Credit Report

Credit Report Changes in 2020 Could Hurt Your FICO Score

EPF July 8, 2020

FICO 10 T includes another round of changes to how FICO calculates your credit score. It focuses primarily on debt levels during the past two years.

If your total debt during the past 24 months is on the upswing or if you carry a balance from month to month on credit cards, 10 T could hurt your FICO credit scores. While the basic scoring factors remain the same, smaller changes brought on by 10 T could lower your score if you don’t know what to expect.

The last round of changes to the FICO scoring system (FICO 9) implemented in 2014 helped consumers in 3 important ways:

FICO 9 Changes

Medical collections reports excluded from FICO credit score calculations Paid collections accounts won’t negatively affect FICO scores Good rental history is included in FICO scores

FICO 9 benefits won’t disappear with FICO 10 T, but the newest round of changes could still reduce your FICO scores.

Your FICO Credit Score

Your lenders provide information about your debts to TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian credit reporting agencies. FICO uses information from your credit reports to calculate your credit score (a number between 350 and 800) so potential lenders have an idea of how likely you are to default on a loan.

“Scoring Solutions allow businesses to quickly determine and rank-order the relative likelihood of a specified outcome, such as a consumer’s probability of default, a patient’s propensity to adhere or a driver’s attention to safety.”

FICO Scoring Solutions Overview

Higher scores mean you’ll have easier access to loans, credit cards, mortgages, and other valuable financial products. The scoring model changes over time to offer the best possible information so lenders can decide whether to approve credit applications.

In some areas, employers and landlords rely on your credit score to get a better idea of whether they should hire you or rent to you. Insurance companies may use credit scores to help determine your rates, as well.

Not All Lenders Use the Same Credit Scores

You have many credit scores, and lenders can choose which model they use. Some banks, credit unions, and mortgage providers may even use an in-house system. The best way to find out which scores matter most to your financial future is to ask lenders directly which scoring model they use to evaluate potential borrowers.

Here are some examples of commonly used credit scores across several lending industries:

  • Mortgage providers: FICO scores 2, 4, 5, and 9.0, which make up the Residential Mortgage Credit Report (RMCR).
  • Credit card issuers: FICO scores 2, 3, 4, 5, 8, or FICO Auto Scores.
  • Auto lenders: FICO scores 2, 4, 5, 8, or Bankcard Scores.
  • Insurance providers: Soft credit pull FICO 8 (illegal to use credit reports to help determine auto insurance rates in Massachusetts, Hawaii, and California.

How FICO 10 T Could Lower Your Credit Score

If you have recently missed a few payments on your revolving credit accounts, like credit cards and store-branded cards, this activity could hit your scores harder than it has in the past. 10 T shows potential lenders how likely you are to pay on time, so having a few missed payments on your credit could hurt your scores now more than ever.

Credit delinquencies that are more than a year old also weigh more with 10 T’s scoring model. It’s a good idea to get those paid off before they go to collections, which could hurt your credit even more than late payments.

If you are considering a personal loan to consolidate your debt to make it easier to pay off, use caution. Shifting balances may knock points off your score. Reducing credit card balances to zero will still help boost your FICO scores, but probably not as much as it would have with the FICO 9 scoring model.

How to Protect Your Credit From FICO 10 T Changes

The good news is that you still have time to make a few key changes before FICO 10 T goes into full effect. While the agency implements 10 T this summer, many consumers won’t see it reflected in their FICO credit scores until early to mid-2021.

What You Can Do Now to Avoid Potential Damage to Your Scores

  • Pay your revolving debt balances in full every month

Not only will paying off every credit card and store card in full each month help you avoid steep interest charges, it will keep one of the main factors that make up your score – your credit to debt ratio – in check. If you aren’t already making larger-than-minimum payments and you can afford to do so, go for it. Contact the credit card companies and ask for a decrease in your interest rates so you can put the savings toward reducing your balances.

  • Ask for a Natural Disaster Code

If you are suffering a job loss or decreased income due to Coronavirus, contact the credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) and ask them to apply their Natural Disaster Code to your credit reports. While this won’t help protect your FICO score from decreasing, it will prevent creditors from entering delinquent payment reports on your VantageScore.

  • Participate in Experian Boost

Experian offers a “boost” that can help your credit scores when FICO uses Experian’s data to calculate your numbers. Enrolling in Experian Boost takes just a few minutes, and you can do so by connecting your participating bank’s account information to Experian’s online platform. The service is free and you’ll get credit for paying bills like your cell phone and utilities to help you establish creditworthiness.

  • Order your free credit report

There are a lot of places online that advertise “Free Credit Reports”, but there’s only one place that’s authorized by Federal Law to provide you with a free copy of your Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax credit reports. This isn’t the same as your FICO credit score, but these reports provide FICO with the information they use to calculate your credit score.

Visit www.annualcreditreport.com to find out what FICO sees when they calculate your score.

The Federal Trade Commission recommends that you look for mistakes in your credit reports. They offer specific instructions about how to get errors resolved.

Conclusion

There’s no quick fix for low FICO credit scores. Don’t fall for debt consolidation schemes that promise to “fix” your credit in exchange for hefty fees. Many firms specialize in credit repair services that you can easily do on your own for free.

You have the power to make small changes to how you handle money that will ultimately benefit your FICO scores. The most important thing you can do to increase your score is make every payment on time. New information weighs more than old information in FICO’s current and future calculations.

FICO T 10 may cause damage to some consumer’s scores. Armed with the facts, you have time to protect yourself.

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