Fico Loses Trademark on 300-850 Credit Score Range

Fico, formerly known as Fair Isaac, the creator of the mighty Fico score, has lost the trademark on its 300-850 Fico score range.

All Fico scores fall between these two three-digit numbers, but soon competitors may be able to copy Fico.

Earlier this month, U.S. District Court Judge Ann D. Montgomery denied Fico’s request for a new trial and ordered the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to cancel Fair Isaac’s “300-850” trademark, according to a VantageScore NewsBlast.

However, the judge stayed the cancellation of the trademark pending Fair Isaac’s appeal.

The jury in the case basically concluded that one cannot legitimately trademark a numerical range for credit scores.

The decision also affirms VantageScore’s ability to use its 501-990 credit score range.

VantageScore is one of Fico’s main competitors, and has been working with the three major credit bureaus, Equifax, Experian, and Trans Union, to develop a competitive credit scoring model.

Fico has been working hard to fight off the competition, but it appears there may be more choices for consumers going forward.

Of course, Fico continues to be the clear leader and its the primary credit score used by banks and lenders to determine consumer loan eligibility.

VantageScore is focused on increasing access to credit for consumers who are either “underbanked” or deemed “unscoreable” using other credit scoring models, such as Fico.

How Many Credit Cards Should I Have?

Credit card Q&A: “How many credit cards should I have?”

Credit cards can be useful tools to manage debt and earn rewards for everyday purchases, but they can also cause problems if you’re not responsible.

Aside from landing yourself in serious credit card debt, too many credit cards can drag down your credit score, though it’s unclear how many is too many.

So let’s start with one credit card and work our way up.

You Should Have At Least One Credit Card!

I think everyone should have at least one credit card because it’s a safe way to make purchases, establish credit (why we need credit), and can serve as a good emergency back-up if you’re without cash.

There are also great cash back rewards on many credit cards that shouldn’t be ignored, not to mention awesome sign-up bonuses.

And if you’ve got one credit card, you should also have a back-up in case your credit card is declined, lost, stolen, or not accepted for some reason.

This is especially important if on vacation or away from home. Imagine if you only carried an American Express card to Europe and you could only pay with a Visa or MasterCard.

If you travel abroad often, it might serve you well to get your hands on a Capital One credit card, as such cards don’t charge foreign transaction fees.

You may also have credit cards for a particular gas station or a clothing store because of the associated discounts, or a credit card tied to your business.

But before long, your wallet may be an inch thick thanks to all that plastic – this is where things can gets dangerous.

You run the chance of getting into major credit card debt and deflating your credit score, as too many credit accounts may indicate greater risk of default.

[Where do you stand: FICO score range]

Is There a Right Number of Cards?

At the same time, you’ve probably heard that closing credit card accounts hurts your credit score, so what are you to do?

Well, one recommendation is to carry a small amount of credit cards, between 2-5, assuming they all serve a purpose.

A healthy stable of credit cards may look something like this:

– Primary banking institution credit card (like Wells Fargo, BofA, or Chase)
– Back-up credit card (A Visa/MC if you only have an Amex card)
– Rewards credit card (to earn miles/cash back)
– No foreign transaction fee credit card (if you travel)
– Business credit card (if you run a business)

It’s generally best to avoid department store credit cards, and individual gas station credit cards aren’t so hot, considering American Express Blue offers 5% cash back on gas as it stands.

If you feel you’ve got too many credit cards, it’s best to close the newest accounts, as old accounts carry more weight in terms of credit score impact because they have more history.

There are a number of estimates out there, but the average American consumer probably has fewer than five credit cards, so holding more than five could lower your credit score.

However, a recent study from Credit Karma actually revealed that those with so-called excellent credit scores have an average of 6.7 credit cards. But I think the key to the numbers game is keeping utilization low by spreading it out across more cards.

For example, don’t max out one of your credit cards while leaving others near zero. Or better yet, don’t make charges you can’t pay off in full each month.

At the end of the day, if a credit card offers significant value to you, you’ll probably apply for it.  And that’s fine. Just don’t get in over your head and always make payments on time!

If you’re curious what I’ve got in my wallet, check out the top right sidebar where I list the current contents.

Lately, I’ve been taking advantage of all types of sign-up bonuses (Citi Prestige and Citi ThankYou Premier) to score lots of credit card points and free travel.

