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February 07, 2013

You'd better start reminding your neighbors to pay their bills on time!  Now, at least one of the big three credit bureaus is keeping track of credit scores by metro area as a reflection on your personal likelihood to pay your bills.

This should go in the "surely they've got to be kidding" file.  But its apparently true.  Trans Union, one of the big three credit bureaus and perennial defendant in Fair Credit Reporting Act lawsuits filed by the Kittell Law Firm, is tracking not just individuals' credit scores, but the average credit scores for metropolitan areas.  This means that, even if you pay all your bills on time, you are at risk for getting turned down for a loan or credit card just because the area you live in has a low average score, which, according to Trans Union, could indicate that you are less likely to repay your creditors.  

Calling them "metro ratings", Trans Union has determined the average risk for a collective group of people based upon where those people live.  Trans Union contends that a low metro rating does not just reflect a geographically localized group of lackluster bill payers, but could indicate places where the unemployment rate is high or that were hit hard by home foreclosures.  

Talk about hitting where it hurts.  Trans Union, who cares about nothing other than its bottom line, is now making it harder for entrepreneurs who want to start a new business in an economically deprived community to get a loan because the unemployed workforce who need the jobs the entrepreneur is trying to create have low credit scores because (duuuhhh) they are unemployed and can not pay their bills.  I have not seen a vicious cycle like that since employers started reviewing credit reports during the job application process, which lead to the old "you don't have a job so your credit score is low so I can't give you a job because your credit score is low" catch 22.  

So, neighbors of mine, don't be surprised if I start calling you once a month to make sure you are paying your bills timely, particularly since the area I live in (the Memphis Tenn-Miss-Ark area which us local folks call the Mid South) has the worst metro rating in the nation at a measly score of 638 (using a scoring range of 501 to 999).  

The complete list of the worst metro scores are:

Memphis, Tenn-Miss-Ark. 638;
McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, Texas 639;
Jackson, MIss. 642;
El Paso 650;
Columbia, SC 650;
Las Vegas-Paradise 650;
Little Rock-North Little Rock-Conway 651;
Baton Rouge 651;
Lakeland-Winter Haven, Fla. 651; and
Augusta-Richmond County, GA-SC 651.

The best metro scores are:

San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, Calif. 700;
San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont, Calif. 696;
Madison, Wis. 694;
Honolulu 693;
Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, Minn.-Wis. 691;
Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, Conn. 690;
Boston-Cambridge-Quincy, Mass.-N.H. 689;
Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, Calif. 685;
Portland-South Portland-Biddeford, Maine 685; and
Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, Wash. 685.

What's next?  Trans Union tracking people's credit worthiness by the average score of their Facebook friends?  Now where was that "unfriend" button again?!

Or how about by party affiliation?  Interesting to note that the 8 of the 10 bad metro scores came from "red" states while all 10 of the best metro scores came from "blue" states.  I guess Trans Union will now be claiming that Democrats are better financial risks that Republicans!

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