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.

credit score, utilization ratio, Moneyland, Time Magazine, Time Warner Inc.

From: Greg Fisher []
Sent: Monday, December 19, 2011 2:54 PM
To: Jeffrey L. Bewkes, chairman of the board and CEO, Time Warner Inc.
Cc: Scott Medintz, editor, MoneyLand, Time Magazine; Scott Medintz, editor, MoneyLand, Time Magazine; Chris Farrell, economics editor, Marketplace Money, American Public Media; Ian R. Friendly, chair, Board of Trustees, Minnesota public Radio and executive vice president, chief operating officer, U.S. Retail, General Mills
Subject: RE: credit score, myth, proportion of balances, Time Warner Inc.

See this message and your response at, and

You published, “When it comes to your score, 30% consists of the amounts you owe in relation to your available credit — an equation called your utilization ratio.”

Either your source misled you or your math is off.  Who is your source regarding your claim of the 30 percent importance of the so-called “utilization ratio”?  It is, indeed, a myth.

Earlier this month, another journalist made a correction about the same issue.  However, he failed to provide the source for his original claim.  Peculiarly, even the article to which his story links calls it a myth.

And, who calls it “utilization ratio,” anyway?

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

[previous email attached]

credit score, distribution, MONEY, Time Warner

Yesterday, following a message from, Time Warner made a correction to its story.  Money Girl did not respond.

Here is another message to Time Warner, sent moments ago:

From: Greg Fisher []
Sent: Tuesday, June 21, 2011 9:17 AM
To: Ismat Sarah Mangla, writer, MONEY, Time Warner
Subject: credit score, distribution, MONEY, Time Warner

See this message and your response at and

You wrote: “Chances are your score is in the top tier: 750 or above out of 850 on the FICO scale. (Check yours for $20 at That alone qualifies you for membership in a fairly exclusive club : Only a third of Americans have achieved such a high number.”

Who is your source regarding the credit score distribution? 

What indicates the one third figure?

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

credit score, employers, Moneyland, Money Girl

From: Greg Fisher []
Sent: Monday, June 20, 2011 10:40 AM
To: Scott Medintz, editor, MoneyLand, Time Magazine; Scott Medintz, editor, MoneyLand, Time Magazine
Cc: Laura D. Adams, personal finance expert, Quick and Dirty Tips
Subject: credit score, employers, MoneyLand, Money Girl

See this message and your response at and

You published, “But all of these particulars are either difficult or impossible to change, whereas increasing your credit score is something you can start any time.”

The link in that sentence leads to a page which states, “Your score indicates your creditworthiness to potential lenders, banks, landlords, insurance companies, and even to some employers, for instance.”

However, the national consumer reporting agencies all state that they do not provide credit scores for employment purposes. 

What change will you make? 

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


UPDATE, 6/21/2011

Time Warner replaced the link with one to Fair Isaac’s page “How to Repair Your Credit and Improve Your FICO Credit Score,” but did not document the correction on the original page.  POOF!  It just went away. 

Moneyland is a magical place.

Here is today’s message to Time Warner.


UPDATE, 6/27/2011

Time is (finally) a Believer.  After Moneyland got religion, it even published a new article stating, “It’s important to note that employers can’t actually see your three-digit credit score; as a result, there’s no ‘magic number’ that will make a company accept or reject an applicant.”

But we are still doomed.