FICO, the company that calculates consumers’ credit scores — the scores that are the most widely used by American creditors to determine whether or not they will extend credit to a particular consumer and the terms of that credit — recently released data showing how different negative actions consumers might take in regard to their credit will affect their scores.
Among other things, the data shows that settling your debts is far less damaging to your FICO scores than filing for bankruptcy. In other words, the data helps make the case for why settlement rather than bankruptcy is an excellent alternative for many cash-strapped consumers, assuming that they either settle their own debts or work with a reputable settlement firm that charges fairly for its services.
The data released by FICO and available on its web site at: http://www.myfico.com/crediteducation/questions/Credit_Problem_Comparison.aspx, shows that as a consequence of filing for bankruptcy, consumers may see as much as a 240 point drop in their FICO scores. In contrast, if they settle their debts, their FICO scores may drop by 125 points at most. Interestingly because of the way that FICO scores are calculated, when consumers have higher scores prior to either filing for bankruptcy or settling their debts, their credit scores are harmed more by settlement or bankruptcy than are the scores of consumers who had lower FICO scores to begin with. According to FICO, the reason for this difference is that the scores of lower scoring consumers already reflect their credit missteps.
Unaffordable debt can often hurt longer than your credit scores can stay depressed.
Despite the FICO data, I must caution you not to base your decision about which debt relief option to pursue based on that information. All debt relief options — credit counseling, settlement and bankruptcy — will have a negative effect on your credit histories and/or FICO scores for some time.
When you are deciding how to deal with your debt, your primary concerns should be gaining a clear understanding of how each option works and its pros and cons, and determining whether the numbers associated with a particular option make sense for you.
For example, your first test if you are considering settlement should be whether or not you can accumulate the money you need to fund your creditors’ settlement offers before your risk of being sued by them for what you owe begins to escalate. If you cannot come up with the money you need to settle your debts relatively quickly, then bankruptcy is probably your better option.
If you are overly sensitive to your credit score dropping from pending credit and finance decisions you need to make, you should hold off settling debts, or any other debt relief option for that matter. If you do not have an immediate need for your FICO score to stay strong, get started dealing with resolving debt problems. For many people, debts can cause issues far longer than the credit scores can be depressed.
Anyone can post questions and concerns about FICO credit scores in the comments below for feedback.