None of us think too much about a credit reporting agency until we need to open a line of credit. We fill out the application at the business or online and then we wait. While we are waiting, credit reporting agencies do their work.
Credit reporting agencies are private companies that sell information about credit history to potential creditors. They aggregate data on your spending and payments, including your payment history for loans and past credit purchases. Other organizations, like telephone or power companies, also report delinquent accounts to credit reporting agencies.
A credit score, most often between 300 and 850, is generating using all that data. This is the number businesses use to make a decision about our request to borrow money.
What are the major credit reporting agencies, sometimes referred to as credit bureaus? There are many such companies, but there are three that have become the standard-bearers in the industry: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. They operate in similar ways but don’t communicate or share data, so each may have slightly different information on your credit history. It’s smart for consumers to know what each of the three knows about our credit history.
Experian “unlocks the power of data to create opportunities for consumers, businesses, and society.” Experian uses the Fair, Isaac and Company (FICO) 8 score system, a common measure of consumer risk used by creditors. Scores range between 300 and 850, and consumers can access their score for free once per year at annualcreditreport.com. The company also offers a paid Credit Tracker service for people who want to keep close tabs on their score, along with email alerts about possible fraud. The company’s North American headquarters is located in Costa Mesa, California.
Equifax describes itself as “a consumer advocate, steward of financial literacy, and champion of economic advancement.” The company provides a FICO score also, as well as a VantageScore, which was developed as a competitor to the FICO. The credit scores also range between 300 and 850, and consumers can buy a subscription service to monitor credit reports and scores as well as credit freezes. Equifax is headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia.
TransUnion aims “to be more than a credit reporting agency. We’re a sophisticated, global risk information provider striving to use information for good.” A credit check through TransUnion will also result in a FICO score of between 300 and 850, and credit monitoring services are also available. The company is located in Chicago, Illinois.
Keeping track of the three major credit agencies helps consumers stay on top of their credit. Consumers should take advantage of the yearly, free copy of their credit report, especially if anticipating a large purchase using credit. Since each credit bureau operates separately, it is best to request a report from all three of the major agencies.
If your report has incorrect information or you would like to insert comments about a particular account, this can be done online for each company so you won’t face any unexpected surprises when you’re ready to buy. By being aware of each of the major agencies and using their services, you can ensure that your credit serves you well.
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