You may know that you have a credit report. And you might also know that your credit report influences your credit score, which is a three-digit number that measures your financial health. But who collects this information?
That’s where the credit bureaus come in. There are three major credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. All three collect financial data relating to your credit accounts from your creditors and use it to generate your credit reports. They don’t, however, all use this information in the same way. If you want a better understanding of your credit report and score, understanding how the Big 3 differ can help.
What kind of information do the credit bureaus collect?
Each credit bureau gets their information from your creditors, such as:
- Your creditor’s name and address
- Your account number
- The date your account was opened
- Current balances
- Credit limits for each account
- Payment history, including late or missed payments
The credit bureaus also include other information in your credit report that may not come directly from a creditor. That includes your name, address and employment history, how often you apply for new credit, collection accounts reported by third-party debt collectors and public records, such as liens, foreclosures or bankruptcies.
Are all three credit reports the same?
The short answer is no. Your Equifax credit report might look very different from your TransUnion or Experian report. There are two reasons.
First, each bureau goes into a different level of detail about the information they include. For example, Equifax might list your most recent employer’s name while TransUnion also includes your position and the dates you were employed for all your past employers.
The other difference lies in what’s actually reported to each bureau. Creditors can pick and choose which bureau they report to. Some report to all three; others don’t. In fact, they’re not required to report your information at all.
Credit bureaus and credit scoring
Your credit score is based on key information in your credit report. Specifically, that covers:
- Payment history
- Credit utilization (the ratio of your balances to your credit limit)
- Length of your credit history
- Inquiries for new credit
- Types of credit
Equifax, Experian and TransUnion all generate credit scores for consumers. But, these scores aren’t guaranteed to be the same if the information in each bureau’s report is different. That’s important to know if you’re planning to apply for new credit. Lenders may only pull one score and if it ends up being lower than the other two, that could be a roadblock to getting approved.
Check your credit reports
Checking your credit reports regularly is a smart move because it can help you pinpoint errors on your credit. It can also help you spot potential signs of identity fraud. You can get a copy of your credit report from each bureau for free once per year through AnnualCreditReport.com.