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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations

CFPB report explores ties between credit score fluctuations and credit applications

Consumer Finance Credit Scores Credit Reporting Agency CFPB

Consumer Finance

On May 30, the CFPB released the latest quarterly consumer credit trends report, which examines the fluctuations in consumers’ credit scores and the timing of consumers’ applications for credit. The report analyzes consumers whose credit scores showed large increases or decreases between 2009 and 2017. Key findings of the report include, (i) consumers with large credit score changes, in either direction, tend to be younger and have considerably lower credit scores on average; (ii) application rates drop sharply as credit scores reach their minimums, and then, after hitting bottom application rates trend steadily upward; and (iii) patterns in application rates generally hold regardless of the levels of minimum and maximum credit scores.

The report notes that while the Bureau did not perform “a full accounting of the underlying mechanism” that leads to the observed patterns, there are a few possible explanations, including (i) consumers are more aware of their credit scores due to the wider availability of them, which would influence timing of applications; (ii) hard inquiries and results from hard inquiries may contribute to the observed peaks and troughs in the scores; (iii) marketing practices by card issuers may contribute to increased applications after a consumer’s credit score qualifies the consumer for a prescreened offer.

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