Fair, Isaac & Co., the big statistical modeler, has created a scorecard for issuers of small-business cards under the sponsorship of Visa U.S.A.

Visa kicked in investment dollars and its members provided lending data, enabling the San Rafael, Calif.-based scoring giant to create a model that would reduce the amount of time it takes to approve small business customers for cards, while increasing acceptance rates.

Instead of undergoing extensive judgmental review by a loan officer, the applicant's information is entered into credit desk software, the score is calculated, compared against cutoff rules established by the bank, and a decision is made in a "pure automated environment," said Latimer Asch, director of Fair, Isaac's commercial products business unit.

Visa's investment gives Visa members a 35% discount on the product, part of Fair, Isaac's Small Business Scoring Service.

"This is the first instance of a scorecard based entirely on data generated from small business credit card usage," said Robert Stock, Visa's senior vice president of credit card products.

Fair, Isaac's other small-business products use data from lending divisions - such as term loans and lines of credit.

"Whenever you focus more precisely on a specific product type you can build a more robust model," said Mr. Asch.

The scorecard is designed to evaluate businesses with annual sales of $5 million or less and credit limits of up to $50,000.

Price is based on usage. For banks to license the credit desk business software and scorecards, it could cost from $5,000 per year (to process 400 applications) to more than $100,000 a year (to process more than 10,000).

"We're very excited about this," said Mr. Stock. "The small-business market represents a tremendous opportunity for Visa and its members. We look forward to helping them use the . . . scorecard to build their business card portfolios."

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