Can unsavory purchases end up on a FICO score?
April 11, 2007 5:11 PM   Subscribe

Is there any credible possibility that credit card purchases of unsavory items (beer, cigarettes... well I don't smoke but you get the idea) might make their way indirectly onto a FICO score or be found out by lenders? Standing at the liquor store with a six of Boddingtons I can't help wondering if I should be paying cash.
posted by zek to Work & Money (14 answers total)
The credit card companies can see where you purchased things, but not what. So if you're super paranoid, you can purchase your items from a grocery store, rather then a liquor store if you're super paranoid.

Creditors do not report purchase information to credit bureaus, you should order a copy of your credit report from to see what kind of information is contained, if you're curious.
posted by delmoi at 5:24 PM on April 11, 2007

I don't think so. But you should assume that your data will be used or will be sold for data mining (people who buy spaghetti are likely to buy olive oil etc.). The same is true for any bonus card. But there are ways to avoid this
posted by yoyo_nyc at 5:24 PM on April 11, 2007

In general, they don't know what you bought: it's just a transaction for $X dollars. The credit card companies aren't sent your receipt.

I suppose they could look at where you shopped, but I find it hard to believe that would happen. (If that were the case, get your liquor from a supermarket, not a liquor store.)
posted by fogster at 5:25 PM on April 11, 2007

(note: in many states liquor, wine, and beer cannot be purchased at grocery stores or supermarkets)
posted by baphomet at 6:02 PM on April 11, 2007

Your question implies people who drink or smoke have statistically demonstrable differences in their likelihood of defaulting on a loan. I highly doubt that such a link has been described, and if it has I bet it is a tenuous connection at best.
posted by dendrite at 6:11 PM on April 11, 2007

I don't see how it could affect your FICO unless you have some type of tab running at a liquor store that you didn't pay and it went to collections. If this is the case, please let me know what wonderful alcohol purveying establishment allows you run up a tab!! (wink)

FICO isn't a morality score.

posted by Julnyes at 6:15 PM on April 11, 2007

Your credit report is all that companies look at. They look at debt-to-income ratio. They also look at how close to max your credit cards are. If all of your cards are maxed all the time, that kills your credit score. Paying them off doesn't really help either. Credit card companies and lenders are more likely to give you a loan if you keep all of your revolving credit accounts at about 50%. That way they know you know how to manage your money.

Found that out the hard way when applying for my first home loan.
posted by Industrial PhD at 6:19 PM on April 11, 2007

Not yet.
posted by adipocere at 7:41 PM on April 11, 2007 [1 favorite]

There are Christian credit cards that will not allow tobacco or alcohol to be charged on them. A buddy has one from work. He said there is a different code that restaurants and stores use for these purchases.

Having said that, I don't think anyone is keeping track, outside of paranoid Christian employers.
posted by QIbHom at 7:42 PM on April 11, 2007

No. FICO only cares about your payment history, debt utilization, history of bankruptcy/judgements/leins, etc. The credit card company reports to the credit reporting companies whether or not you pay on time (among other things, but not individual purchases or retailers). FICO software crunches the data and spits out a number.

A bigger concern, as some have mentioned, is the data most likely is or will be used for data mining. This may not affect your credit, but it might affect your insurance rates. For example, a health or life insurer might someday decide that you're a bad risk. Note that they don't do this now, but it ain't hard to imagine. An interesting twist is that auto insurers sometimes use your FICO score...

If you're paraniod and creative, you can imagine all kinds of fun stuff: perhaps a job interviewer checks your "morality score" (with your consent of course -- you do want the job don't you?) and sees this kind of thing. In addition, you might wonder if the supermarket club cards will show what percentage of high-saturated-fat foods you buy...

Short answer: no, FICO doesn't know. But I like to pay cash at liquor stores.
posted by powpow at 8:22 PM on April 11, 2007

I've always wondered if purchases of wine and beer at these "we sell your information when you sign up for our frequent shopper card" stores don't end up affecting your price for auto insurance.
posted by ikkyu2 at 11:50 PM on April 11, 2007

I'd be more concerned that your purchase history might be shared with health insurers.
"Gee...that Zek person makes a lot of purchases at Bob's Liquor and Saturated Fat Store."
posted by Thorzdad at 4:34 AM on April 12, 2007

I haven't heard of purchases tracked via a loyalty card affecting a person's credit rating, but they have been shared with law enforcement and led to at least one erroneous arresst. I have heard of another case where a man fell in a supermarket and the supermarket pulled up his purchases of alcohol to argue he was drunk at the time. So data mined with the cards has been used against customers before.
posted by TedW at 7:17 AM on April 12, 2007

posted by Hugh Jorgan at 8:09 AM on April 12, 2007

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