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]

Canada Day: Reuters falls for math myth, moth-to-flame

In this bicentennial year, with apologies to a gracious nation of people of warm hospitality, here is the belated Canada Day update.  Try the wines of Niagara-on-the-Lake, and the mussels and ice cream found there, originating at P.E.I.

And, now, on with the show.  It’s a doozy.

On his little Reuters website, a real media baron published this quote from a Fair Isaac spokesman, “‘Credit utilization (amounts owed as a percentage of available credit) counts for 30 percent of a person’s credit score.'”

It must have been given in writing (unless the dude can inflect parentheses).

The Fair Isaac statement is false because it is mathematically impossible.  Here’s the doozy part– a mind-blower:  The credit score company’s spokesman in the Reuters item even replied, “I understand well that ‘amounts owed’ is driven by half a dozen factors not just utilization.”


Credit score expert John Ulzheimer calls this nonsense a myth.

Win column:

Losers column:

and more.

But, consider the source– not the one in the journalistic sense, but the source of the reach of the repeated rumor: Reuters.  For another eyeful, see Canada Day, 2011: Reuters on employers and credit scores.

This monkey business about the so-called “credit utilization” is all Dr. Veghead‘s fault. A Kat Malone he is not.

A message to the really wrong Reuters rumor repeating rookie writer: Let me know when you have completed Poynter’s Math for Journalists: Help With Numbers.

reply, Hearst, media accuracy, erroneous reporting

From: Greg Fisher []
Sent: Thursday, March 22, 2012 10:26 AM
To: J.T. O’Donnell, columnist, J.T. & Dale Talk Jobs; J. T. O’Donnell, founder & president, CAREEREALISM
Cc: George R. Hearst, Jr., chairman, Hearst Corporation (via Lisa Bagley); William Dean Singleton, chairman, MediaNews Group, Inc.; Dale Dauten, columnist, J.T. & Dale Talk Jobs; Mary E. Junck, chairman, president and CEO; chairman, Executive Committee, Lee Enterprises; Mary Junck, Associated Press; Dale Quinn, reporter, Arizona Daily Star, Lee Enterprises
Subject: Re: media accuracy, errors and corrections, Lee Enterprises, Hearst, AP, a real joke

You must be joking about Lee Enterprises.

Experian states: “Experian’s Employment Insight report includes similar information about loans and credit cards that is listed in the credit report. It does not include year of birth, spouse reference, account number or credit score, which are irrelevant to hiring decisions”

I hope that’s official enough for you.  Actually, a guy gave a testimony.  He swore it, under oath even!

Finally, there is no longer anything on Equifax’s website about employers using credit scores.

So, that begs the question: Who is your source?  And, if nobody said it in the first place, then what are you “validate/research” -ing?

On the other hand, Experian says, “Creditors, landlords, and even some employers consider a person’s credit score before deciding whether they will approve a loan, lease an apartment, or hire an applicant.”

Why don’t you tell that story?

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


From: [email address] On Behalf Of J.T. O’Donnell
Sent: Wednesday, March 21, 2012 6:00 PM
Subject: Re: media accuracy, errors and corrections, Lee Enterprises, Hearst, AP


Just sent you a tweet but figured I’d email you too.

I hope you can understand that because you are the one emailing, we need to validate/research what you are saying.

I’ll circle back with you when I learn more.

Thanks for your patience,


[previous email]


Colorado, Morgan and the credit score zombie myth

The news media seem to repeat anything politicians tell them, including what one expert calls “The Myth of the Decade.”

That was the last decade, by the way.

The credit-scores-are-used-by-employers zombie myth’s life undead existence was reanimated again recently thanks to CBS’s Channel 4 in Denver, the Associated Press, the Denver Post— and the Post and the AP acting together.  The inaccurate information is even back on Wikipedia.

At the Colorado statehouse, the misinformation pushes Senate Bill 3 toward the brink. State senator Morgan Carrol’s bill states, “In spite of these systemic flaws, the nonpartisan public policy research and advocacy organization Demos concluded in its 2011 report ‘Discrediting America‘ that consumer credit scores and credit reports are being used more often and in more contexts than ever before, including by employers, utility companies, and insurers.”

Join the side of the truth, or the zombie myth may never end, Morgan.  Morgan.  Three years.  Three years.

credit score, employers, Washington Post Company

From: Greg Fisher []
Sent: Thursday, February 16, 2012 7:40 PM
To: Ylan Q. Mui, reporter, Washington Post
Cc: Patrick B. Pexton, ombudsman, Washington Post; Donald E. Graham, chairman, Washington Post Company
Subject: credit score, employers, Washington Post Company

See this message and your response at and  Also, see Tips for reporters; you need it (and so does your editor).

You wrote

Those scores have become crucial in the aftermath of the financial crisis. Some employers are even looking at credit scores as criteria for jobs. A car, a home, a college education are all financed by lenders that rely on the score to determine who gets credit and how much they pay for it.

