It is important for consumers to know their FICO score and negotiate loans from a position of strength since all three major credit reporting agencies can vary widely in their assessments. Higher scores save money upfront and for the duration of the loan's term.
Credit Bureaus Analysis
Consumers need to know which credit agency shows the highest FICO score and be armed with that information when applying for a loan. Prospective home owners have a right to know which agency was used by the lender to make a determination on what type of loan they are qualified for and the interest rates they will be paying.
Both Equifax and Trans Union have the highest FICO score and Trans Union has the lowest of all three.
- Equifax FICO score ranges from 300 (low) to 850 (high)
- Experian FICO Score ranges from 330 (low) to 830 (high)
- Trans Union FICO score ranges from 150 (low) to 850 (high)
Someone with a FICO score of 830 from Experian is as credit-worthy as someone whose loan was based on Trans Union's highest score of 850.
Determining FICO Scores
The word 'FICO' is an acronym for Fair Isaac and Company, the father of the software used by all credit agancies. There are three major credit reporting agencies: Trans Union, Equifax and Experian. All three agencies calculate an individual's FICO score based on at least one account that has been active for a minimum of six months and shows regular activity.
The three major reporting agencies arrive at FICO scores based on different software models:
- Experian uses Fair Isaac Risk Model.
- Equifax uses BEACON
- Trans Union uses EMPIRICA which has a 2004 and 2009 version.
The different software used by the major reporting agencies accounts for the different ranges in FICO scores and the variations in contents found or missing in each consumer file contribute heavily to the final numbers.
Lenders FICO Scores
Banks and credit unions use a tri-merge reporting system not available to consumers in order to reach a final number. Paid services from the major agencies do not provide consumers with their true FICO scores. Consumers get what is called a FAKO score (a play on words on FICO). FAKO scores are not the real FICO scores obtained by banks and credit unions but a generalized number based on the contents of the reports. In order to get the real FICO scores used by lending institutions, consumers can do the following:
- Request a copy of the tri-merge report used by their lender.
- Obtain a copy from myFICO.com called BEACON 5.0 that includes FICO scores from Trans Union and Experian.
Equifax FICO scores can only be obtained from the lender that accepted or rejected the application.
Individuals and those with joint credit should request their credit reports from all credit bureaus to ensure all information from all three reporting agencies is accurate and current, since FICO scores are a snap shot taken at various times and all credit bureaus obtain and update information at different intervals.
It is easy to obtain a free annual report and compare the three to make corrections immediately. Upon correction request, consumers are entitled to receive another report to compare the two versions or to view them online. Consumers denied credit at any time are entitled to a free report from the agency used by the lender.
- Your Credit Scores: http://www.pueblo.gsa.gov/cic_text/money/creditscores/your.htm
MyFICO: Financial Help Center: http://www.myfico.com/HelpCenter/FICOScores/Making_Major_Purchase.aspx