Not almost 30 percent

“Keeping revolving credit low can have a positive impact on an individual’s credit score, since this accounts for almost 30 percent of a typical score.”  – A Fair Isaac press release, December, 2012

Let’s say we have 100 loaves of bread. There are two categories: Baked, and not yet baked (still dough).

There are 30 loaves in the baked category, and there are 6 types of loaves within that 30:

1   white
1   wheat
1   sourdough
1   French
25  rye
1   multigrain

If we add the 70 loaves that are not yet baked, the total is 100.

1   white
1   wheat
1   sourdough
1   French
25  rye
1   multigrain
70  not yet baked

Is it honest to say that almost 30 percent of the loaves are rye?

FICO score Credit utilization, Wall Street Journal, 2012-12-01

From: Greg Fisher []
Sent: Sunday, December 02, 2012 11:29 AM
To: Rupert Murdoch, chairman and CEO, News Corporation (via Julie Henderson)
Cc: Karen Blumenthal, columnist, Getting Going, Wall Street Journal, News Corporation; Karen Blumenthal (2)
Subject: credit score, Credit utilization, Wall Street Journal, 2012-12-01

You published:

Apart from what you actually owe, it especially helps to have unused credit available. “Credit utilization“—how much of your credit you actually use—accounts for 30% of the credit-score calculation. While the rule of thumb is to keep your credit use to no more than a third of your available credit, FICO high achievers use, on average, a skimpy 7% of the credit available to them.

However, according to Fair Isaac, 30% is a number referring to the importance of a category in calculating a FICO score called “Amounts Owed,” not “Credit utilization.”  And, Amounts owed is driven by half a dozen factors, not just utilization.  Fair Isaac explains that one of the items in the category is, indeed, “How much of the total credit line is being used and other ‘revolving’ credit accounts,” but it is only one of 6 items in that segment, and, in fact, is listed fifth.

One of the other items (one that you failed to mention) is “The amount owed on different types of accounts.”  That introduces the idea of scoring based on specific types of loans—credit cards and installment accounts, for example.  Another is, merely, “How many accounts have balances,” which has nothing to do with how much credit is actually used.

In 2009, a Fair Isaac spokesman told me: “When my company explains FICO scoring to a general audience, we apply general weights to major data categories such as, ‘Amounts Owed is 30 percent of a typical consumer’s score.’ We don’t break that weighting into finer parts for individual factors, both to avoid unintentionally misleading the public and to protect the model’s proprietary information. “

But if all of that is not overt enough for you, try this.  Using the same words (apparently finally giving in, using the same, popular, over-simplifying street term) you use, Fair Isaac mentions this about the 30% category:  “Credit utilization, one of the factors evaluated in this category, considers the amount you owe compared to how much credit you have available.”

So, now we finally know—in words straight from the horse’s mouth—that “Credit utilization” (despite wacky Wikipedia‘s inaccurate information) does not account for 30 percent of the score calculation; it is only one of the factors in the 30% category (and we have only a vague idea of its weight).  What is not clear about that?  You used quotation marks around the term credit utilization.  Who are you quoting?

And, whose rule of thumb is it to use no more than a third of available credit?  Is there some plateau at 33 percent?  Are there only diminishing returns below that?

The state of the fourth estate is pathetic, so I created a website to deal with your industry’s poor attitude regarding accuracy.  Corrections are published on Page A2.

Finally, what are you doing about my comments that you removed?

Greg Fisher
The Credit Scoring Site
Page A2
PO Box 342
Dayton, Ohio  45409-0342

[UPDATE, 2012-12-03 5:30 PM EST: Continued on Page A2]

Some have no credit score

In a commentary for UPI, Morgan Strong wrote

There is another thing far more certain than mere superstition that awaits the  newborn. There is a Social Security number and a credit rating. Beginning with  our squalling breech of the womb, we are marked by this obscenity. This marking,  indelible yet unseen, our credit score, will continue throughout our lives and  in effect compel us to make the choice of the path we are to follow.

That is inaccurate.  Consumer reporting agency files are not recorded and retained on the newborn.  If there is no information on a consumer, then there is no credit score.  According to the state of New York Department of State, Division of Consumer Protection, “The credit agencies do not knowingly keep credit files on minors.”


Average credit scores by state

Recently, Fair Isaac (FICO) asked the provocative question, “How does your #FICO Score compare to the rest of the US?”

The accompanying link leads a new homepage at the company’s consumer-oriented website,  It features an interactive map of the United States on which you can see a national average credit score (692) and averages for individual states.  The state with the highest average credit score in the country is North Dakota, at 720.

The map below shows the above average states in green, and the below average states in white.

US states with above average credit scores

The state-by-state breakdown is a departure for FICO, who has never answered the same type of illustration published years ago by national consumer reporting agency and competitor Experian.  Unfortunately the basis for the Experian map was the infamous Fake-O score, the PLUS score.  But despite that, let’s face it:  It was, frankly, full of Fake-O FICO funky fun.  Fair Isaac gets that.

Today, for its part, Experian seems to have moved on to yet another gambit: The highly-touted (media are suckers for anything new), VantageScore. (the address that previously hosted the map) now forwards to something called Live Credit Smart (click on “The State of Credit” on the left menu).  The interactive PLUS score map (similar to FICO’s) that was on the homepage at is now at (if you care).

Confused about which score is relevant?  You should be.  In 2008, FICO told that the TransUnion version sold on is FICO Risk Score, Classic 98 which is not the model mentioned in the Fannie Mae lending guidelines (section B3-5.1-01 (p. 427, pdf p. 455)).  On the other hand, the Equifax score at myFICO is, indeed, the same score mentioned by Fannie.  But, the one thing that the score used for mortgage lending or even the score is not is something called “FICO 8.”  Fair Isaac states, “When a significant number of lenders have upgraded, we will work with the credit reporting agencies to provide FICO 8 scores to consumers here on myFICO.”

