Reader Rebekah has a question about credit cards. She and her husband pay off their cards every month, but like to charge most of their expenses because they enjoy the reward points. She’s wondering if this is a good idea and how it affects her credit.
If you’ve got a few credit cards lying around that you haven’t used in a while but don’t want to lose, you might want to talk them out for a walk.
Payment Reporting Builds Credit (PRBC) is an alternative credit reporting agency that will record your payment histories for things like rent and utilities bills. PRBC says you can then use this verified credit history to supplement your FICO score and credit history from the big three reporting companies. It’s meant in part as a way to help people who don’t have extensive standard credit histories, or who have always paid monthly expenses on time but have other blots (like medical bills) on their official credit histories.
The CreditKarma.com site we told you about in our roundup of “5 No BS Ways To Get A Credit Score For Free” has changed its calibration system so the free, advertising-supported, credit score it gives you is now on the 300-850 range, just like your FICO score. It’s still not your FICO score, but it does make the approximation, based on TransUnion data, more relevant. If you’re do some major money moves, like getting a mortgage, you would still want to pay for the FICO score for total accuracy, but if you just want a general sense of how you’re doing, CreditKarma.com is a great way to do it for free.
The FTC claims that CompuCredit didn’t properly disclose that it monitored spending and cut credit lines if consumers used their cards at certain places. Among them: tire and retreading shops, massage parlors, bars, billiard halls, and marriage counseling offices. “What they didn’t say was that you could be punished for specific kinds of purchases.”
Sallie Mae has publicly apologized for a coding error, potentially affecting around 1 million customers, that caused some consumers credit scores to drop over 100 points, and some consumers report that their dinged scores are already back up. If your score is not back to normal and you are in the middle of a transaction where your good credit is at stake, Sallie Mae said it will provide a credit reference letter. You can also call Sallie Mae customer service at 1-888-2-sallie. Sallie has pledged that the fix is in, but consumers can still take matters into their own hands by pulling their free credit report from annualcreditreport.com and disputing the incorrect information with Experian. Note, it’s against Federal law for creditors to report false information to credit bureaus, and consumers can sue violators up to $1,000.
Consumers are complaining that a change in how Sallie Mae decided to recode some loans caused their credit score to drop by over a hundred points. That’s enough to make a $93,240 difference in a home loan’s total cost. Here’s what happened.
If you have an open home equity line of credit you were counting on for renovations or other projects, you might want to read CNN Money’s article about how lenders are freezing them around the country. The main triggers for HELOC freezing are credit score changes and a rapid drop in home value in your area. The freeze may also be a computer-determined action, so if your HELOC suddenly goes away and you don’t think it was justified, it may be worth checking your FICO score and then contacting the lender to reopen the line or renegotiate it.
Nathan’s been having trouble this week buying a prepaid GoPhone from AT&T Mobility’s website. He finally found out the reason: they couldn’t verify his credit history. This is confusing because it’s a prepaid GoPhone and because his credit history is superb. “Cheryl refused to transfer me.
Obsessing over a number that’s only three digits long sounds a little OCD, until you realize how much a hundred or so points on it can cost you. I’m referring to credit scores. This three-digit number that lenders use to determine how favorable a loan to give you can affect many of your financial transactions, but it especially becomes a big deal when you take out a mortgage on a house. Let’s look at a home loan for $300,000 with two different sets of scores:
If you want to improve your credit score, a score from 300-850 that lenders use to determine whether you qualify for a loan and how much interest to charge you if you do, you’ll want to know your “reason codes.” These are 2-digit numbers that come with you credit score when you purchase it. Each bureau usually gives you four reason codes with their report, so get your score from each one for a total of 12. One wiki tutorial says that reason codes are listed in order of importance. Armed with that, The Mechanics Of Credit site decodes all the reason codes and prescribes solutions for each one. With this info and tactics, you should be able to boost your score a couple of points and save a bundle.
More about Bank of America’s inexplicable rate hikes against good customers who never pay late: the Charlotte Observer talks to some recent recipients of BoA’s infamous rate-increase letters from the past few weeks. The first person they talk to is a 60-year-old woman who “had never been late on a credit card payment, just refinanced her home at a lower interest rate, and just been rewarded by her credit union with a lower rate on her credit card there.” Bank of America just raised her card from 13% to 24.99%.
BusinessWeek has just published an article about Bank of America’s recent surprise mailings in January to some of its customers, announcing “that it would more than double their rates to as high as 28%, without giving an explanation for the increase.” These customers have good credit scores and hadn’t made any late payments, and those who called Bank of America to ask why this was happening weren’t given clear reasons. Industry experts say Bank of America has reached a “new level” of “lack of transparency in raising rates,” beyond anything Citigroup and JP Morgan Chase currently practice, because BoA is apparently using some undisclosed internal metric to determine who gets the rate hike.
From the folks that brought you the credit score system in all it’s glory, here’s MedFICO! It’s a new business project underway with the goal of assessing patient’s ability to pay their medical bills. The system would gather patient’s bill payment history from hospitals around the country and then assign patients a score similar to a credit score. Critics are worried if the same problems with people getting erroneous information in their credit report and then having an insanely difficult time cleaning it up would also affect MedFICO. They also worry whether hospitals would use MedFICO to determine the level of care offered, like whether the person gets a hospital stay or not. FICO scores are now being used by some employers to screen out potential employees, would they use MedFICO to see who might take a bigger chunk out of the health benefits?
Here’s the clip of yours truly, Ben Popken, on Fox Business News discussing some of the changes in store for FICO ’08, the credit-scoring system lenders use to determine how punitive a rate they get to charge you. You may notice that I have a strange look on my face at the beginning.