I have also closed a good number of these cards before the annual fee is due to avoid unnecessary costs and my credit score has held up just fine.

This kind of credit card churning can pay big dividends, just remember to practice moderation and avoid overspending in the process.

Read more: How many credit cards can I get approved for?

Does My Spouse’s Credit Affect Mine?

Credit score Q&A: “Does my spouse’s credit affect mine?”

So you’ve got excellent credit, but your spouse’s credit isn’t so hot. Does this mean your spouse’s bad credit history will affect your pristine past? Not exactly.

Just because you’re married or living together doesn’t mean your credit history is commingled, which may or may not be a good thing.

It doesn’t just blend together once you tie the knot; there is no joint credit score.

In fact, you could marry someone and keep your credit accounts separate if you so desired, though such a scenario would probably be unlikely.

Often times when two people get hitched, they share credit cards, auto loans, mortgages, and so forth.

As a result, any late payment or derogatory event (collection, charge-off) on these shared accounts would affect both parties involved.

So if the two of you applied for a new mortgage and missed a payment, you’d both see your credit score take a hit. But if only person applied for the loan, only one person would be affected.

The takeaway here is that only joint accounts affect both people’s credit scores. And not all accounts are shared through marriage. It’s completely voluntary.

Joint Credit Cards vs. Authorized Users

Nowadays, it’s difficult to actually find a so-called “joint credit card” to apply for. These are credit cards where two applicants sign up concurrently for a single card.

The card issuer considers both credit scores when determining approval and both applicants are on the hook for payments going forward. In other words, a missed payment will sink the credit scores of both applicants, not just one.

This differs from authorized user accounts, which only penalize the primary cardholder for any missteps.

However, the authorized user gets the benefit of the credit line without the consequences of missed payments or related credit score dings.

So clearly there’s quite a distinction here. The downside to authorized user accounts is that the credit history isn’t always reported or reflected in the individual’s credit score.

It’s Not All Bad

If you marry someone with poor credit, you can actually nurse their bad credit score back to health by applying for new loans together and paying them back on time.

Additionally, you can designate your spouse as an authorized user on your healthy credit accounts, which may benefit their credit score over time.

At the same time, both your credit score and your spouse’s credit score must be considered when you open new joint accounts.

For example, if the two of you apply for a mortgage, the bank or lender will likely use the lower mid-score from the three credit bureaus.

Your credit score: 765
Spouse’s credit score: 619

In this case, your mortgage approval and subsequent interest rate would be based on your spouse’s lower 619 credit score.

This explains why some borrowers exclude their spouse with bad credit when applying for a loan, assuming they can qualify on their own. Of course, that would require income and assets from the sole borrower to get the job done.

Apply for Credit Individually After You’re Married

You can continue to apply for credit in your name only after marriage and keep your accounts separate from your spouse. Sure, it’s great to have some joint accounts, but there’s no need to merge everything.

As long as there is trust, you can continue to maintain independent credit accounts and doing so may actually be beneficial if one individual slips up at some point. That way they won’t harm the other. I see this as diversification if anything goes wrong down the road.

Additionally, each spouse can sign up for lucrative credit card bonuses separately and enjoy double the points and miles! This could be helpful if you’re planning a vacation and needs lots of miles.

In conclusion, you are in full control of your own credit score, and you ultimately decide whether to get your spouse involved or not.

Just remember, old habits are hard to break, so a spouse with poor credit could eventually take you down with them.

(photo: niffty)

Capital One Pre-Qualified Credit Card Engine

Capital One has taken a novel approach to the credit card game.

Instead of simply asking consumers to apply for a credit card and hope they’re approved, the company has an engine to see if you’re already pre-qualified.

All you need to do is fill out a short form, providing basic name and address information, along with the last four digits of your social security number.


The company claims the information won’t be used for anything else, and even demands you check a box that says, “I understand that this is not a credit card application.”

Additionally, the request won’t affect your credit score in any way, which is an obvious dealmaker.

*Credit card applications count as inquiries against you and can lower your credit score.

In just seconds, the engine will pump out the results.


They didn’t have any pre-qualified offers for me at the moment, but they said I could check out (and apply for) a few other offers, which they listed.

It’s obvious they tailored credit card offers for me based on the fact that I said I had excellent credit and wanted cash back on purchases.

