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Average FICO credit score utterances

They can't all be right about the real number

| | By Greg Fisher

The average FICO credit score number is the favorite football in credit-scoredom, kicked up and down the gridiron regularly by very important people who have a broad reach in the press. Some say it is 678, others 690 and 692, while Fair Isaac insists that it is 723. The FICO company says that it does not use the mean average to describe the American population's propensity to pay. Instead it uses the median (middle) FICO score of the distribution.

The Wizard of San Rafael/Minneapolis says that his theory is that even in an economic downturn, as the low-scored get lower, the high-scored get higher (like the rich getting richer). But, in early 2009, the big credit score brain revealed that it really doesn't know the current average credit score; that it spits out that number not even on a yearly basis. The first time the 723 was mentioned on creditscoring.com was 2005. And, peculiarly, through all those years, that number, as published on the myFICO.com web site, NEVER MOVED, not down to 722 nor up to 724.

Now we know why.

Could Wikipedia be accurate, even though its proclamation of a mean score of 678 is based on a goof? Are our scores going down collectively? Will the FICO crew burn a little cash to calculate the national credit IQ average anew? (We can take it.) And, most importantly, is all of this angst for naught?

As with the notion of what a good credit score is, and what the scale of the score system is, so too are there many, uh - interpretations of the real average credit score. And with their big megaphones, the pundits go on. And on. And on.

What is the real average credit score? At first look, the circus seems amusing, but it—really—is not funny.


720s

The Median FICO Score in the U.S. is 723." - Fair Isaac

"A few years ago, Fair Isaac calculated that the average FICO score in the U.S. was 723. Fair Isaac hasn't gone back to recalculate the average recently, but observers say it has most certainly dropped in the past year." - TIME, January 9, 2009

"Fair Isaac won't disclose recent data, but Watts said the company believes that the national median credit score remains in the 720 range." - Philadelphia Inquirer, January 4, 2009

"In a tough economic climate, you might expect everyone's score to fall. Historically, that's not what happens, says [CEO Mark] Greene of Fair Isaac." - National Public Radio, November 24, 2008

690s

"All of this translates into tough times for more than half of the U.S. population, as the average credit score of U.S. consumers is 694, according to Equifax." - Forbes.com, December 3, 2008

"Correction: March 23, 2008, Sunday The Mortgage column on March 2, about credit-repair services, referred incorrectly to the average credit score of 692." - New York Times, March 23, 2008

"According to Experian, the national average [a Fake-O, not the FICO] credit score is 692." - Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, 2008

"But despite higher standards from lenders, the average credit score has stayed relatively flat at 690, according to John Ulzheimer, president of consumer education for Credit.com." - Wall Street Journal, January 2, 2009

678

"The national average credit score for those with credit card utilization of at least 50 percent is 631 compared to the overall national average of 678." - The ABC's of Getting Out of Debt, copyright 2004

Those who use more than 50% of their credit have an average credit score of 631, compared with the overall national average of 678. - Wall Street Journal, 2004

"The national average credit score is 678." - CCCS of South Florida, 2006

"The national average is only 678 because the average is being pulled down by some very low credit scores." - A winner of Kudos! with 7,000 posts at Fair Isaac's FICO Forums, July, 2007

Last month, Experian released its first study of nationwide credit usage, and we learned that the number to beat was 678 -- that's the national average credit score based on 3 million randomly sampled files. - The Motley Fool, 2004

"This figure, a measure of your past ability to make payments on time and manage your credit, will be somewhere between 300 and 850, with the average American coming in around 678, according to Experian’s 2005 National Score Index." - Credit Score Myths, LendingTree, December, 2007

"The average FICO score in the U.S. is 678." - The State of Washington, December, 2007

"According to Fair Isaac the median score is 723 (half of scores above and below) whereas according to Experian (using the Fair Isaac risk model) the average credit score is 678 (lowest scores are further from the median than the highest scores)." - Wikipedia

"Who said that the average is 678?" - creditscoring.com, December, 2007

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