What are the three credit bureaus?

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The three credit bureaus are Experian®, Equifax® and Transunion® and, whether you know it or not, they play a huge role in your life. The information that these organizations house and report can mean the difference in whether you get a loan, a deal on insurance or even a new job. How? We’ll cover that below.

What is a credit bureau?

A credit bureau is an agency that receives, houses and reports information about the financial habits and statuses of people or businesses. The credit bureaus also apply various scoring models to credit history information to come up with a credit score for each person or business. This score and the information behind it are made available to lenders and other agencies to be used when they consider you for a new line of credit.

What are the three major credit bureaus?

While the concept of the credit score as we know it was developed in the 1980s, the idea of credit reporting agencies actually dates back decades or even centuries. During the 19th century, markets rapidly expanded outside of local or regional areas. Banks and others needed different ways to determine creditworthiness. That’s where the three major credit bureaus of today—Experian, Equifax and TransUnion—come in.


Experian dates back to the 1960s, but it wasn’t called Experian until 1996. The company has gone through a number of mergers and demergers throughout the years. It has offices and operations in a number of nations, where it offers a variety of services related to the financial sector, including credit reports and monitoring.


Equifax is headquartered in Atlanta, GA, and has a presence in more than two dozen countries. It dates back to 1899 but was originally called Retail Credit Company. The company became Equifax in 1975. Historically, Equifax primarily served business sectors. In recent decades, it has offered consumer products such as credit monitoring.


TransUnion also dates back to the 1960s. It offers both business and consumer credit services, including services for landlords who want to conduct credit and background checks for potential tenants.

What information is reported to credit bureaus?

The credit bureaus themselves don’t create the data they track. Information has to be reported to them. Because of this, your credit report and associated score might vary slightly between bureaus because not all creditors and other entities report to all three.

Who reports information to credit bureaus?

State and federal law govern what entities can report information to credit bureaus and what they can report. Organizations that are allowed to report information can include but aren’t limited to:

  • Banks
  • Credit card companies
  • Non-bank lenders
  • Collection agencies
  • Utility companies and other select service providers
  • Landlords

What is the Fair Credit Reporting Act?

The Fair Credit Reporting Act is a federal law that was signed in 1970. It’s an amendment to the Consumer Credit Protection Act. The FCRA protects your rights as a consumer regarding your credit report. Among other things, you have a right to:

  • An accurate and fair credit report, and the FCRA requires that the three credit bureaus work to protect this
  • Access your credit score and get at least one free credit report a year from every credit reporting agency
  • Be notified when your credit report or score was used to make a decision against you for credit or other services
  • Decide who views your credit report—lenders must get permission before they do so

How do I get my free credit report?

Many services offer credit monitoring options, which let you pay to receive regular access to your credit score and reports. But you can also request, by law, a free credit report annually (due to the financial crisis caused by COVID-19, you can now get a free copy of your credit report each week through April 2021) from each credit bureau.

You can order your free credit report from AnnualCreditReport.com, which the Federal Trade Commission says is the only authorized site for this particular service. It’s a good idea to check all three of your reports, as they can have different information.

How do I dispute inaccurate information?

You can dispute inaccurate information on your credit report with a credit dispute letter. Send the letter to the credit bureau that is reporting the information you feel is inaccurate.

The letter should detail why you think the information is wrong and request that the credit bureau remove or update it. Include supporting documentation to demonstrate why you’re correct.

The credit bureau is legally obligated to reach out to the business that reported the inaccurate information and conduct an investigation. If the information can’t be proven, the credit bureau must act to make the changes you requested.

If you need assistance understanding your credit report or you are looking for ways to improve your credit history, feel free to get in contact with one of our credit consultants for help.

Posted in Credit Score
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