Fair Isaac Corp. has announced a modification of their software which will block the credit score benefits of authorized user accounts. Here is our take on the news and the impact it may have on your life.
Questionable Credit Repair Practices
A small sub-set of the credit repair industry has been operating in a gray area of the law by selling authorized user accounts to consumers. Many credit repair customers have been willing to pay significant amounts of money for these accounts, and the credit score benefit that comes with them. According to the Fair Isaac July 31, 2008 press release, those days are officially over.
A Brief History
The FICO credit scoring model considers, among other things, the payment history of your credit cards as an indicator of your credit worthiness. Until now, FICO also applied the payment history of authorized user accounts in their calculation of the score of the authorized user – an interesting point as these accounts reflect the credit worthiness of the primary card holder, rather than the authorized user.
The Birth of Credit Repair Card Sales
A number of credit repair companies picked up on this loophole and began to sell authorized card memberships to people wanting a quick score boost. Soon lenders caught on and decided to fight back; justifiably so, as these accounts artificially skewed the credit scores of borrowers, making good credit decisions unreliable.
The End is in Sight
Fair Isaac Corp. has now taken steps to preserve the integrity of the FICO score by eliminating the score benefit of authorized user accounts sold by so-called credit repair companies that chose to operate in this questionable market. If you have considered buying authorized user accounts from one of these credit repair operations to get a quick bump in your credit score, forget it.
The End of the Credit Repair Gray Market
The new, updated, FICO 08 release includes a fancy sorting algorithm which reportedly will allow legitimate authorized card holders, such as spouses, to continue to receive the score benefit, while effectively blocking cards that were sold in the credit repair gray market. Spouses are clearly safe, and based on the language of the July 31, 2008 press release, so, we believe, are child accounts.
How Does the Magic Work?
If I had to guess, I’d say that Fair Isaac tests for a relationship between the primary card holder and the member user. I’d also guess that they are testing for the number of member users per primary account. In other words, primary accounts that have more than one or two authorized users will be blocked for sure. This in itself would eliminate the majority of the gray market accounts because most of these accounts were sold multiple times.
Make Your Credit Repair Plans
Fair Isaac’s new approach to the authorized user account problem is very even-handed and should provide comfort to spouse and child card holders, as they should be able to continue to enjoy the score benefit of their accounts. But if you are making a credit repair effort and have purchased authorized user cards and are counting on them to maintain your score, it’s time to make other plans.
Finding the Right Solution
Ethical credit repair is also the most effective. Truly successful credit repair is about a genuine reshaping of your credit. You might have been able to artificially increase your credit score by purchasing an authorized card membership, but this was never an effective long term solution.
Credit Repair Done Right
If you are in a credit repair program and want to improve your credit scores, there is an effective and reliable way to do so. Build your own credit! If your credit scores are below the level that will allow you to get unsecured credit cards, get secured cards. Secured cards are cost effective, the accounts are yours, and before long you will be enjoying improved credit scores. That’s the right approach to credit repair.
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