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Impacting your FICO score

Last September I wrote a post titled “Zero Interest Redux” in which I discussed the impact to one’s FICO score and how borrowing large sums off a credit card at zero interest can hurt your score in the short run. In May, I posted “Free FICO Score” about my discovery that WAMU (Washington Mutual) offered free access to your FICO score if you are a credit card holder.

The access to the report has been a bit sporadic. I was able to pull a number in April, but then no access till July when I received my warning email that my score “had changed more than 20 points.” Fair enough. The April score was 746. Since then I pulled one more $30,000 zero interest loan, and put it against my mortgage. The zero interest deal was for 24 months, and we’ll be able to pay it in full when it comes due. I also added a credit card which offered higher airline miles, a CitiBank Amex card, in addition the CitiBank Visa we had. So I went to the WAMU site, and much to my surprise, my score was up to 773. Even so, it offered suggestions as to how to raise it further;

1. The proportion of balances to credit limits on your revolving/charge accounts is too high
Analysis of consumer credit behavior repeatedly finds that owing a substantial balance on revolving/charge accounts (Visa, MasterCard, Discover, American Express, Diners Club, department store cards, etc.) relative to the amount of revolving/charge credit available to you represents increased risk.

2. The time since your most recent account opening is very recent
Research shows that consumers who have recently opened new credit accounts are slightly more likely to miss payments than those who have not. This is not an especially strong risk factor, and therefore usually means a difference of no more than a few points in a consumer’s FICO score.

That first one is interesting, they go on to suggest “Bear in mind that even if you pay off your credit cards in full each and every month, your credit bureau report may show the last billing statement balance on those accounts” Which means that giving up the float (the time from when the bill is cut to the time it’s due) or some portion of it, will help your score further. Let’s look at the math on that. If you are earning (or paying) 5% as the cost of capital, $1000 will cost you $2.75 for a 20 day float. If your credit card bill is $3000 each month, that’s about $8.25/mo to improve your FICO score. To be clear, this suggests that you make a payment before the bill is cut, so whatever you spent over the month does not show as a balance due.

The alternative to this would be to contact the issuing bank and request a credit line increase, or to use multiple cards, keeping the maximum balance on any one card below about 30% of its credit line.


  • clutterqueenup August 28, 2008, 9:57 pm

    I enjoyed reading this! I know there are several places that offer a “free” credit report, do you know which ones will pull your report without signup or 19.99 for a full report? I have heard some of the “free” ones are not really free.

    Thanks for the menu planning advice! I will be trying it out!

  • JOE August 29, 2008, 10:47 am

    Not that I can find, any ‘free’ report seems to have an automatic enrollment to a paid plan.

    Good luck with the planning, I’ve considered soliciting recipes that lend themselves to large batches and free well, and post on that topic. One of my projects on the back burner for now.

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