Millions Of Americans Just Got An Artificial Boost To Their Credit Score
Back in August 2014, we first reported that in what appeared a suspicious attempt to boost the pool of eligible, credit-worthy mortgage and auto recipients, Fair Isaac, the company behind the crucial FICO score that determines every consumer’s credit rating, “will stop including in its FICO credit-score calculations any record of a consumer failing to pay a bill if the bill has been paid or settled with a collection agency. The San Jose, Calif., company also will give less weight to unpaid medical bills that are with a collection agency.” In doing so, the company would “make it easier for tens of millions of Americans to get loans.”
Then, back in March of this year, in the latest push to artificially boost FICO scores, the WSJ reported that “many tax liens and civil judgments soon will be removed from people’s credit reports, the latest in a series of moves to omit negative information from these financial scorecards. The development could help boost credit scores for millions of consumers, but could pose risks for lenders” as FICO scores remain the only widely accepted method of quantifying any individual American’s credit risk, and determine how much consumers can borrow for a new house or car as well as determine their credit-card spending limit
Stated simply, the definition of the all important FICO score, the most important number at the base of every mortgage application, was set for a series of “adjustments” which would push it higher for millions of Americans.
The outcome of these changes was clear for the 12 million people impacted: it “will make many people who have these types of credit-report blemishes look more creditworthy.“
Now, as the Wall Street Journal points out today, efforts to rig the FICO scoring process seems to be bearing some fruit. The average credit score nationwide hit 700 in April, according to new data from Fair Isaac Corp., which is the highest since at least 2005.
Meanwhile, the share of consumers deemed to be riskiest, with a score below 600, hit a new low of roughly 40 million, or 20% of U.S. adults who have FICO scores, according to Fair Isaac. That is down from 20.5% in October and a peak of 25.5% in 2010.
Of course, to be fair, we are also reaching that critical 7-year point where the previous wave of mortgage foreclosures start to magically disappear from the FICO scores of millions of Americans.
Mortgage foreclosures stay on credit reports for up to seven years dating back to the missed payment that resulted in the foreclosure. Foreclosure starts, the first stage in the process, peaked in 2009 at 2.1 million, according to Attom Data Solutions. They totaled nearly 1.8 million in 2010 and remained above one million during each of the next two years.
Personal bankruptcies are more complicated and can stay on credit reports for seven to 10 years.
Consumers who filed in 2007 for Chapter 7 protection—the most common type of bankruptcy, in which certain debts are discharged and creditors can get paid back from sales of consumers’ assets—are now starting to see those events fall off their reports. Some 500,000 Chapter 7 bankruptcy cases were filed in 2007, a figure that swelled to nearly 1.1 million in 2010, according to the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts.
13 bankruptcies, in which consumers enter a payment plan with creditors, usually stay on reports for at least seven years. Those filings reached a recent peak of nearly 435,000 in 2010 and are set to start falling off reports this year.
All of which, as the WSJ points out, will help to “boost originations of large-dollar loans for cars and homes.” Which is precisely what the average, massively-overlevered American household needs…more debt.
Fresh starts for credit reports are likely to help boost originations of large-dollar loans for cars and homes. Consumers have a greater chance of getting approved for financing if they apply for loans after negative events fall off their reports, in particular from large banks that have stuck to strict underwriting criteria, says Morgan Whitacre, who oversees consumer-loan underwriting at Bank of America Corp.
Credit-card lending, already on the rise, could increase further as a result of fresh starts. Consumers who have one type of bankruptcy filing removed from their credit report experience a roughly $1,500 increase in spending limits and rack up $800 more in credit-card debt within three years, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
So maybe that auto lending bubble has a little room left to run afterall…