Monday, April 4, 2011

Credit rating reform: Dreaming in technicolor and seeing red

Past due? Seven years of bad luck for you...
Here's something I'd like to see a political party campaign for: a total overhaul of our incredibly logic-defying credit rating system.

I find it bizarre and arcane that you can be 60 days late on *one* bill, five years ago, and it is still affecting your otherwise spotless credit. Yes, it was my mistake (I moved, my mail wasn't forwarding properly and I believed I had paid off the card. I should have checked. My bad.) I also noticed that my rating dropped a few points recently, despite now having a zero balance on all my credit cards. I can only guess because I applied for and accepted a new credit card with a lower interest rate. This really gets me.

Here are my suggested reforms:

-Free and easily accessible info: Credit scores should be available for free in a timely fashion (aka online). We should not have to mail in forms - and wait weeks - to see where we stood weeks ago. Credit scores are constantly in flux and certain life events require timely access. It's that simple.

-Detailed methodology: Don't just tell us the "kind of things" that will affect our scores. Tell us *exactly* how it is calculated so that we can understand *exactly* how to improve things.

-Be reasonable, please: Isn't seven years a tad draconian? I mean, isn't that also the number of years of bad luck you get when you break a mirror?

-Distinguish between big mistakes and little mistakes: From what I can tell, being 60 days past due on a $50 HBC bill is the same as being 60 days past due on a $5,000 payment. Or your mortgage for that matter.

-Offer some leniency for first-time offences: A person who makes a mistake once and is warned with a lesser sentence might not make it again.

-Quit penalizing us for being "active": When we apply for a more credit or there are "inquiries on our file" that shouldn't automatically be a negative. Judge by our balances and other info. If I have a zero balance on all cards and a healthy bank account, I shouldn't be penalized for getting another card.

-Put more focus on the big picture: True, I was 60 days late on one $50 payment five years ago, but I've been at the same job for six years, have made all my payments on time for the last five years, have savings, and carry a zero balance on my credit cards. Do you think maybe I should have a perfect credit rating at this point? I damn well think so.

-Quit penalizing consumers for having "no credit." It should be a neutral point rather than a hit against us.

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