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Reaching for your #Goals

It is a simple question from a consumer’s standpoint: How can I improve my score over a relatively short period of time?

I’ve been on the other end of that question, and my response was often, “well it depends.” This is a true statement because the extent to which you can improve your credit score is based on your credit history. But that answer understandably is frustrating for consumers.

We think about this a lot at VantageScore. Last year we worked on an analytically-driven explanation to this question. We looked at various consumer profiles and examined how each particular profile typically and actually did, in fact, increase their credit scores over time.

We put that information into a data base, and we’re extremely pleased to see that information powering a new tool launched by American Express as part of its “MyCredit Guide” solution. To quote American Express, “we believe everyone should know their credit score and have the tools to understand it better.”

I couldn’t agree more!

That’s why I am so thrilled that American Express recently launched “Score Goals”, which leverages our scoring model and analytics to directionally help consumers estimate how long it may take to achieve certain credit score milestones. Included in this newsletter is a deeper dive.

It is important to frame tools like this properly. To my earlier point, everyone’s credit history is different and what might work for one consumer, may not necessarily have the same impact for another. Because no two consumers have identical historical credit data captured in their credit reports, it is a challenge to provide specific recommendations without looking at the actual report. However, there are patterns for consumers having similar credit histories, and that is what these tools are designed to tap into and accomplish. Credit scores are the result of consumers credit habits, and these tools are developed to educate consumers about exercising prudent credit behaviors.

For those with significant credit health challenges, we encourage the use of these tools and to seek credit counseling for more of a hands-on experience. 

Credit education has always and will continue to be a focus of ours and our partners in a significant way; especially as we all face continued economic pressure. For some, the damage is severe and a low credit score is low on the list of priorities. For others, a single delinquency might be the difference between qualifying for a mortgage loan and being declined. Tools like American Express’ “Score Goals” can be an important part of the recovery process when used in conjunction with other credit education and continued monitoring of one’s credit score and credit reports.

This month’s newsletter has other educational articles including an interview with Ken McEldowney. Ken is executive director at Consumer Action, one of the nation’s most prominent consumer advocacy organizations. Ken and his views on consumer protection, command the attention of many policy influencers, so we’re thrilled he has taken to the time to answer our questions.

Stay safe and healthy!

Barrett Burns

CEO and President, VantageScore Solutions

AMEX Launches ‘Score Goals’

Now, more than ever, consumers want to stay on top of their credit score and overall financial health. To meet this need, American Express is enhancing American Express® MyCredit Guide, its popular credit score tool, with the addition of Score Goals, a new capability to help most U.S. consumers, even those who are not American Express Card Members, improve their VantageScore® 3.0 credit score.

“We know that many consumers are especially focused on their financial health during this time,” said Kunal Madhok, Vice President, Head of Product & Acquisition, U.S. Consumer Lending Cards, American Express. “As we continue to innovate to provide consumers with new tools and resources that support their fiancial needs, we launched Score Goals to help consumers manage and accomplish their credit score goals – both big and small.”

MyCredit Guide provides consumers with their personalized VantageScore® credit score by TransUnion®, refreshed weekly upon login, and includes a range of information and tools to help them understand their credit score better and plan for the future. Since launching MyCredit Guide in 2018, American Express has heard from consumers that it has been a helpful tool for checking their credit score and understanding how financial decisions can impact their score. As an expansion to this tool, Score Goals is another resource available for them to manage their overall financial wellness.

Score Goals from American Express is the first and only service of its kind to be offered by a major financial institution that provides personalized recommendations to help achieve a desired credit score over a given timeframe – available at no cost, for most U.S. consumers. Score Goals uses real TransUnion credit report data tracked in real time, along with the real credit experiences of millions of people, to deliver personalized recommendations designed to help consumers achieve their credit score goal.

 HOW IT WORKS

After enrolling a free account with MyCredit Guide, users can review their current Vantage Score 3.0.

 

With just a few clicks, users can input their desired credit score and Score Goals will generate a personalized recommendation for how to achieve it.

 

Score Goals uses real TransUnion credit bureau data tracked in real time and analyzes a user’s credit history, along with the real credit experiences of millions of people.

 

At each login session, users can view their current credit score and will receive updates on their progress towards their goal.

 

MyCredit Guide Score Goals complements American Express’ Credit Intel financial education center, its go-to destination for personal finance and credit card education, as a resource for U.S. consumers.

