Between 30 million and 35 million U.S. consumers don’t have credit scores, meaning they may not be able to get credit cards or loans they need to reach their goals, but the sheer number of unscored consumers is only part of the problem: A large number of them are creditworthy, and nearly 30% of the unscored are African-American or Hispanic.
VantageScore Solutions, a credit scoring company, found these and other trends in a new survey of consumers and lenders, which shows how little people seem to understand about unscored consumers, or “credit invisibles,” as VantageScore calls them.
First of all, people vastly underestimated how many consumers are credit invisible: 61% of lenders and 51% of consumers thought there were fewer than 25 million invisibles in the U.S., which is about 10 million off the actual figure. On top of that, not having a credit score isn’t the equivalent of having bad credit, though people with bad and no credit encounter similar obstacles obtaining new credit. About 10 million of those who can’t be scored by conventional scoring models have a VantageScore 3.0 higher than 600. Generally, a score higher than 620 is fair, and anything higher than 680 is considered good, so there’s a lot of lost lending opportunity among the credit invisibles.
“These consumers, the profile tends to be newly arrived immigrants, people who have sort of shunned the traditional banking system by choice, young adults just starting out and infrequent credit users,” said Jeff Richardson, vice president of communications and public relations for VantageScore.
What Conventional Scores Don’t Show
It doesn’t mean these unscored consumers aren’t creditworthy, but lenders wouldn’t know that using conventional scoring models. As a competitor to those models, VantageScore has an interest in showing lenders and consumers the advantages of using a different scoring standard. Still, the survey highlights valid concerns about traditional scoring methods and their affect on lenders’ businesses, as well as consumer access to credit.
Here’s a quick overview on the differences between what VantageScore calls “conventional scoring models” (namely, the longtime industry standard, FICO), and VantageScore 3.0: This latest version of the VantageScore can score a consumer as soon as new credit data is reported to the credit bureaus and can go back two years into a consumer’s credit file to generate a score. Scores like FICO only score consumers with credit reports containing at least one tradeline that has been active for six months and has been active in the past six months. Additionally, if a consumer’s rent or utility payments have been reported to credit bureaus, as they increasingly are, they will be factored into the score. You can check your VantageScore 3.0 for free — it’s one of the two free scores you can get on Credit.com.
There’s another survey result that stands out: Consumers aren’t just worried about those who don’t currently have credit scores, they’re also concerned about becoming invisible. A large majority — 69% — of consumers are concerned they or someone they know will not be able to get a credit score at some point in their lives.
Richardson said that surprised him, but it makes sense.
“There’s this static population that we need to address, but the reality is that the population is changing all the time,” he said. “Through no fault of your own, you may find yourself in this situation, or someone close to you will, and that will have an impact on your financial situation, as well.”
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