Large-scale field experiment sees credit-score awareness as path to improved financial health.

Credit Score

Research consistently shows that people have trouble comprehending basic concepts of personal financial management, and struggle when making financial decisions. But simply checking your individual FICO score can lead to better financial decision making, according to a study led by Dr. Tatiana Homonoff of the Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service at New York University.

In the just-released study, Homonoff, Rourke O’Brien (University of Wisonsin-Madison) and Abigail B. Sussman (University of Chicago) conducted a large-scale field experiment to test the impact on financial behavior that can result from viewing one’s FICO Score regularly.

The experiment, conducted between June 2015 and June 2017, included a sample consisting of more than 400,000 Sallie Mae student-loan borrowers. At the start, all Sallie Mae customers were offered access to unlimited views of their FICO Score, free of charge. Borrowers randomly assigned to a “treatment group” received quarterly informational emails, notifying them that an updated FICO Score was available through the loan provider. Meanwhile, “control group” members received no direct communications about the program’s availability, as part of the experiment.
The study reported that student loan borrowers who received quarterly emails from Sallie Mae about the availability of free FICO Scores were 65% more likely to view their credit scores, more likely to have improved their scores, and had fewer payments past due.

“Our findings demonstrate the potential for targeted, low-cost, scalable interventions to positively impact financial decision making and improve consumer financial welfare,” the study concluded. The paper likens the opportunity to self-monitor one’s creditworthiness to the role a Fitbit plays in encouraging exercise and physical health.

To arrange an interview with Dr. Homonoff, a professor of economics and public policy, please contact the New York University press officer listed with this release.

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