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When it comes to your credit, make sure you know the score

The credit scores you receive could be different from those lenders use

Published: January 2013

Our recent "Shedding Light on the Credit-Reporting Industry" suggested that everyone should take advantage of the free annual credit reports available at But as important as your credit reports are, they are missing something essential: your credit scores. Companies use those all-important three-digit numbers to decide whether to lend you money and at what rate.

If you want your scores, you typically have to pay for them, either up front or through a "free trial offer" that could eventually cost you money. But the frustration doesn't stop at the required payment. The credit score you buy could be substantially different from the ones provided to lenders.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau recently reported that when you purchase scores from one of the credit reporting companies—the big three are Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion—you "often receive scores that are not generated by the scoring models used to generate scores sold to lenders." The bureau estimated that "about one out of five consumers would likely receive a meaningfully different score than would a lender."

That's ridiculous. Imagine if you were a teenager who gets one set of SAT or ACT scores while your prospective colleges get a different set of scores. You wouldn't tolerate that, and we don't think we should tolerate that kind of behavior by the credit-reporting companies.

Your credit scores have an enormous impact on your finances. You need reliable credit scores to help you manage your money and shop for the best deals on credit.

That's why we're asking you to press Congress to change things. We just launched a petition for a new law that would require credit scores to be included in your free annual credit report and for those scores to be the same ones that the credit bureaus share with banks and lenders.

A bill expected to be introduced in Congress in the coming weeks will take this issue head on. We hope you'll take a moment to sign our petition and let lawmakers know that it's time to take some of the mystery out the credit business and make reliable credit scores available to all of us.

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