score” (whatever THAT is) http://www.juniper.com However if you compare the score from Washinton Mutual and Juniper to the credit reporting agencies they are vastly different. WTF??

For example my scores are as follows:

Trans Risk Score: 562
Wamu Fico Score: 625
Equifax or Experian: 690
(don’t remember which)

And from THAT I am supposed to make educated financial decisions? Then when I am turned down for a credit card offer that was solicited to me, I am told “time too recent since last delinquency.” I’ve got a perfect credit history with all of my credit cards one even having a $10k limit. The “delinquecy” is a disputed phone bill (fraudulent use of my calling card) over 4 years ago. Give me a break, the scoring system is so abitrary, sometimes I am given reasons that don’t even make sense or contradict exactly what my report would state.

It is arbitrary or it wouldn’t be so secretive.

35 berryb 02.21.08 at 7:35 pm

I am applying for mortgage and the banks
are telling me that the experian site
that I have been using consistently posts
scores 50-100 points higher than
what the bank says they are pulling.

I say its all a conspiracy

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