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Cashing in on the rewards potential of credit cards relies on one key component: your credit score. There are different kinds of credit scores, and each credit reporting agency has different information about your credit history. However, the most recognized score in the credit world is arguably your FICO score.
According to FICO, 90% of the top lenders rely on an applicant’s FICO score to make decisions about an individual’s credit risk. Today, the company unveiled a new kind of numerical system. It’s a partnership with Experian and Finicity, and it’s called the UltraFICO Score. Jim Wehman, executive vice president of scores at FICO, believes it is a “game changer.”
What’s so unique about the UltraFICO Score? The traditional score is calculated using five pieces of information: your payment history, the amount you currently owe lenders, the length of your credit history, the types of credit you’ve used and how much new credit you’re currently using.
With the new score, lenders will be able to look at other information from your checking and savings accounts to understand your approach to managing money. How long have those accounts been open? Is your checking account drained to zero prior to payday? Is your savings account growing? Do you have recurring monthly deposits to your savings account? The thinking is simple: If you’re doing a good job with your cash, you’ll probably do a good job with credit, too.
“It empowers consumers to have greater control over the information that is being used in making credit risk decisions,” Wehman said. “It also enables a deeper dialogue between the consumer and lenders to help both parties make better financial decisions.”
Who will benefit from the new score? FICO claims that seven out of 10 Americans who display good behavior with their bank accounts could see higher figures with the new score. The announcement indicates that the new score will be “particularly relevant for those who fall in the grey area in terms of credit scores (scores in the upper 500s to lower 600s) or fall just below a lender’s score cutoff.” I’ve never heard of a “grey area” in the world of credit scores. Instead, I would call that range significantly below the current average score in America, which is above 700.
Experian’s website states that “approximately 27 percent of consumers with a credit score between 580 to 669 are likely to become seriously delinquent in the future.” Now, this doesn’t mean that anyone with a less-than-ideal credit score shouldn’t be approved for a loan or a new credit card. There are a wide range of reasons that an individual might struggle to climb into good or excellent credit score territory, and I think that evaluating other portions of their personal finances can be positive news. A strong track record of saving could play a pivotal role in distinguishing those who deserve reconsideration for credit access.
I hope that the deeper dialogue Wehman mentioned is a two-way conversation that gives consumers the ability to negotiate competitive interest rates. Average credit card interest rates clocked in at a record-high 17.07% last week, and it seems likely that those rates will continue to rise. So whether you plan on using the UltraFICO Score when it’s widely available in the middle of next year (it seems to be an opt-in opportunity where you’ll grant access to your banking information) or you’re still counting on a more traditional version of a credit score, it’s important to remember that carrying a balance with that kind of sky-high APR will make even the most appealing offers to earn rewards points and cash back a losing game.
Interested in learning how to make an impact on how you look in a potential lender’s eyes? Check out “5 Key Considerations for Improving Your Credit Score.”
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