And clearly this is a great way to soft-sell consumers on their credit cards, as it sucks them in without scaring them off with credit score worries and the uncertainty of getting approved.

But who really knows how many people are actually pre-qualified for Capital One’s credit cards?

All the same, it’s a great idea on Capital One’s part, and will likely result in quite a few sales for the company.

Tip: If you want a credit card, but don’t want to put your credit score at risk, give this engine a shot and look for similar pre-approved offers with your existing credit card issuers.

Chase to Issue Fewer Credit Cards Thanks to New Rules

Chase plans to issue far fewer credit cards thanks to unfavorable changes tied to the recently passed CARD Act.

The Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act (CARD Act), which became law on February 22, prohibits arbitrary interest rate increases, ends double-cycle billing, and eliminates negative payment hierarchy, among other things.

At issue is the inability to raise interest rates for those deemed higher-risk, along with the elimination of negative payment hierarchy, which forced credit card payments to low APR balances before higher APR balances.

It was a great deal for the banks because it essentially trapped consumers in a never-ending and growing credit card debt cycle.

But without such gimmicks, many potential cardholders are simply too risky to take on, so Chase plans to go after more affluent consumers via its Sapphire and Slate credit cards.

In his annual letter to shareholders, Chase CEO Jamie Dimon said the company would no longer market credit cards to approximately 15% of the customers it currently offers them to.

Additionally, he said Chase has reduced very low introductory and promotional balance transfers (0% APR), which cut outstanding credit card balances by a staggering $20 billion.

The company has also reduced limits on credit lines and canceled credit cards for customers it hasn’t done business with over an extended period of time (me included).

The credit card industry on a whole reduced credit card limits from $4.7 trillion to $3.3 trillion over the past couple years, per Dimon’s letter.

Equifax Credit Score Card

So I decided to check out the “Equifax Credit Score Card™” this morning.

It’s a new service from credit bureau Equifax that provides a free quasi-credit score without the need for a credit card or trial sign-up.

Yep, all you need to do is fill in all your basic information and create an account. In return, Equifax displays a credit score range and puts you in a certain bucket.

There are five buckets, ranging from 280-559, the lowest credit score bucket, all the way up to the 760-850 bucket, which I happened to fall into. Hot dog!

Aside from the so-called credit score card revealing that I had excellent credit, it also gave me recommendations on ways I could improve, although somewhat vague.

This is similar to what you’d see on a legitimate credit report, both the free government one and the ones you have to pay for.

Equifax said I could achieve an even higher credit score if I had credit history tied to a wider array of account types, such as mortgages or auto loans (see how a Fico score is calculated)

Additionally, the report said the proportion of retail accounts, such as department store cards, compared to all my other accounts could be holding me back some (FYI: I don’t have any store cards).

Of course, these are pretty incidental items, and seeing that my credit score is somewhere between 760-850, I’m not too bothered.

If you’re above 760, you’ve got an excellent credit score (at least in my opinion), so really all I need to do is keep on keepin’ on.

Neat little service if you’re just curious where you stand credit-wise, but don’t want to provide a credit card or actually pay for anything.

Of course, it doesn’t beat a real free credit score, which is recommended if you’re actually shopping for something major like a mortgage or car loan.

Take a look at the screenshot for my Equifax Credit Score Card™ below:

credit score card

(top photo: cbowns)

Credit Card Act II

Just weeks after the new credit card rules went into effect, the Federal Reserve has proposed new rules to counter moves made by credit card issuers in reaction to the first set of rules.

Follow me? Okay good. See this is the problem when it comes to new regulations – they are quickly circumvented, and often exacerbate matters.

The Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act (CARD Act), which became law on February 22, prohibits arbitrary interest rate increases and limits universal default, ends double-cycle billing, and eliminates negative payment hierarchy.

But these changes, among others, have forced credit card issuers to look for new streams of revenue, including charging inactivity fees if a credit card isn’t used during a certain period.

The new proposed rules, which would take effect in late August, would ban that practice, and bar companies from charging a customer a penalty fee that exceeds the dollar amount involved in the corresponding misstep.

In other words, if you failed to make your minimum payment of say $10, you couldn’t be charged any more than $10 for the violation.

Typical late fees are $30 or more, even if a the balance or minimum payment is well below that.

Card issuers would also be prohibited from charging customers multiple times for the same violation.

