If you’ve ever requested a loan or a credit card, you’ve probably heard about credit reports. These work almost like a report card that shows how creditworthy you are (if you are good at managing and paying debts). Banks and other lenders evaluate it to decide if you’re reliable enough to receive the financial product you asked for.
But where does this information actually come from?
It comes from the 3 credit bureaus (Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian).
In this article, we will explain what these agencies do, and why a good credit score is the key to getting a loan. Also, we’ll show you how you can access your report for free, and review the history of the 3 credit bureaus.
What are credit bureaus?
Credit bureaus, also called credit agencies, are companies that collect and store financial information. They use this data to create credit reports and calculate credit scores.
What exactly does a credit bureau do?
As we said, credit bureaus compile financial information of people. With it, they create reports. Then, they sell the reports to certain companies, such as banks, mortgage lenders, credit card companies, and other financial entities that need to know your credit history before granting you a loan.
By analyzing your credit report, financial institutions will be able to know if you have paid your debts on time. This helps them determine if you’ll return the money they lend you.
Also, lenders will review your report to see how much debt you have accumulated, if you have ever filed for bankruptcy, and if someone has filed a lawsuit against you or seized your assets.
If your report presents negative information, or you have a low credit score, you are less likely to get a loan. And if you can’t access capital, your ability to keep your business afloat or help it grow will be compromised.
It’s essential to be clear, though. Credit agencies are not the ones who decide to grant you a loan. It is the banks that determine this based on the data provided by the bureaus.
The information in your credit report is used to decide the interest rates of bank loans or credit cards, to evaluate lease applications, and define insurance rates.
How do these bureaus get the information?
To calculate your credit score, the 3 credit bureaus recompile information from different sources:
Most of the information that the bureaus collect comes from lenders. If you have applied for a bank loan or a credit card, it is quite likely that the entity has reported your request to one or more credit bureaus.
The 3 credit bureaus collect information such as the date on which you requested the loan, the name of the lender, your payment history, the amount of credit you granted, and the amount you used, as well as outstanding payments.
Not all lenders report these activities to the bureaus. In this sense, it is advisable to find institutions that report to the agencies to start building a credit history or improve your credit score.
- Public records
Bureaucrats can find out if there is a history of financial-related lawsuits against you if you have ever filed for bankruptcy, or if you have foreclosed or your assets seized.
Other sources of information include the bills you pay for public services and certain memberships. In some cases, bureaus buy information from different credit bureaus.
In addition to collecting your credit history to calculate your credit score, agencies also store personal information to verify your identity. The data they collect is:
- Social Security Number
- Date of birth
- Current and previous address
- Current and former employers
- Salary information
Who governs credit bureaus?
The information stored by the three credit agencies makes them very powerful institutions that need to be regulated. The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), passed in 1970, defines how they should operate.
Its function is to ensure the proper use of the information collected by the bureaus, plus it ensures that their reports are accurate. If you ever find errors in your credit report, you have the right to ask the bureau to correct the information if it is, indeed, wrong.
This law also gives you the right to request an annual free credit report from the 3 credit bureaus. You can request your report through at AnnualCreditReport.com.
The Big 3 Credit Bureaus
There are several national credit bureaus in the US, but not all of them are as popular and as well known. The top 3 ones are Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.
These credit bureaus record all your financial information. With this data, they generate the credit reports.
Why are the scores of the 3 credit bureaus different?
If you request your reports from the 3 credit bureaus, you are likely to find some differences. One of the reasons is that lenders are not required to report information to credit bureaus. Some do, but they only report to one or two of them (and not all 3).
For this reason, agencies may have different information about you, which alters your credit score. It’s also worth mentioning that bureaus collect data independently and do not share it.
Also, it is important to note that each credit bureau uses a different mathematical system to calculate your score.
How were credit scores born?
In the past, loans were granted based on information that lenders were able to find, which was not always accurate. For example, some lenders could take into account the personality of the applicant.
Over time, lenders started developing a scoring system. Even so, it was still flawed because it was not free from biases or prejudices.
It was not until the 50s when engineer Bill Fair and mathematician Earl Isaac created and refined an automated scoring system that would become what we know today as FICO score. And in 1970, the Fair Credit Reporting Law was created, which started regulating how this information is collected used.
The 3 credit bureaus: what’s their story?
Nowadays, lenders don’t take into account the personality of applicants. Credit history and score is what determines is a lender offers you a credit. And it is the 3 credit bureaus who create this information, but who are them?
Originally called Retail Credit Company, it was founded in 1899 in the city of Atlanta by brothers Cator and Guy Woolford. Back then, they used to keep a list of the most solvent clients by compiling information about them and then selling the data.
The company began to expand rapidly, and in the 20s, it already had offices all through the United States. In 1975 it changed its name to Equifax.
If you want to contact this bureau, you can call 888 548 7878.
When it was founded in 1968, this company rented railroad cars. A year later, it acquired a credit bureau that had more than 3.6 million cards with financial information.
Since then, TransUnion became one of the top players in the credit reporting industry. Currently, it has more than 250 offices in 24 countries.
You can call TransUnion on 800 916 8800.
This is the youngest of the three credit agencies, founded in England in 1980. At that time, its name was CCN Systems. They entered the United States market in 1996 when they bought the company TRW Information Services. Now they have offices in 36 countries.
Their contact number is 714 830 7000.
Other credit bureaus
In addition to Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax, there are other credit reporting agencies. These are some bureaus that also gather information about consumers and offer credit reports:
Its acronym stands for Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange. This company collects information related to insurance to create reports on personal property.
It is usual for insurance companies to use information from this bureau to set insurance premiums.
This credit bureau collects and reports information on current checking and savings accounts.
This agency gathers information for companies related to the areas of telecommunications, cable television, and public services.
Credit Bureaus: the information you need at a glimpse
FAQs about the 3 Credit Bureaus
How do I get a free credit report from all 3 credit bureaus?
Getting your annual free credit report is rather easy. You can go to annualcreditreport.com and ask for your free credit report.
How do I contact the three major credit bureaus?
Equifax: 888 548 7878 or equifax.com
What is the main credit bureau?
All 3 credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) are equally important and are equally used. But the biggest one, with more clients and revenue, is Experian.
Keep your credit history up to date
Your credit reports are critical; they are what helps financial institutions decide if they offer you a loan. Be sure to comply with all your financial obligations and avoid committing mistakes that may be reflected in your reports and affect your credit score.
You can get a free credit report from the 3 credit bureaus every year. Remember to read your report well, and make sure that it has no inconsistencies. If you find anomalies, contact the respective bureau to correct any inaccurate information.
In Camino Financial, our motto is “No business left behind.” We offer immediate quotes that don’t affect your credit score. We have excellent terms, and very few requirements so that you can access the capital you need to finance your company.