Is your credit score the real deal?

April 11, 2011 4:10:37 PM PDT
Your credit score is an important factor in getting loans, good interest rates and even a job, so it's no surprise companies are offering to sell you a score. But are you getting a score that is the real deal? There are a lot of different credit scores out there. One company, Experian, sells consumers their own version of a credit score, but a lawsuit claims it's not the same thing lenders use.

When it comes to credit scores, people know they matter.

Consumer Glenna Duke said, "I think any time you mess with it you are setting yourself up for some more risk."

While Duke has never bought a credit score, Sean Walsh has.

"When you need that credit score you know what it is," he said.

Before you buy a credit score, it's important to know which score is for sale.

Tanisha Warner with Money Management International explained, "Nine times out of 10 a lender is going to use the FICO score and that's really the score that you want to purchase because that's the one that you are probably most familiar with."

Warner says while the FICO score is the one most used by lenders, it is not always the score sold to consumers. A lawsuit filed in California alleges Experian is selling a "plus" score to consumers instead of providing them with Experian's FICO score. There is a difference.

"There is more than one credit score out there and it is really important to understand which one the lender that you are trying to do business with, which one they are tapping into," Warner said.

Experian tells us their plus score "is not used by lenders, but it is indicative of your overall credit risk. Higher scores represent a greater likelihood that you'll pay back your debts so you are viewed as being a lower credit risk to lenders. A lower score indicates to lenders that you may be a higher credit risk."

In fact, credit scores are just a part of what lenders consider before making loans. A person with a good credit score and low income may end up getting the same loan deal as someone with an average credit score and larger income.

"They could get the same interest rate, the same credit line and have a very similar account and loan experience," Warner said.

You can see your credit report for free, but not your credit score. For that you have to pay a company and there are lots of credit scores, before you buy one, make certain it is the FICO score. That's the number most lenders look at.

Some are offered for sale for around $20, but most companies want you to enroll in a credit monitoring program where they'll give you the score for free, and those services run $150 a year which gets charged to your credit card in monthly installments.

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