After reading my story about Experian's decision to cut off access to FICO credit scores, Demitra Wilson, Director of Public Relations for Equifax, contacted me to guarantee that Equifax has no plans to follow suit. I did call Experian for comment on my original post, but they never called back.
In an interview this morning, Wilson told me, "Equifax has no plans to discontinue the partnership we have with FICO." In fact, she told me Equifax is "the only one of the three credit bureaus to offer the FICO score on its web site." When you get a credit score at Experian's (www.freecreditreport.com) or TransUnion's websites (www.TrueCredit.com), the score you get is not a FICO score. You will still be able to get TransUnion's version of the FICO score at myFICO.com.
Why is this so critical? Ninety percent of all lenders use the FICO score, Wilson pointed out. "When you get a FICO score from either myFICO.com or Equifax's websites, you get a fairly good idea of how you will be seen in the eyes of the lenders."Non-FICO scores may get you near the ballpark, but they could also be far off the mark. I've seen differences of at least 50 to 100 points between FICO and non-FICO scores. About two years ago, the credit bureaus decided they would try to compete with FICO, setting up a new scoring system called Vantage Score. That system has not caught on and is not being used by many lenders.
In reality, Wilson told me that major lenders probably have their own customized scores, which all three credit reporting agencies make available on a business to business basis. These customized scores are never reported to the public, so while the FICO score gives you an idea of how lenders will see you, it might not actually match the score on which they actually make the decision.
Businesses design these customized scores based on the type of customer they want to attract. For example, suppose American Express wanted to attract customers who purchased primarily at certain types of stores. They could ask the credit reporting agencies to develop a customized score based on the types of store credit cards one holds.
The good news in this promise from Equifax is that you'll never be cut off from your FICO score. While you may enjoy (or be totally disgusted) by that singing Experian pirate waiter now at the Renaissance Fair, don't count on getting a useable FICO score from that website or Experian's version of the FICO score at myFICO.com.
Lita Epstein has written more than 25 books including the "Complete Idiot's Guide to Improving Your Credit Score" and "Surviving a Layoff: A Week-By-Week Guide to Improving Your Credit Score."
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