Detroit Free Press on credit utilization ratio

[previous email to author]

From: Greg Fisher
Sent: Tuesday, March 22, 2011
To: Susan Tompor, columnist, Detroit Free Press
Cc: Robin Pence, VP, corporate communications, Gannett Co., Inc.; Paul Anger, editor and publisher, Detroit Free Press
Subject: RE: Credit scores fall, Detroit Free Press II

Also, you wrote, “You’d want to use no more than 10% of your available credit for an ideal ratio.”

Who is your source regarding the ideal proportion of balances to credit limits?

Where do you publish corrections or clarifications for errors of fact?

See this message and your reply at

[author’s response]

Expert: Utilization factor overstatement a credit score myth

On, John Ulzheimer blogs, “The debt category is worth 30% of your FICO score points and while the credit card utilization percentage isn’t alone worth all 30% (that’s a myth), it’s certainly key to earning and maintaining great scores.”

The myth to which he refers was documented in 2009 on with links calling out the offenders.  His comments are part of a growing chorus of voices who set the record straight.

But it faces a gargantuan, ever-sprawling, contradictory, capricious foe.  The silliness has existed on Wikipedia (looks like an encyclopedia; really just a message board) for over 5 years.  Later, in the chain of wacky influence and rumor that swirls around credit scores, the Wikipedians (rhymes with comedians) were emboldened by–none other than–USA TODAY, which states, “The amount of debt you have outstanding, as a percentage of your available credit limit, accounts for 30% of your score.”

On February 4, the newspaper’s reply to a inquiry for its source was only this URL:

And so, of course, as anyone can see, USA TODAY’s story is bunk, thus Wikipedia is bunk.

Five years of bunk.

Almost six.

And counting.

Kat Malone, where are you?

Impossible zero credit score: Ulzheimer 1, Ramsey 0

Exploding Dave Ramsey’s Zero Credit Score Myth on Ramsey’s Home Turf

Following the Credit CARD Act becoming effective,’s John Ulzheimer appeared on the FOX Business Network  (“the only business network in true high definition”) this morning in a segment called “Tips for Boosting Your Credit Score.”

Cross-promoting “financial expert” blowhard Dave Ramsey, anchor Brian Sullivan referred to his colleague saying, snarkily, “I am sure you are very familiar with a guy named Dave Ramsey, right?” (3:00)

On the other hand, his tone, dripping with sarcasm, could have been evidence of utter disdain for Ramsey’s schtick.

Unimpressed, Ulzheimer said: “I’m familiar with Dave.  Yes.” 

Sullivan repeats the mantra that Ramsey’s score is “famously zero” and qualifies it with “or low” (and fails to mention that it could be nonexistent).

The guest chuckles and says that that is incorrect because a person cannot have a score of zero because the scale is 300 to 850.

The host interrupted the guest when he made that point. Ulzheimer politely allowed him to speak, then finished the interview.

Let’s hope FBN has Ulzheimer back on the air even though he flogged the interviewer and the crazy zero claim.  Outside of the FICO company itself (and even that is questionable), nobody knows more about– and can better explain– credit scores.  Get his book if you don’t believe it.

So, what is so bad about Ramsey saying that his FICO credit score is zero?  Imagine a guy who hears that his score is 425 and thinks he’s halfway to 850 when, in reality, his score is in the lowest 2%.  Perhaps it is the fault of the FICO company with its arcane scale (instead of something logical like 0 to 1000), but it is what it is.

Mr. Ramsey, tell the truth.  What are your scores, really?


Debt utilization, how much owed compared to capacity to borrow, ABC News

Sent: Friday, June 05, 2009 12:09 PM
To: Alice Gomstyn
Cc: Emily Peters


You wrote, “Peters says that nearly a third of your credit score is dependent on how much you owe, compared to how much you have the capacity to borrow — your debt utilization.”


If that ratio represents almost a third of the FICO score, then what percentage does the “Number of accounts with balances” represent?