Credit Bureaus

Credit bureaus are the companies that produce credit reports. The three major credit bureaus in the United States — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion — gather information about consumers’ credit history to generate the reports for businesses such as banks, lenders and landlords.

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APA Schell, J. (2022, July 18). Credit Bureaus. Annuity.org. Retrieved August 16, 2022, from https://www.annuity.org/personal-finance/credit-bureaus/

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What Are the Three Major Credit Bureaus?

The three major credit bureaus in the United States are Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.

These credit bureaus, also known as credit agencies or credit reporting agencies, are companies that collect and distribute information about a person’s or corporation’s financial history in the form of credit reports.

Credit reports are like report cards that gauge your personal finances. The reports contain information about your financial health, including your bill payment history, any outstanding debts and how much of your available credit you’ve utilized. Credit reports also disclose whether you’ve ever been sued or arrested or have filed for bankruptcy.

Equifax

Equifax was founded in 1899 in Atlanta, Georgia, as the Retail Credit Company. Today, Equifax operates as a global data, analytics and technology company with roughly 13,000 employees. The credit bureau offers products and services to both individuals and businesses.

Equifax provides an online Consumer Services Center where consumers can access a free credit report, place a freeze on their credit, get fraud alerts or submit a dispute with their credit report. Individuals can also purchase Equifax’s credit monitoring and identity theft protection plans.

Equifax’s products and services for businesses serve a wide variety of sectors, including the automotive, healthcare, fintech, insurance, manufacturing and housing industries. The credit bureau provides business services for credit risk assessment, identity verification, workforce management and fraud protection. Equifax also offers business clients a range of data-driven marketing services.

Experian

With corporate headquarters in Dublin, Ireland, Experian employs over 17,000 people in 44 countries around the world. Experian’s products and services fall into two categories: Business-to-Business (B2B) and Consumer Services.

Experian’s Business-to-Business services foster company growth and customer engagement. Experian provides credit reports aimed at helping businesses reduce fraud and churn, assess their customers’ ability to pay, make informed and consistent decisions and increase customer satisfaction. According to Experian, Business-to-Business activities make up 74% of the bureau’s global revenue.

The Consumer Services division contributes the remaining 26% of Experian’s global revenue. Experian allows consumers to access their credit report for free online, and the agency also provides online tools and a call center to connect customers with experts to discuss their credit reports and scores. The company fields over 10 million of these calls annually.

TransUnion

The third major credit reporting company, TransUnion, was founded in 1968. Over the last 50 years, the company has grown to serve hundreds of millions of businesses and consumers in over 30 countries worldwide.

TransUnion offers a variety of personal credit reporting products to consumers. The company provides free credit reports online and a free identity protection service, TrueIdentity, which is used by over one million people. TransUnion also sells premium credit monitoring and protection products, and its website features credit tools and educational resources for consumers.

TransUnion provides several corporate services in addition to selling credit reports to businesses. For example, the company offers resident quality management products to the housing industry and patient access, price transparency and revenue recovery solutions for health care providers. TransUnion’s Digital Marketing Solutions department claims to provide accurate identity and people-based marketing services for businesses.

What Information Do They Collect?

To assess a person’s creditworthiness, credit reporting agencies collect information about their individual financial history. These details help lenders predict the likelihood that a potential borrower will pay back their loans on time and in full.

Information that credit bureaus collect can include your
  • Personal information (name, address, Social Security number)
  • Credit account limits
  • Credit utilization ratio
  • Dates that accounts were opened and closed
  • Payment history
  • Debt collections history
  • Hard credit inquiries
  • Records of bankruptcy, foreclosure and repossession
  • Public records

When Do Credit Card Companies Report to the Credit Bureaus?

Credit bureaus can get information about a consumer’s financial history from various creditors, including banks, lenders and credit card companies.

How often these companies report information to the credit bureaus varies depending on the company. Creditors are not legally required to report information to the credit bureaus at all. Some companies only report to one or two agencies, rather than all three. But if a creditor chooses to report, it must adhere to certain guidelines.

Creditors usually report to the agencies once a month on your billing cycle date. But because most companies don’t disclose their exact reporting cycles, it’s difficult to determine just when they will send the latest data. For credit card companies, the reporting date is typically your statement date — when the company issues your charges for the most recent billing cycle.

How Are Credit Bureaus Regulated?

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regulates the national credit reporting agencies. The primary laws governing the credit reporting industry are the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACTA).

The FCRA prohibits information collected by organizations like credit bureaus from being shared with anyone who does not have a purpose specified by the Act. It also requires that credit reporting agencies investigate disputed information.

The FCRA outlines certain rights for consumers in relation to their credit.

The Fair Credit Reporting Act upholds your right to
  • Know if information in your credit report has been used against you
  • Access your credit report and credit score
  • Dispute incorrect or incomplete information
  • Have the credit bureaus resolve incorrect or incomplete information
  • Have outdated or negative information withheld from your report
  • Limit who can see your credit file
  • Consent to your report being shared with employers
  • Access additional protections if you have had your identity stolen or are completing active military duty
  • Seek damages from violators of the Act

In 2003, Congress passed the FACTA to increase FCRA protections relating to record accuracy and identity theft. Under the Act, consumers may access one free credit report per year from the major credit reporting agencies. Consumers can also place fraud alerts on their credit files to help monitor and mitigate identity theft.

How To Dispute Information With a Credit Bureau

False information on your credit report can have a serious impact on your credit score, so it’s important to check your report regularly and correct any mistakes as soon as possible.

To dispute information on your credit report, you’ll need to contact the credit bureau that provided the report and the company that furnished the information used to produce the report.

The first step is to send a dispute letter to the credit bureau. This guide from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau can help you draft a dispute letter. Always keep a copy of the letter and any evidence you provide to prove your case.

You should also submit a dispute with the company that provided the false information to the credit bureau. This might be your bank, credit card company or landlord, for example.

Please seek the advice of a qualified professional before making financial decisions.
Last Modified: July 18, 2022

21 Cited Research Articles

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