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New rules affect your credit score
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If it’s been a while since you checked your credit and FICO scores, you might have some surprises in store. Fair Isaac, also known as FICO, recently changed its method of calculating credit scores. Its new plan, FICO 08, is said to offer a better way to determine which consumers will be unable to meet their repayment obligations.
There are a few important changes in the new scoring system. “Authorized users” are those who are allowed to use credit cards of those with a good credit history (such as a working husband). That information has been reported on the user’s file (such as a stay-at-home mother with no credit of her own.) In the past this has raised the scores of those no-credit users. This “piggy-backing” will no longer be used in a score’s calculation.
Another change in the FICO scoring method concerns payment patterns. If a consumer has only made a late payment in one area but otherwise has a good record, the credit score won’t be affected as much as it was before. At the same time, those with a track record of being late with payments will take a bigger hit to the credit score.
If you apply for credit and your FICO score is lower than you expected, ask the lender if the old FICO method was used or if it used the new FICO 08.
If you’re curious about your current FICO score, you can go online and use MSN Money’s Credit Score Estimator, but don’t expect it to zero in on your actual score. It gives a wide range of likely scores, but at least you’ll know if you fall in the 590 area or if you’re closer to 750 or higher.
Each year, we’re allowed by law one free credit report from each of the three major reporting agencies. To order your free annual credit reports, go to online or call 1-877-322-8228. If you chose the telephone method of ordering your credit reports, be patient. It’s a fairly lengthy process involving speaking into the telephone and pressing buttons.
Read about the free credit reports on the Federal Trade Commission’s Web site at To learn more about FICO scores, go to

Uffington does not personally answer reader questions, but will incorporate them into his column whenever possible. Write to him in care of King Features Weekly Service, P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475, or send e-mail to
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