ABOUT TRANSUNION (NYSE: TRU)

TransUnion is a global information and insights company that makes trust possible in the modern economy. We do this by providing a comprehensive picture of each person so they can be reliably and safely represented in the marketplace. As a result, businesses and consumers can transact with con_dence and achieve great things. We call this Information for Good.® A leading presence in more than 30 countries across _ve continents, TransUnion  provides solutions that help create economic opportunity, great experiences and personal empowerment for hundreds of millions of people.

http://www.transunion.com/business

ABOUT VANTAGESCORE

VantageScore Solutions, initially developed by America’s three national credit reporting companies (CRCs) – Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion – is the independently managed company behind the VantageScore credit scoring model.

www.VantageScore.com 

ABOUT AMERICAN EXPRESS

American Express is a globally integrated payments company, providing customers with access to products, insights and experiences that enrich lives and build business success. Learn more at americanexpress.com and connect with us on facebook.com/americanexpress, instagram.com/americanexpress, linkedin.com/company/americanexpress, twitter.com/americanexpress, and youtube.com/americanexpress.

NEW! VantageScore Podcasts

This past month, for our VantageScore Podcast series, we are excited to highlight two colleagues in the credit and finance industry:

First up: Rod Griffin, Senior Director of Public Education and Advocacy for Experian. Rod leads Experian’s national consumer education programs and works with consumer advocates, financial educators, media and others to help consumers increase their ability to understand and manage their personal finances and protect themselves from fraud and identity theft.

In his podcast Rod shares his journey that led him to his path at Experian and breaks down the difference between the credit reporting bureaus, how credit is different around the world, and resources at Experian that you can leverage during COVID-19.

Be sure to also listen to our latest podcast with Gemma Posthlethwaite, CEO of Arizent, a financial and business information media company. Gemma is responsible for the company’s 30+ brands, including American Banker, Payments Source, Asset Securitization Report, among many others. Prior to joining Arizent, Gemma served as CEO of PIRA Energy Group, where she led a major transformation of the company and established PIRA as a leading integrated, research and data provider to the global energy markets. In 2016 Postlethwaite led the sale of PIRA Energy Group to S&P Global.

In her podcast, Gemma dives into her journey into becoming a female CEO and how she’s leading change in the finance industry. 

You can listen to their podcasts on the following platforms:

iTunes

GooglePlay

Spotify


 

DID YOU KNOW?:
The Basics of Credit Scoring

By John Ulzheimer

In the current economic climate, it can be helpful to take a “Credit Score 101” course to keep us refreshed on the fundamentals of credit scoring, so we don’t fall behind on basic credit knowledge and maintenance. So let’s start from the very beginning…

Credit scores are commonly used by lenders as part of their risk assessment and underwriting processes. In fact, credit scores have been used as part of the financial services environment for decades. Simply put, consumers who have better scores are going to get better deals on loan and other forms of credit. Because they are so important, it’s important that you know what counts in your credit scores, and how much?

Credit Reports

Credit scoring models are called credit scoring models for a reason. These scores are generally based on the information in your credit reports as maintained by the three national credit reporting companies (CRCs); Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. The better your credit reports, the better your credit scores.

Conversely, information that is not on your credit reports does not have any influence over your credit scores.  This includes your income, savings and other deposit accounts, debit cards, level of education and your political affiliation. And, there are even items that are on your credit reports that are not considered. This includes your address, employment, age, and Social Security Number.

What Counts, and How Much?

Generally speaking, there are five categories of information considered by credit scoring systems:

1. Your Payment History: This category can also be referred to as the “presence or lack of negative information.” This category is highly influential and accounts for about 1/3rd of the points in your credit scores.

If you have late payments, defaults, collection accounts, repossessions, bankruptcies, tax liens, judgments, foreclosures, settlements, or anything else that indicates negative loan performance, you will forgo points from this category.

One thing to keep in mind as you’re considering this information is that many of of the points in your credit scores have nothing to do with you making all of your payments on time. So while it’s always a best practice to make your payments in a timely manner, it won’t guarantee that you have an elite credit score.

NOTE: Currently the credit reporting companies are not collecting or maintaining tax liens or civil judgments.  If they are eventually re-reported they will again be considered as negative credit entries.

 2. Your Debt: This category is also highly influential on the points in your credit scores. There are three types of debt that are considered by credit scoring systems. They are: revolving debt (like your credit cards), installment debt (like your auto loan), and open debt (like collections and charge cards).

Having debt is not inherently bad. For example, if you have several hundred thousand dollars of mortgage debt it’s still very easy to earn elite credit scores. But, if you have too much credit card debt that can be quite damaging, especially if your credit card balances represent too much of your credit limits. Maintaining low or no balances on your credit cards is a great way to capture many of the points in this debt category.

3. The Age of your Credit Reports, Inquiries, and Account Experience: These last three categories collectively account for the remaining points in your credit scores. None of them, individually, is highly influential to your credit scores but collectively, they are worth as much as the debt and payment history related metrics.  Point being, if you want to earn and maintain elite credit scores, you have to do well in all of these categories.

