Facebook Friend Lists Could Impact Credit Card Interest Rates

Recent reports in the San Francisco Chronicle and in Fast Company magazine profiled a startup company with a service that might surprise most credit card holders. Rapleaf scours social networking sites like Twitter, MySpace, and Facebook for publicly disclosed information about hobbies, personal interests, and friendships. By matching account files from client companies with data gathered online, Rapleaf builds profiles that enhance traditional credit reports with projections about a prospect's overall risk.

Under Rapleaf's evaluation system, credit applicants with friends who have generally good credit receive a lower risk evaluation. For consumers with credit scores bordering between "fair" and "good" or "good" and "excellent," a positive Rapleaf report could provide lenders with enough assurance to issue a loan or offer a stronger interest rate. However, the system's critics suggest that social networks containing less creditworthy friends could increase a consumer's risk projection, unfairly subjecting them to higher credit card interest rates. Consumers concerned about the effects of social networking sites on their credit scores may simply prefer to switch their pages to "private."