Understanding Bullshit: Credit Scores
Worried about your credit score? Don't be. The credit score is one of the most deceptive tactics that lenders use to control your behavior. Here's why: Credit equals debt, the term “credit score” shouldn’t even be considered a “score” at all. (It’s just a prettier way to refer to debt.) Although, if this metric were named a “potential for debt score” instead of a “credit score,” it would probably lose a lot of its appeal.
“But having a good credit score is good”, you might say. “And if you have a high limit and don’t use it, your credit will improve.” That’s true, but that logic is a little (i.e. ridiculously) absurd. I get a higher limit to improve my credit...for what? An even higher limit I won’t use? And if I do use it, my score drops, making the whole perk pointless. It’s like having a phone that only calls itself and also stops working if you actually use it.
The whole idea of a credit score is flawed from the start. We tell people there’s a single number in which to judge their financial worthiness (It’s basically Yelp for humans). That’s a scary prospect.
Yet, the lending industry continues to perpetuate the myth of the credit score in a way that is similar to how your friendly local drug dealer peddles his products. The lenders make it easy for you to get your first taste of credit. From the time that you turn eighteen, they start bombarding you with direct mail, offering you the chance to get your first credit card. Often times, they’ll partner with colleges and universities to “sell” those cards. “Build your credit and help your school,” is a promise that offers – not only – the opportunity to buy things you can’t afford, but also the illusion of freedom at the same time. (What eighteen year-old doesn’t crave freedom?)
Once the lenders worm you into their system, they have you on the hook. You’re credit score is simply another way for them to keep you buying their product. First, they tell you about all the wonders of what credit can do for you. “Want a brand new car that you can’t afford? Don’t worry, just use a little credit. Want a new pair of Christian Louboutin (red soles shoes) but you’re a little strapped for cash? Go ahead! You can afford it! Just charge it! Come on, you can do it. It will feel soooooo good and your feet will love you for it!”
However, occasionally, someone will have the audacity to break free from their addiction. And in order to squash copycats, (or an impending mass exodus), the debt pushers will now use fear to whip their remaining clients back in line, by downgrading the scores of those who no longer use or require credit. The banks “punish” those who have slipped through their clutches by “taking away” the thing that their loyal customers crave most – more credit. By convincing the masses of the value of their precious credit score, banks have conned most of us into staying perpetually in debt to them. It truly is a brilliant marketing plan.
Nevertheless, in today’s America, you can’t buy a house and you can’t rent in a desirable location without a half decent credit score. Which causes people to borrow money they often don’t need to just so they can borrow money later when they really need it. It’s madness. A madness which is also naturally helping to power our whole financial system.
In a word: you are damned. Damned if you are poor or struggling financially and damned if you’re not, (because you simply refused to be ripped off by financial institutions whose profits depend on extending credit and charging interest). Personally I fall into the latter category. I actually had a higher credit score at a time in my life when I was leveraged to the hilt and lived paycheck to paycheck. (I now live direct deposit to direct deposit). Now that I am in a much better position financially, where I can pretty much pay for everything I need or want, I have a much lower score and dubbed a higher risk even though my ability to pay is much higher than it was.
I used to mistakenly believe that a credit score was all about your ability to pay, but it's clear now that it's more about how profitable you are to the banks. In other words, when it comes to credit, there’s little point in striving for excellence. You just need to strive for “not bad.” And so over the past few years, I've come to the realization that a credit score is complete bullshit and is the biggest capitalist scam of this century. It’s disgusting and the way it’s taken hold of society is a disgrace.
Credit reports and scores are not class neutral either. Rather, they embed existing social inequities in our current credit system and economy – to the point that a person’s credit information serves as a proxy for class itself.
As John Oliver summarily put it at the beginning of a Last Week Tonight segment: “It's the number that determines whether banks will lend you money. It's the number that landlords use to decide if they want to let you rent an apartment. It's the number some employers will use to choose whether to hire you or not. It's your credit score, and it's "the single most important three-digit number in your whole life.”
In summation: the credit score is the looming shadow that watches over all of us. It’s a made up number. It's a lie. It's a weapon of capitalism to make you behave like an obedient dog under duress of a threat with no teeth. The day we start burning down banks and holding hot irons to the pigs that hide inside of them I'll give a fuck about my credit score. When it finally hits zero because there's nobody left to tally it, I'll be satisfied.