As a responsible consumer, you should not just limit your concern on learning how to keep your credit score at a good level or managing your debts well. But also, be aware of the role of credit reporting agencies and how they play a huge part in your credit journey.

What are Credit Reporting Agencies?

Credit reporting agencies also referred to as credit bureaus, are agencies that collect, package, and analyze consumer credit reports of individuals and companies from which credit scores are derived. From this piece of information detailing creditworthiness, they sell the report to lenders, merchants, or any financial institutions that may require viewing it.

Currently, there are over 1,000 local and regional credit reporting agencies throughout the United States. Some are small private enterprises working independently, while others operate as cooperatives by a group of merchants in a particular locality. Whatever their operational setup is, they are mostly fully or partially-owned, or under contract with the nation’s three major credit reporting agencies: TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian.

The credit information of individuals and companies they collect from lenders, merchants, and other business owners, and used for credit analysis include:

  • Payments, late payments, and delinquencies
  • Hard inquiries
  • New loan applications
  • Foreclosures
  • Bankruptcies

Apart from what you may typically know as the main service of credit reporting agencies – credit analysis – they also offer the following services for businesses and consumers:

  • Decision analytics – For lenders that details an individual’s credit behaviors
  • Marketing support – For businesses and lenders offering credit programs for pre-approved individuals
  • Risk and portfolio management services – For lenders targeting institutional borrowers
  • Consumer services – Credit monitoring, identity theft protection, and fraud prevention

What are the 3 Major Credit Reporting Agencies?

The major credit reporting agencies each essentially serve a particular geographic area, until they have purchased, or made contracts with smaller agencies that allow them nationwide service coverage.

Equifax

  • Serves the financial, retail, credit card, telecommunication and utilities, transformation, IT, healthcare industries, as well as the government.
  • Their services are present in the U.S., Chile, Argentina, U.K., Spain, Portugal, Canada, Peru, El Salvador, and Brazil.

Experian

  • They help clients target prospective customers and manage existing customer relationships through the information they provide.
  • They support clients in over 50 countries.

TransUnion

  • They offer risk and portfolio management services.
  • They serve a broad range of industries which include banking, insurance, retail, communication, energy, healthcare, and collection agencies.
  • They open nationwide via independent credit bureau and have subsidiaries and divisions in the U.S. and abroad.

what are the credit bureaus

How do the 3 Major Credit Reporting Agencies Differ?

While the three major credit bureaus gather practically identical reports from lenders and other businesses you deal with, it is in their manner report analysis, and the accuracy of output is what sets one from the other.

Because it is not mandatory for each lender that you deal with to report to all three agencies, some of your current credit information may not reach 1 or 2 agencies for updating your credit record. On some occasions, lenders or businesses prefer one agency over two more in requesting credit reports and sending credit information of their borrowers. It may cause some level of difference in your credit report from all three agencies at a particular time.

Other ways on how the three agencies differ from one another include:

  • They have a different method of collecting credit information from lenders and businesses.
  • They apply proprietary weight and algorithms to the submitted credit information in different ways.
  • They use different scoring models.
  • They provide lenders with different credit reports depending on which report your score is based.

What are The Best Ways for You to Check and Monitor Your Credit Report?

As mentioned, not all lenders send information to all three credit bureaus. You may find a few updates on your report from one bureau, but not on another. In addition, any human error in reporting may cause incorrect information to appear on one report or all.

The 3 major credit bureaus do not share credit reports so you can’t expect errors to correct on their own. This is where your personal responsibility comes in.

Here are the steps you can do to make sure your credit report in all three agencies is updated with the correct information:

credit report dispute form

  1. Request a free annual credit report from all major credit bureaus.
  2. Look for any signs of errors in your report.
    • New accounts you don’t open
    • Identity errors
    • Incorrect reporting of account status
    • Data management errors
    • Balance errors
  1. Gather all your documents to support your dispute.
  2. Submit a dispute with the three credit bureaus.
  3. Review the results of the dispute.
  4. Check your credit reports.

 

Credit reporting agencies play an important role in the consumer credit ecosystem. They help creditors balance financial risks involved in lending money and enforce discipline among borrowers with regards to their credit behaviors.

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