Credit reporting bureaus – What consumers need to know | finder.com

What are the three major credit reporting bureaus?

We know that everyone's situation is unique and we aim to help you find the right product for you. We may receive compensation when you visit our partners' sites or are approved for their products. You can read more about how we maintain editorial independence and how we make money here.

Credit reporting agencies hold the key to your financial history. Find out everything you need to know about the top bureaus before you order your credit report.

Your financial stability plays a huge part in determining whether or not you’re approved for a loan or credit card application. While lenders use the information you provide in your application to determine approval, they heavily rely on your credit report.

Your credit report is held by credit reporting agencies (CRAs) and it’s a detailed record of your applications for credit, payment history and other borrower behavior. Find out more about these agencies and the role they play in your credit journey in this guide.

What does a credit bureau do?

A credit bureau constantly collects, holds and distributes consumer data from credit providers and public records that pertain to a borrower’s history — this information forms your credit report.

Your credit information can be bought by businesses or other providers who care to look further into your financial background in order to approve or deny your request for credit or services.

All operations of the three credit bureaus are regulated by the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

Find out your credit score

Details Features
myFICO
myFICO
Get quarterly access to your most widely used FICO® Scores and a 3-bureau credit report
  • Get quarterly access to your most widely used FICO® Scores
  • Credit report change alerts
  • FICO® Score analysis
Sign up
Experian Credit Report
Experian Credit Report
Get your credit report and FICO score for just $1 with enrollment in Experian CreditWorks credit monitoring. Cancel anytime.
  • 3 credit reports
  • Track your FICO® score
  • Easy to use dashboard
Sign up
TransUnionCredit Report
TransUnionCredit Report
TransUnion credit score, monitoring and identity theft insurance.
  • Unlimited updates to your TransUnion credit score
  • Up to $1,000,000 in identity theft insurance
  • Personalized debt analysis
Sign up
Equifax Business Credit Monitor
Equifax Business Credit Monitor
Monitor your key business relationships to protect your company from losses.
  • Bankruptcy Alert
  • Derogatory Alerts
  • New Inquiry Alert
Sign up
Details Features
CreditRepair.com
CreditRepair.com
Repair your credit online with CreditRepair.com or call directly 855-897-9466.
  • Repair your past
  • Monitor your present
  • Build your future
Sign up
Debt.com
Debt.com
Debt.com and Power Wallet have the tools to help you manage your money.
  • Get answers
  • Calculators & free budget tools
  • Self help
Sign up
CuraDebt: Tax Debt Relief Free Consultation
CuraDebt: Tax Debt Relief Free Consultation
FREE consultation 877-797-0209. 100% confidential. OBB member in good standing.
  • Get your free saving estimate
  • Experience of more than 15 years nationwide
  • Member of online business bureau in good standing
Sign up
The Credit Pros: Legal Credit Repair
The Credit Pros: Legal Credit Repair
We believe that fast credit repair is a personal issue that demands personal attention.
  • Help force the deletion of erroneous credit damage
  • Provide practical, honest credit advice when you need it
  • Help you set realistic, reachable credit goals
Sign up More info
Lexington Law Credit Repair
Lexington Law Credit Repair
Call now for a FREE credit report summary & credit repair consultation.
  • Remove incorrect listings from your file
  • Find out what is in your credit file
  • Personalized services
Sign up

Who are the major credit reporting agencies?

There are multiple credit reporting agencies operating in the US, but the major three bureaus are :

  • Equifax. This credit bureau provides personal and business credit reports — credit alert services are also available. In 2017, Equifax suffered a cyberattack that compromised the personal information of over 2 million consumers.
  • Experian. This is the largest credit reporting agency in the US. This data-focused bureau handles the credit information of 235 million consumers and lets credit providers make more accurate credit decisions through data sharing.
  • TransUnion. This is the smallest credit reporting agency of the “Big Three”, but it offers a more extensive employment history record. Banks can use this information to verify your employment data when you apply for a loan or credit.

Each credit bureau also offers credit monitoring for a price. This type of service allows consumers to access their credit score and report, plus added protection in the form of credit alerts via email or text and the ability to place a freeze on their credit file.

What credit score do lenders use?

FICO (Fair Isaac Corporation) score when weighing your application for credit. FICO has developed a system to calculate consumer credit scores for the top three credit reporting agencies — scores can range from 300-850.

FICO is a big player in the credit world, but FICO is not a credit reporting agency.

How do credit reporting agencies receive my information?

Credit bureaus can receive your personal information in a number of ways:

  • From creditors and businesses. Most credit providers that you apply for an account with send information to credit reporting agencies so it can be noted on your report. Even if you’re not approved for the account it will be listed. If you are approved for the account, information such as the account open and close date, payment information and any default listings will be included.
  • Collecting data. Credit bureaus dig through government information and records or buy data from a smaller credit reporting agency to create a more detailed credit report.
  • Public information. Publicly accessible information such as court judgements and bankruptcy information is also included in your report.

It’s important to note that unless you’ve held or applied for a credit account in the US, you probably won’t have a credit report.

Can I get a credit check online?

You can access your free credit report from all three bureaus from AnnualCreditReport.com once every 12 months.

After you’ve received your one free annual report from each bureau under federal law, any additional credit report will have to be bought from the bureau you choose to deal with.

Information that’s included in your credit report

Are there any differences between credit reporting agencies?

Each bureau receives different information from credit providers and public sources. However, as all of these wells of information are not the same and because some providers pick and choose who they report to, you’ll find that your credit report may be different when you order from each of the agencies.

This could also affect the way your credit score is calculated, especially if one bureau is missing some key information or has a mistake listed on your credit report.

Compare your credit scores

How to contact the major credit bureaus if you spot an error

If you find any information that’s incorrect on your credit report it’s important to get in contact with the credit agency to dispute the error.

OnlinePhoneMail
Equifax888-766-0008Equifax Consumer Fraud Division
P.O. Box 740256
Atlanta, GA 30374
Experian888-397-3742Experian
P.O. Box 9554
Allen, TX 75013
TransUnion888-909-8872TransUnion Fraud Victim Assistance Department
P.O. Box 2000
Chester, PA 19016

Bottom line

The three major credit reporting agencies operate slightly differently. That’s why when ordering your credit report from one bureau, you should have a good idea of what information is listed on the other two so you can cross reference to make sure that your credit history is accurate.

If you discover a fishy account on your credit report or see a blatant error, get it cleared up as soon as you can so you’re not negatively affected when trying to prove your creditworthiness down the road.

When’s the last time you checked your credit score?

Kyle Morgan

Kyle Morgan is a writer and editor for finder.com who has worked for the USA Today network and Relix magazine, among other publications. He can be found writing about everything from the latest car loan stats to tips on saving money when traveling overseas. He lives in Asbury Park, where he loves exploring new places and sipping on hoppy beer. Oh, and he doesn't discriminate against buffalo wings — grilled or fried are just fine.

Was this content helpful to you? No  Yes

Ask an Expert

You are about to post a question on finder.com:

  • Do not enter personal information (eg. surname, phone number, bank details) as your question will be made public
  • finder.com is a financial comparison and information service, not a bank or product provider
  • We cannot provide you with personal advice or recommendations
  • Your answer might already be waiting – check previous questions below to see if yours has already been asked

Finder only provides general advice and factual information, so consider your own circumstances, or seek advice before you decide to act on our content. By submitting a question, you're accepting our Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy.
Go to site