Three new credit scores you should be aware of
Published On May 25th, 2009

FICO has announced three more new scores to be released some time this month. These new scores and details about those score are:

1.      The FICO Mortgage Score – This score is actually a variation of the FICO score currently available at Equifax, which is called BEACON. This new score, which comes at the request of players in the mortgage industry, is meant to give them a better understanding of credit risk posed by mortgage borrowers rather than just general credit risk across all different types of accounts. This new score is what’s referred to in the credit scoring industry as an “Industry Option” score. The Industry Option score uses the standard FICO score as a foundation and then adjusts that score up or down based on the consumer’s credit risk for a specific type of loan, in this case a mortgage loan. So, for example, if my FICO score at Equifax is 750 but I’ve managed my previous mortgage loans very responsibly it is likely that my mortgage score will be slightly higher. This is because I actually pose less risk to mortgage lenders because I’ve exhibited that I can manage mortgage debt based on previous experience, which is displayed on my Equifax credit report. This score will be available some time in April.

2. The FICO Auto Score – The industry option scores do not stop for just mortgage lenders. There is actually an entire suite of these scores available for other lenders as well. They are available for credit card issuers, auto lenders, personal finance lenders and installment lenders. TransUnion will be making the FICO Auto Industry Option score available immediately to lenders who loan money to consumers who are buying a car, new or used, or are refinancing an existing car loan. The new auto score is expected to easily outperform the previous auto score version at TransUnion. According to FICO,

3.      The FICO Bankcard Score –  In addition to the auto score available at TransUnion FICO has also made available it’s newest Industry Option score designed specifically for credit card issuers. This new score, called the Bankcard Industry Option, does the same things as the mortgage and auto versions, which is to give credit card issuers a better crystal ball to use when making decisions about whether or not to approved or deny credit card applications and whether or not to modify the terms of an existing credit card customer’s account. It’s my belief that of all of the industry specific scores, this is the most commonly used. According to FICO this newer score will also do a better job of identifying riskier credit card users than the previous version of the same score. According to FICO, “…testing found that the new scores could potentially increase issuers\’ delinquency prediction rates by 6 percent to 12 percent…” This is a significant improvement especially when you apply the average loss of a credit card account for a major credit card issuer who might have 30 million active credit cards in circulation.

One of the biggest hurdles to implementing one of these new scores is the work to accommodate a new, different scoring model. This is one of the reasons VantageScore, a product of the credit bureau’s joint venture VantageScore Solutions hasn’t done well. It’s a different score with a different score range and likely performs very differently than a FICO score.

In order to make the transition from previous versions of FICO to these newer scores as painless as possible FICO has done a good job of keeping the structure of the newer scores identical to that of the older versions. The score range is still 300 to 850. And the new scores maintain the same set of adverse action codes, also commonly referred to as score factor codes or reason codes. They have also maintained the same minimum scoring criteria, which means if a bank has traditionally seen a 2% “no score” rate, they should continue to see the same.

FICO releases a new generation of scoring models every few years for each of the three national credit reporting agencies; Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. And in most cases it doesn’t make the headlines when it happens. Given the current state of the economy and especially the credit environment any time a newer better score becomes available it seems to draw more attention. This probably won’t change any time soon.

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