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FICO Expands Program to Offer Financial Counseling

mixed-numbersFICO has announced it is expanding its Score Open Access program, which offers complimentary credit score access to consumers with credit management problems. Now, the program will also provide credit and financial counseling to approximately one million Americans.

Announced earlier this week, FICO’s Score Open Access program will now become the Score Open Access for Credit & Financial Counseling.

“The popular FICO Score Open Access program has now been extended to approximately one million people who seek assistance each year,” said Jim Wehmann, executive vice president for scores at FICO. “We consider this a major milestone in our effort to ensure that all Americans have convenient and free access to their FICO Scores."

The original program, which launched in November 2013, was designed to provide free credit score access to consumers with credit problems. It also offered credit education materials to teach consumers about scoring and responsible financial management.

Though it will still provide these services, the program will now also provide consumers with access to financial counselors, as well as their credit reports. These reports will come from Experian, one of FICO’s credit bureau partners.

"Experian is proud to join FICO and the nation’s credit counselors to lend our support through this important program for people experiencing financial difficulty," said Genevieve Juillard, president of consumer information services at Experian. "It is our mission to be a champion of the consumer, and as the leading provider of consumer credit education and empowerment tools, we are proud to offer Experian’s credit reports in conjunction with the FICO Score to help struggling borrowers."

According to Sarah Chenven, director of programs and strategic initiatives at Credit Builders Alliance, the new, expanded program will give American families a better chance at financial success.

"In today's economy, a good credit history is essential for individuals and families to get and stay ahead," Chenven said. "The ability to help underserved consumers in particular access their FICO Scores—and provide educational resources that identify the underlying financial behavior driving those scores—will strengthen nonprofit counselors' and coaches' toolkits, and may enhance their clients' outcomes."

Wehmann said the idea for expanding Open Access came from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) last year.

"The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau first drew our attention to financial counselors’ need to share credit scores with consumers in early 2014 as part of the CFPB’s efforts to empower consumers," Wehmann said. "Because of FICO's longstanding commitment to consumer financial education, when the CFPB approached us about enabling credit and financial counselors to share FICO Scores they purchase with their clients, we recognized the importance of working with our data partners to make it happen.”

Credit and financial counselors can choose to participate in the expanded Open Access program if eligible. Eligibility requirements and sign-up information can be found at FICO.com.

About Author: Aly J. Yale

Aly J. Yale is a freelance writer and editor based in Fort Worth, Texas. She has worked for various newspapers, magazines, and publications across the nation, including The Dallas Morning News and Addison Magazine. She has also worked with both the Five Star Institute and REO Red Book, as well as various other mortgage industry clients on content strategy, blogging, marketing, and more.

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