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Credit Scores Become Even More Mysterious

On Tuesday, the Consumer Protection Bureau (CPB)  [1] released the results of a study on credit scores. What they found makes credit scores even more confusing than we already believed.

According to the study, the credit score you receive from the national credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion) will not be the same score your lender receives when it requests your score. Why? The answer is that the credit bureaus and your creditors may use different scoring models.

The most common scoring model is the FICO (Fair Isaac and Company) score. FICO is widely used in the mortgage and auto lending industry. According to a 2011 report by CNN [2], 90% of the scores sold to creditors are FICO scores.

When you request your credit score from each of the bureaus, it is likely you will receive that credit bureaus score, based on their scoring model (not the FICO model). Historically, credit bureaus have said that the scores they offer are solely for educational purposes – they may not represent the score your lender will see.

You can purchase a FICO score by visiting FICO's website, but even that doesn't guarantee that you will know your exact credit score. There are different types of formulas available to create different types of FICO scores, the CPB study states.

Unfortunately, it seems the only way we are going to be able to see our FICO scores, is if we are denied credit or receive less than favorable credit terms on a new loan. Under the new Dodd-Frank law lenders must provide us with our credit score if they make a negative credit decision based on our credit score. The new law goes into effect July 21, 2011.

[1] The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. (July 19, 2011). Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Report Examines Differences Between Credit Scores Consumers and Lenders Receive. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Retrieved from

[2] Liberto, Jennifer. (July 19, 2011). Your credit score: Not always what you're told it is. CNN. Retrieved from

Published Jul 19, 2011.