Monday, October 13, 2008

"Black News: Dr Boyce Watkins Explains Credit Reports"

By Dr. Boyce Watkins

Where do Credit Scores come from?

Unlike babies, credit scores do not come from a financial stork. There are 3 major credit bureaus in the United States: Experian, Trans Union and Equifax. Companies subscribe to their services to obtain information about you to decide if you are credit worthy or not. Under the old system, the credit scores ranged from 375 to 900. Under the new VantageScore system, they range from 501 to 990. The new system is more consistent among various credit bureaus, so you don’t end up with scores that go all over the place.

How can I get a copy of my report?

I personally go to a site called, where you can order reports from all 3 bureaus or just one. You can also go to (you know, the site with the really funny commercials). The law says that you are entitled to at least one free credit report every year. Also, if you are denied credit for any reason, you can write the bureaus, sending along a copy of the rejection letter, and request a copy of your credit report. If you choose to pay for your report, it will likely cost you about $8 dollars.

What factors go into calculating a credit score?

The factors that go into calculating a credit score are a little vague and it’s protected like the recipe for KFC chicken. While the formula is well-guarded, we do have some guidelines on what factors are theoretically used to determine whether or not someone should loan money to you.

The factors are broken into what they call “The Four C’s of Credit”: Character, collateral, capacity, capital and conditions.

Character is their way of trying to decide if you are a good person or not. I don’t agree with this, since having bad credit does not make you a bad person. It just makes you a person who does not have a good track record when it comes to borrowing money.

Capacity is represented mostly by your income level and how much money you’re expected to earn in the future.

Capital is noted by the amount of cash you have in reserves and other liquid assets at your disposal. If you have capital, that means you can withstand a short-term decline in income and still make payments.

Conditions are reflected by the environment in which you live. It might include the state of the economy, your line of work and other external factors that might impact your credit report. For example, during the liquidity crisis in America, conditions for lending are very, very bad.

Now you know where credit scores come from. You probably have more questions, since there is a lot of ground to cover. To get more information, please feel free to learn along with me and my students by visiting

Dr. Boyce Watkins is a Finance Professor at Syracuse University. He does regular commentary in national media, including CNN, ESPN, BET and CBS. For more information, please visit

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