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Keeping Up with the Joneses: Credit Score Edition

posted by Katie Porter

Do you have good credit? Compared to whom? While your credit price may depend largely on how your credit fares against objective criteria (above 680 to avoid being "subprime," for example), do you ever wonder how you are doing compared to everyone else? Maybe you think the national banks would give credit to a ham sandwich; what you want to know if whether you are  keeping up with the Jones in managing your financial behavior.

Experian provides a chance to test your credit against your neighbors with its National Score Index. (Hat tip to Harvard student Mazen Elfakhani for letting me know about this). Using this tool, you type in your zip code and out pops the "score index," the average credit score based on a representative sample of consumers, for the nation, region, state, and your area. You also get comparable figures on other credit statistics like debt, late payments, and credit inquiries.

The areas are pretty broadly defined, like "Boston area," so you can't really see how you compare to the Jones family on your street. But it's still kind of fun, especially for someone like me who seems to move all the time. This year, Cambridge, MA: 715 score; last year, El Cerrito, CA: 708; prior years, Iowa City: 721. How am I doing? That will have to wait for another blog post; I'm definitely not paying Experian for my credit score.Remember that what you are entitled to one time per year for free is your credit report, not your score. That site: www.annualcreditreport.com, and as the FTC explains, there are lot of imposter sites and efforts to get people to pay for their credit scores when they are only trying to access the free report.

Comments

as usual for where i live, my immediate area (southern vermont) is lumped in with the major metropolitan area of boston, which renders any idea of "local" impossible. usually on these types of national plug-in internet gizmos, my area is lumped in the springfield, mass., the closest major metropolitan area to mine. (e.g., linked in).

reminds me of when a clueless friend in nyc did a nationwide search on the web and booked a hotel in springfield when he was "coming up" to see me--springfield was as close as the index got to vermont, and he didn't realize i was only about half way to me--he'd have to drive another 1 3/4 hours up the road to meet me for breakfast!

for now, i take being off the maps in this way as a blessing, not a curse--but it does render gizmos like this one pretty useless for informing oneself about one's immediate area.

at any rate, thanks for the info! it's good to keep track of what these companies are up to. i imagine they use this data when they make decisions on granting credit and on negotiating with debtors. actually, i bet the data they use on their end is much more fine grained.

I've noticed that each of the credit agencies appear to use a different "score". The Experian link talks about a "PLUS" score as opposed to the FICO score. I think I've seen at least one other type of score at another agency. Does anybody know how these compare, or are they the same thing under a different name?

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