Age: This metric has nothing to do with your age or date of birth. Instead, it has everything to do with the age of your credit reports. Credit scores can determine the age of your credit reports by calculating the average age of your accounts and also by considering the age of your oldest account. Older is always better for your scores.

Inquiries: When you apply for credit and a lender pulls your credit report, a record of that “pull” is placed on your credit report. This is what’s called a “credit inquiry.” Not all inquiries impact your score, but some do. Keep in mind that inquiries are the least important aspect of your credit scores and are only considered while they are less than 12 months old.

Account Experience: There are many different types of extensions of credit. Credit cards, charge cards, mortgage loans, auto loans, student loans, personal loans are several examples. Consumers who have experience managing different types of credit obligations will earn more points in this category than consumers who have very limited credit experience.

Summary

 All of the commonly used credit scoring models have a score range of 300 on the low end to 850 on the high end. You want to score higher rather than lower. The higher you score, the less risk you pose to lenders. As such, lenders will likely offer more competitive terms.

In order to earn and maintain really high scores, like those at or above 800, then you’ll have to perform well in each of the above categories. You can do that by making all of your payments on time, maintaining low credit card balances, and applying for credit sparingly.

 

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author (credit expert John Ulzheimer) and not necessarily those of VantageScore Solutions, LLC.

5 QUESTIONS with Consumer Action

Ken McEldowney is executive director of Consumer Action, a San Francisco-based national consumer advocacy and  education membership organization. Consumer Action has worked on food, insurance, utility, privacy, toxics, health care, banking, postal and telephone issues for 35 years. The organization’s current focus is on ensuring that the interests of low income and limited English-speaking consumers are protected during this period of deregulation and corporate mergers.

CA’s National Consumer Resource Center yearly distributes more than two million fact sheets in up to eight languages through a national network of 8,300 community organizations and social service organizations. An additional 500,000 people access its multilingual web site each year. Along with other key staff members, Ken McEldowney represents the consumer interest before state and federal regulatory bodies, Congress and the California Legislature.

At Consumer Action, he has directed contracts with the FTC, FDA, Federal Reserve, DOT, CPUC and HUD.

1. This year you celebrate you celebrate 40 years with Consumer Action. Of the many ways you’ve helped consumers since 1980, what do you think are the programs that have been most impactful

I would have to say that the most important program has been the development of our national network of more than 6,000 community-based organizations (CBOs) that we partner with to help low- and moderate-income consumers make intelligent choices in the marketplace and protect their privacy. It’s a partnership in which we provide the multilingual educational modules, train-the-trainer roundtables, webinars and technical assistance that enables CBOs to be highly successful in working with clients. Over the last couple of years we have provided mini-grants to dozens of CBOs to enable them to use FinTech apps and online tools to improve the financial wellbeing of their clients. Our FinTech project has enabled a significant number of low-income consumers to get bank accounts, establish emergency savings and improve their credit scores.

2. Can you tell us about Consumer Action’s latest endeavor, the COVID-19 Educational Project?

Early this year we were concerned that inaccurate and often dangerous information about COVID was flooding the media. In addition, there seemed to be very limited information being provided in languages other than English. We raised money to correct this problem. We established our COVID-19 Educational Project in May. It is providing updated information on government and private resources, timely webinars, and fact sheets in five languages. Here’s a link to the site https://www.consumer-action.org/covid-19.

3. What are the most used resources on your website by consumers?

Without a doubt, it’s our Class Action Database https://www.consumer-action.org/lawsuits/.

Our website receives roughly two million pageviews a year, and our class action page gets roughly half of them. We set it up in order to help consumers learn about class action settlements in which they might obtain a refund or other relief. Courts do a poor job of publicizing these settlements and we wanted to increase the number of consumers who can benefit from them.

4. During this pandemic, what are some of consumers’ biggest issues and concerns? And how has Consumer Action been coming to their aid?

I would have to say housing, unemployment and COVID. Unfortunately, these are nationwide problems that are far beyond the ability of groups like Consumer Action to solve. However, our COVID project has provided a wealth of valuable information for individuals and CBOs to use. For example, we created a fact sheet in five languages on financial resources for undocumented workers (https://consumer-action.org/modules/articles/Undocumented_COVID), and we ran a webinar on fair housing rights during COVID (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Ru1EWMrsRM&feature=emb_title).

5. Advocating for consumers for 40 years, it’s safe to say you are driven by helping others. What is it about how you were raised and/or your background that directed you to this path?

My parents were liberals and always supported my efforts to seek justice. It was at the University of Michigan that my activism really developed. I was on the Michigan Daily, and was one of the founders of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and worked on its community project in Cleveland, Ohio. I came to San Francisco to open its West Coast office and eventually helped found Media Alliance, an organization of media workers. I also served as the consumer editor on a weekly alternative newspaper. I covered Consumer Action before I joined it in 1980.

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