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Consumer credit scores rise as changes at credit reporting agencies take effect

An overhaul resulted in an average increase of 11 percent, a new study finds

Photo (c) cnythzl - Getty Images
Millions of U.S. consumers are seeing a boost in their credit score as a result of an overhaul in the way major credit reporting firms handle negative credit information.

Under a new agreement with state regulators, non-loan items that went to collection firms -- such as old gym memberships or traffic tickets -- will be removed from consumers’ files.

Consumers who had at least one collections account erased from their files saw an average gain of 11 percent in their credit scores, according to a new study by the New York Federal Reserve.

Changes imposed

The credit boost some consumers are seeing is the result of a 2015 settlement between 31 state attorneys general and Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion, who together created the National Consumer Assistance Plan. The plan -- which went into effect in the second half of 2017 -- was designed to limit credit reporting errors that negatively impact scores.

The New York Fed report found that the number of people with a collections account on their credit report dropped from 33 million to 25 million between June 2017 and June 2018. The report was based on a sample of millions of anonymous credit reports from credit reporting firm Equifax.

The report found that the population that was impacted by the change had lower credit scores to begin with. One third had a delinquency of some kind in their credit accounts compared to 8 percent of everyone else.

The average increase in credit score was 11 points, the study found. Eighteen percent of the sample saw gains of at least 30 points, but those who saw bigger boosts typically still had bad credit afterwards.

“These borrowers will certainly benefit in the long run from the cleanup of their credit reports, since higher scores are associated with better access to credit, to the job market, and even to the rental housing market,” the New York Fed said.

“But the immediate impact of the removal of collections will be muted if the beneficiary’s credit record continues to be tarnished with other negative information.”

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