Yet, FICO 8 is the score model in countless blog posts by FICO personnel as if it is significant.  They have not mentioned the shiny new map.  Yesterday’s commentary about the distribution of consumers by score doesn’t even bring it up.

It is anybody’s guess which score model is represented in the US state map.  And it used to be all about the median not the mean (“average”).  And there is a new AOR (with the typical, cliché wordplay right in the press release title).  And a new CEO, a board member.  And no coming to terms with the employers thing even as the rest of the world is enlightened (albeit with, in one case, a strange, contradictory result).  Still, some keep the myth going.

Wonks, you have got to love this.  Stay tuned.

AP spreads credit score myth within story about myths

“In fact, FICO points out on its website that it’s illegal to consider age, race, religion, national origin, gender, and marital status in credit scoring.” – Associated Press

The law allows creditors to use age in properly designed scoring systems.” – Federal Trade Commission, United States of America

More AP nonsense


credit score, TIME: FICO suggests goodwill adjustment

For a while, the idea of the “goodwill adjustment” looked like it was dead.  It is a lie by a furnisher of information to consumer reporting agencies, and flies in the face of logic, ethics and, indeed, the law, which states

The banking system is dependent upon fair and accurate credit reporting. Inaccurate credit reports directly impair the efficiency of the banking system, and unfair credit reporting methods undermine the public confidence which is essential to the continued functioning of the banking system.

Regardless of that naive federal wish, Fair Isaac, the FICO score company leads the charge with regard to the practice touted by experts, disgruntled consumers and media.

According to TIME Moneyland, ( consumer operations manager Barry) “Paperno says you can request a ‘pay for delete’ agreement or ‘good will[SIC] adjustment’: you pay everything off in full and they remove the black mark from your report.”

Previously, TIME made a correction to one of its articles, although you would not necessarily know it.

In a day of loss of trust in bond rating agencies, the credit report goodwill adjustment baloney is a similar confusing signal in the consumer segment.  Taking the notion to the logical extreme, the consumer could withhold the last payment of an installment agreement unless the creditor agrees to remove all of the account’s history of late payments.  And why not?  Even FICO (with the help of TIME) suggests it.

You had better get on the moneywagon, too; the competition (the unethical consumer) is getting ahead.

“We have met the enemy and he is us.” – Pogo

consumer report accuracy, CDIA, Gannett, PERC, Arthur Andersen III

From: Greg Fisher []
Sent: Friday, June 17, 2011 8:55 AM
To: Stuart K. Pratt, president & CEO, Consumer Data Industry Association
Cc: Norm Magnuson, VP, public affairs, CDIA; Consumer Data Industry Association (CDIA)
Subject: RE: consumer report accuracy, CDIA, Gannett, PERC, Arthur Andersen III

See this message and your response at

You wrote: “The end result of PERC’s study is that conjecture and opinions about accuracy have been replaced by empirical data. This is the only independent third-party study ever undertaken.”

So, was the 1991 study not independent, not third-party, or not a study?


From: Greg Fisher []
Sent: Sunday, June 12, 2011 7:35 AM
To: Consumer Data Industry Association (CDIA)
Cc: Norm Magnuson, VP, public affairs, CDIA
Subject: RE: consumer report accuracy, CDIA, Gannett, PERC, Arthur Andersen II

Please reply.


From: Greg Fisher []
Sent: Tuesday, June 07, 2011 10:04 AM
To: Consumer Data Industry Association (CDIA)
Subject: consumer report accuracy, CDIA, Gannett, PERC, Arthur Andersen

So, was the 1991 study not independent, not third-party, or not a study?

Greg Fisher
The Credit Scoring Site
PO Box 342
Dayton, Ohio  45409-0342


CDIA responds to Gannett regarding credit report accuracy

Gannett’s USA Today editorialized, “Instead of putting its money into better dispute resolution, the industry is more interested in trying to prove that error rates are small.”

In an opposing view, consumer reporting industry trade organization, CDIA, said:  “The end result of PERC’s study is that conjecture and opinions about accuracy have been replaced by empirical data. This is the only independent third-party study ever undertaken.”

However, in 2001, Associated Credit Bureaus (now CDIA) said, “In the only statistically valid study conducted to date, Arthur Andersen concluded that in only two-tenths of one percent of the over 15,000 cases studied, were consumers denied a benefit based on an error in their credit report.”

UPDATE, 7/6/2011

Wikipedia states scores under 600 are “poor”

Wikipedia has an article about practically everything credit-related:, consumer credit risk, credit history, credit rating, credit score, credit score “(United States),” FICO, and on and on.

There is even an article about the number 600.  In it, a Wikipedian contends that 600 or below is a “poor” credit score, but does not identify the score model.

Of course, a 600 FICO score is a relative number; what is poor to one lender might be acceptable to another.  On its shining new website ScoreInfo, FICO credit score company Fair Isaac can’t seem to bring itself to even use the term.  And, while it calls 560 to 659 “Not good,” it says that some lenders will still approve loans at that range.  But, the Wizard takes a hard line in the next lower category.  It calls scores lower than 560 “Bad.”

Wikipedia removes one, but not all references to employers and scores

In the Wikipedia article Credit score, a Wikipedia editor removed the word employers from a typical series describing who uses credit scores:  “mobile phone companies, insurance companies, employers, landlords, and government departments.”

The Wikipedian noted: “It’s a common misconception/myth that potential employers receive credit scores. Their specific version of a credit report does not include a score.”

However, the editor failed to remove the reference to employers later in the same article.