credit cards

Uncovering hidden credit scores

stack of blue, gold and silver credit cards and a pen
Highlights
  • Credit card issuers use many different types of credit scores to judge risk.
  • Every month, the credit card issuer is calculating a behavior score.
  • It is legal to pull someone's credit report in the act of collecting a debt.

Most people have heard of credit scores. These three-digit numbers pervade our financial lives, and either help or damage our ability to get attractive rates for credit cards, loans and insurance.

They aren't the only analytic numbers issuers use to evaluate credit cardholders, though. John Ulzheimer worked for seven years at Fair Isaac and six years at Equifax (one of the three major consumer reporting agencies) and is the author of "You're Nothing but a Number." He tells us issuers use "countless" scores on consumers.

Using this reporter as a hypothetical example, Ulzheimer walks us through the lifecycle of scores used on a credit cardholder.


Hidden credit scores
  • Acquisition scores -- Scoring begins even before you get that direct mail solicitation from the credit card company. See what triggers a mailing and how the credit card issuers use scores to lure you in. Go >>
  • Usage scores -- From individual transactions to monthly spending patterns, several scores work behind the scenes assessing activity on the card. Find out how issuers detect fraudulent charges and monitor your risk on a month-to-month basis. Go >>
  • Scores for bad behavior -- When card usage falls off or payments stop, these scores help determine if the cardholder will ever charge again -- or pay up, as the case may be. Go >>
  • Specialized scores -- Not every bank uses the same scoring models. The bigger the institution, the more likely they are to use custom scores. Go >>
  • Other scores -- Still other scores rely on more than just credit report information. Learn what kinds of data factor into these scores. Go >>
  • Advice for consumers -- Now that you know how other scores are used to judge your behavior as a cardholder, here's what you should do about them. Go >>

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