Your word even is a real hoot!  Employers do not use credit scores.  The consumer reporting agencies do not even provide credit scores for employment purposes.

An ethical journalist cites his source.  Who is your source?  Is it Wikipedia?

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


Credit score tips, information and guidelines for journalists/reporters

Reporters, the internet is clogged with misinformation, rumor, urban legends and bad and inaccurate reporting with little mechanism for error correction.  Do not add to it.  Use these guidelines to avoid creating problems for yourself and for consumers of information.

  1. Do not report that employers use credit scores.  Despite what Fair Isaac, Reuters, the Federal Reserve and others say, employers do not use credit scores. You don’t want some unemployed person looking for a job spending their last dollar on a credit score because of your bad reporting, do you?
  2. Do not report that the so-called “utilization ratio” accounts for 30% of the FICO credit score.  Yes, it says that on Wikipedia, but it also says, inaccurately, that employers use credit scores (see item 1, above).  Do not use Wikipedia as your source for anything (unless you are criticizing it).
  3. Do not advise consumers to limit their so-called utilization ratio to 30%.  FICO spokesmen said, “The lower that utilization number is, the better it is for your score,” and “The FICO brain trust says there is no specific number that qualifies as a ‘good’ ratio, just that lower is always better.”
  4. Do not report an average credit score.  It is unknown.
  5. Tell your boss to institute a correction procedure for published errors and to make your correction policy public.
  6. Cite your sources, period.
  7. If you have any questions, send them via email.  If you’re on a fake “deadline” made up by your boss and cannot wait, too bad.  Delay your little report (and, start earlier next time) and tell your boss to stop being ridiculous.

Report something stupid and you’ll end up on

Tips for reporters for updates.


Groundhog Day, 2012: Wikipedia – Jimbo vs. Cookiehead

Groundhog Day, 2012: Wikipedia” updates the previous year’s entry, Groundhog Day, 2011. 

In an exciting showdown, the guy most associated with Wikipedia, Jimmy Wales, has his contribution edited by a Wikipedian named Cookiehead.  Including “Jimbo,” himself, the rogue editor, the New York Times and the Connecticut legislature, 2012 documents the source of inaccurate information and how it is disseminated by a powerful, byzantine organization with a website.


Wikipedia Vigil #1 – Easy edit you can make: Employers and credit scores

One day last week, finallyWikipedia misinformed no one.  Today, the goofiness is back.

On the eve of Groundhog Day, here is Vigil #1, a thread to follow the latest atrocity on Wikipedia.  One instance of goofy, wild, preposterous, ridiculously inaccurate and unsupported information has now lasted over 30 days.

The consumer reporting agencies all state that they do not provide credit scores for employment purposes.

Despite that–and a growing list of Nonbelievers–one of the most influential sources of information has it wrong (again).  Wikipedia states, “In 2009, [consumer reporting agency] TransUnion representatives testified before the Connecticut legislature about their practice of marketing credit score reports to employers for use in the hiring process.[23]

Footnote #23, indeed, links to a real New York Times piece alright, but that story actually states that a TransUnion representative “testified to Connecticut legislators in February 2009, explaining why TransUnion markets its credit reports [not scores] to employers.”

In fact, in the actual testimony transcript, the CRA official states, candidly, “Now, credit scores aren’t used in employment decisions so let’s get that straight.”

Yes.  Let’s get that straight, not like some storied sources, academics, and other hotshots who have trouble with facts and the truth (even while testifiying before Congress), and members of Congress themselves.  You can make all the references you want to fancy “reliable sources,” but that’s pointless if the source actually says something other than what you say.

But the Times’ reporting doesn’t help in clarifying things, either, stating, “Employers can generally use credit checks — but not credit scores — during the employment process as long as they obtain written permission from the potential employee.”

Such is the inconclusive and confounding power of milqtoast words like “generally,” and use of the mdash.

So, if you are a Wikipedian (rhymes with comedian) looking for another notch on your belt, or you want to start editing with a bang, here is your chance for a slam-dunk.  You’ll even have Jimmy Wales on your side as a Nonbeliever.  But don’t think you’re going to have the last word:  even Jimbo himself didn’t.

But, what do you expect for free– and from somebody who calls himself Cookiehead?

Michael Scott talks about Wikipedia

Expert (again): Employment credit reports don’t contain credit scores

Few are legitimate experts in credit reports in employment screening; Lester Rosen is one of them.

Despite years of his efforts to counteract it, the mass hysteria media just won’t stop spewing the nonsense that employers use credit scores.  Rosen tarries on, though:

In a white paper co-authored by Rosen titled ‘Use of Credit Reports in Employment Background Screening,’ the point is made that credit reports do NOT contain credit scores, and are only obtained at the very end of the hiring process so an employer can be assured they are not hiring a risky employee. Credit scores are not part of an employment credit report since there is no correlation between a credit score and job performance. 

Press releases.  A white paper.  A radio interview. Capital letters.

Nothing works.