I recently had the chance to interview John Ulzheimer about Regulation B of the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, which is a little-known regulation relating to credit references. While I’m an enormous fan of paying off debt, I don’t believe in paying more for existing credit than I might otherwise have to, so I was curious about how (or whether) Regulation B might relate to that.
John is the President of Consumer Education at SmartCredit.com and a Contributor for the National Foundation for Credit Counseling. He is an expert on credit reporting, credit scoring and identity theft. Formerly of FICO, Equifax and Credit.com, John is the only recognized credit expert who actually comes from the credit industry.
Here’s what he had to say:
JACKIE: In a recent article on Mint.com, you discussed Regulation B of the Equal Credit Opportunity Act. Could you explain a little bit about what that is?
JOHN: The ECOA protects consumers from discrimination because of your race, sex, national origin, age and a variety of other things. The “shoebox credit” provision of Reg B forces lenders to consider any credit reference or obligation that you want them to consider, as long as it’s something that could similarly be on a credit report.
JACKIE: Why would someone want to use Regulation B of the ECOA?
JOHN: Anyone who has no credit, little credit or poor credit should think about leveraging Reg B. Because lenders are required to consider credit references you bring to them it can help your perceived credit risk but augmenting a small credit file or balancing a poor credit file with positive payment history elsewhere
JACKIE: Is it a supplement to traditional credit reports, or can it be used in place of them?
JOHN: It doesn’t replace the traditional credit report, it augments it.
JACKIE: How would someone exercise their rights under Regulation B?
JOHN: The Shoebox Credit rights are very easy to exercise. You simply gather up as many receipts or statements from utilities, insurance, rent, or any other monthly obligation, organize them and bring them with you to the bank or credit union the next time you apply for something. Tell them you want them to consider the payment history of those accounts as per your rights under ECOA Reg B. Just be sure you’re bringing them proof of payment other than canceled checks. Most statements you get in the mail show the previous month’s payment and that’s good enough.
JACKIE: What is the bank required to consider?
JOHN: They are required to consider any credit reference/obligation that is similar to what would appear on a credit report.
JACKIE: Would this be a way that people who’ve gone through a foreclosure, short sale, or bankruptcy could start to rebuild their credit?
JOHN: Very much so, yes. This option would be good for anyone unless you’ve already got pristine credit reports and pristine credit scores, then there probably wouldn’t be incremental value.
JACKIE: Have you actually tried walking into a bank and applying for a loan with a shoebox full of receipts in hand, or do you know someone who has?
JOHN: No, I have not and I’ve never heard of anyone doing so. This option is so unknown that the National Credit Reporting Association has said publicly that they believe Reg B “has been conveniently forgotten by both the industry and the regulators at a cost to many credit challenged consumers.” I’m not sure anyone knows they have the ability to force lenders to consider alternative credit references.
Have you ever heard of taken advantage of this regulation before? If so, how did it go for you?