As you might imagine, VantageScore is a three-digit credit score. (What rioting might ensue if the agency suits varied from three-digit scores, anyway?) Here's a quaint snippet of description from Experian's website:
Your VantageScore will be a two-part entity. The first part — the numerical one — will range from 501 to 990. The higher the number, in theory, the lower the risk you are to lenders. The second part of the VantageScore assigns a letter grade from A to D, and then F. The ranges break down thusly:
|Letter Rating||Score Range||Category|
Great. The first thing that jumps out at me? It's the fact that, as a credit agency, you can be assured you have a promising business environment when you can label the average Joe Blow, C-rated, debt-laden consumer as "Prime." That, Dear Reader, says a lot about our world. (According to the Bankrate article "New Credit Score Now Online" (July, 2006), more than two-thirds of all consumers will qualify for a VantageScore grade of "C" or higher.)
Just because it was "developed jointly" by the three agencies doesn't mean that you'll see the same VantageScore if you acquire it from each one. Sure, the algorithm for computing your VantageScore (that's what the bureaus locked heads on) will be the same when each bureau is doing the math. But if each credit bureau has different data on you (highly likely), then your scores will still vary (just like your FICO) across the board.
As consumers, we're told that the VantageScore will be more "friendly" to our needs. Pardon me if I'm highly skeptical. Although, if by "friendly" these guys mean "something else about your life that you'll have to pay to see," then I guess they're right. Will it catch on? Who knows. Will the credit bureaus make more money from it? Almost certainly. They've already made $5.95 from me.
Right now, as best I can tell, the only bureau that offers to let you see your VantageScore is Experian. They offer it for $5.95. Just for kicks 'n' giggles, I forked over the six bucks tonight and caught a glimpse of the Credit Bureau Profit Tool that is VantageScore.
Checking the VantageScore
The online application was pretty standard stuff, if you're familiar with requesting things like credit reports on the internet. You'll have to divulge your name, address, SSN, employer, and so on.
The second screen prompts you with four multiple-choice questions relating to information that's currently on your credit report.
Plug in your credit card information at the next screen, click a "Yes, I Know What I'm Doing" button or two, and your VantageScore report will shine forth in all its . . . understated . . . glory.
Ouch. 753? A grade of "C"? I'm dubbed a "medium low" risk by lenders?
Well, yes. Of course.
That's what playing the zero-percent credit card arbitrage game will do to your credit score. And no, it doesn't concern or bother me. The crammed-full credit card balances that cause that sagging VantageScore will earn me interest of about 13 times the cost of checking my VantageScore. And that's just this month. And for doing pretty much nothing.
In any case, I've done my part to pad the pockets of the credit bureaus one more time. Finding out your own VantageScore is a pretty easy task, and it'll cost you less than a six-pack of decent imported beer.
Why (and how much) the VantageScore matters to consumers, though, is still anyone's guess.