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Card issuers give free access to credit scores

by Peter Andrew

FICO, the firm whose algorithms are used in 90 percent of lending decisions, has announced it's allowing credit card companies and other lenders to share with customers the credit scores they use to manage accounts -- free of charge. The initiative was unveiled on Nov. 4, and, by that date, two card issuers, Barclaycard and First Bankcard, had signed up to participate.

Free for all

However, the FICO Score Open Access program is available to all providers of financial services that use the company's scoring services.

"In 2012 approximately 10 billion FICO scores were bought by lenders for risk management purposes, ad we are prepared to allow all of them to be shared with bank customers without any additional score fee charged by FICO to lenders," explained James Wehmann, executive vice president of scores at FICO.

Barclaycard US, one of America's top 10 credit card issuers, says it's allowing its customers to access score information 24/7 through their online accounts. Not only should the current score appear on the screen, but also three helpful tools:

  1. An indication of the two factors that are currently most affecting the score.
  2. A graphical representation in chart form tracking the the history of the customer's score over the previous 12 months. However, this should first be available in three months' time, when enough historical data has been acquired to enable it, and a full 12-month graph can only be available a year from now.
  3. Email alerts when a customer's score changes.

FICO expects all lenders that join the program to provide the first of those (along with educational materials about scoring), but not necessarily the last two. Borrowers may see less or more feature-rich offers from their sources of credit than Barclaycard's customers do.

More to come?

How many other lenders are likely to sign up for the new program? That's anyone's guess. However, anything that better informs people about their scores is a good thing, and many consumers should view the new offering as a valuable one. That perception may just push other companies to participate.

Published 12/04/13 (Modified 07/09/14)


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