Credit card issuers who have raised interest rates since January 1, 2009 would also need to evaluate whether the circumstances involving the increase have changed, and if so, lower the rate accordingly.

Additionally, issuers would need to disclose to consumers the reasons tied to any rate increases.

Stay tuned for Credit Card Act III…

FTC Cracking Down on Free Credit Reports

Beginning next month, websites that offer so-called “free credit reports” will need to add a disclosure atop the page so consumers don’t confuse them with the no-strings-attached credit reports offered from the government.

By “free credit reports,” they mean those free trial credit reports that require you to sign up for an ongoing service; they’re only “free” if you cancel within the initial trial period, which not all consumers seem to understand.

So come April 1, you’ll see the following text on websites offering the not-so-free credit reports:

“THIS NOTICE IS REQUIRED BY LAW. Read more at FTC.GOV. You have the right to a free credit report from or 877-322-8228, the ONLY authorized source under federal law.”

The FTC is hoping that’ll be enough to steer customers toward the official free credit report website, though I’m sure the impostors will come up with some way to circumvent the whole thing.

The Credit Card Act of 2009, which is now finally in effect, required the FTC to issue a rule pertaining to the deceptive marketing of “free credit reports” by February 22, 2010.

Between now and April 1, you’ll see a slightly different disclosure, which reads: “Free credits reports are available under Federal law at:”

Keep in mind that the free credit report offered by the government does not include a free credit score, so that’s the big different between the two.

However, the government report includes all other relevant information, such as collections and charge-offs, so you should be able to estimate where you stand on my credit score range if you connect all the dots.

Visa Only Payment Card Accepted at the Vancouver Olympics

I was watching the Winter Olympics this evening when a Visa commercial popped up, claiming it was the only payment card accepted at the Vancouver games.

This seemed a bit strange, as it would make life difficult for those holding MasterCard and American Express credit cards, not to mention out-of-towners and their random assortment of credit and debit cards.

But low and behold, it really is true, not just a marketing gimmick.

Visa has an exclusivity agreement with the Olympic Games to be the sole payment card provider accepted.

That means only Visa credit, debit, and prepaid cards or cash can be used to purchase Olympic tickets, official merchandise, and/or food and beverages in the Olympic venues.

The same goes for the official Vancouver Olympics store, which states, “In recognition of Visa’s long-standing support of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, we proudly accept only Visa cards on”

Visa also created and manages the entire payment system infrastructure and network throughout the Olympic venues, so looks like they’re the boss.

It’s a bit surprising for Visa to shut out the other card issuers like this, but that’s competition for you.

Just unfortunate for the many visitors that will need to travel around with wads of cash, which could prove to be a boon for area pickpockets.

Oh, and the merchants that will lose out on all those would-be sales…

American Express Zync Credit Card

The “American Express Zync credit card” was released recently, aimed at younger consumers who wish to pay their balance off in full each month (whether they like it or not!).

Similar to many other American Express credit cards, it’s an installment card (also referred to as a charge card) because the full balance must be paid each month; no minimum payment option with this one kids.

That means there’s no interest or finance charges tied to the Zync card, which is clearly a plus for young consumers who are notorious for getting into credit card debt.

Of course, it diminishes the value of the credit card to some degree, as it’s really a form of convenience, and not so much a revolving credit line.

The Zync card resembles the many American Express credit cards already kicking around for older consumers, like the Gold Card, which also must be paid in full each month.

The big difference is the annual fee, which at $25, is much cheaper than the credit cards for the big boys and girls.

Choose Your Own Pack

Zync from American Express is also customizable, with four different “packs” available for an additional $20 each annually (the Eco Pack is free).

They include the Go Pack, Social Pack, Connect Pack, and Eco Pack, each offering special deals and discounts for the associated lifestyle.

Zync offers standard American Express membership rewards, purchase protection, extended warranty, return protection, excellent dispute resolution, and more.

While Zync may be a good choice for parents who want their kids to carry a credit card without the risk of being hit with finance charges, the annual fee can be a bit of a setback.

There are also a number of revolving American Express credit cards with no annual fee out there that offer the same benefits, though there is the risk of getting into more trouble.

It seems the Zync was released with the credit crisis in mind, as revolving credit cards dominated those boom years, and may be getting phased out as card issuers look for profit without taking on as much risk.

(photo: debaird)