This article is geared towards helping many individuals regarding credit reports and the most popular credit bureaus today – TransUnion, Experian and Equifax! Read on to learn more!
Too confused about credit reports? Worried about its accuracy? Thinking about how to earn a good credit score? Indeed, a credit report is an inevitable part of anyone’s financial life. You might want to get approved credit especially when you needed it the most, right? If yes, you need to aim for a good credit report along with a good credit score.
So here, I will be discussing some of the most important things that you should know when it comes to credit reports and most especially about the credit bureaus that could help you deal with your financial life. Continue reading fellas!
What is Credit Bureau?
First, why not consider defining credit bureau to make things a lot clearer? Are you one of those people who believe that credit bureaus are federal agencies or government affiliates? If yes, you are wrong all this time!
In fact, credit bureaus are private companies which collect information from numbers of creditors on financial history as well as behaviour. The contributors would include your credit card companies, banks, health care providers, lenders, utility companies and even cell phone companies.
And three of the giant consumer credit reporting agencies include the TransUnion, the Experian and the Equifax.
Each of them will list and analyse the credit report information that could be sold to creditors once you plan to apply for a credit card or a loan so long as they have your permission. Some possible employers or landlords might as well request the information to help in evaluating your worthiness for a credit.
On the other hand, credit card companies and lenders would use the information to identify whether or not you are approved for a card or a loan. They might as well tell if you have missed payments a lot often, or if you have defaulted on a loan.
All these are considered as warning signals telling you that you aren’t worthy of credit. Do you want this to happen? I don’t think so!
On the part of the landlords, they could use the information to gauge whether or not you are capable of paying the monthly rent on time. Besides, employers also use the credit report to decide whether you could be trusted regarding handling money or if you are responsible in your financial life.
Worried about these matters? Well, you shouldn’t be! Why? No matter who wants to get this information from any credit bureau, there is a need for your permission first! You shouldn’t worry that much with regards to privacy concerns since you need to render your signature for them to access your credit reports.
However, being responsible for your financial life must be observed all the time.
Why Do We Have Them?
Do you know that things were different before having these so-called credit bureaus we have today? Well, small businesses, as well as banks, offered credit to their customers directly, by the vetting processes. In fact, this worked great in small communities wherein everyone knew one another and customers couldn’t hide from the creditors.
Of course, over time, there is an improvement, and cities became more substantial and people moved around a lot more too. So, it has become harder for the owners to know who was able to pay their bills back. This led to becoming a big problem, though some tried solving it.
First, merchants, financial groups, and trade guilds have developed lists of those trustworthy customers which they passed around to members for a certain price.
What do you think will happen to you if you will not pay your bills? Of course, there is an excellent chance of being blacklisted, and you will have a hard time getting credit from anyone who has the paid list. Don’t you think this one is an ideal way to solve the said problem?
So, over a period, the said credit groups grew into for-profit companies which developed, merged and expanded wherein three of the biggest ones are the Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. However, there are still vast numbers of other credit bureaus which exist today!
Every credit bureau is a separate company that is also operated in many different ways, which include the level of detail that they offer on certain kinds of information.
Let’s say, for instance, Experian and Equifax, you only note the employer’s name as part of the employment history. On the other hand, TransUnion would list out more specific information about the title and dates that you were employed there.
The information that is reported as well varies from a specified bureau to another. And that is because no creditor is required to send the financial information to any of the credit bureaus instead it is an entirely voluntary process.
Again, think of the origins of these credit bureaus. They were created to help the creditors and the lenders to decide the possible creditworthy customers.
There are also some creditors and other companies that are not into taking time to report to all the said bureaus. These differences could be noticed once you compare the three credit reports to each other, which we will discuss a bit later.
So, you shouldn’t be worry if there is missing information from one credit report to another. Instead, you should worry about inaccurate data. This is what you should be wary of! You should save your disputes for vital information which affects the credit report accuracy.
Learn more about credit bureaus here:
All credit reports, either from the three credit bureaus, contain the necessary information which could be categorized into five primary sections:
These are personal facts about you which include the full name, address, date of birth, place of employment and the partial listing of the social security number too
The account summary will include any information creditors have reported regarding the payment history on loans of almost kinds like credit cards, mortgages, student loans and auto loans.
Indeed, any public record on your file like bankruptcy, tax lien or judgement would seriously lower the FICO credit score. But, bankruptcies or judgements that are listed as dismissed would not have any impact to credit rating since they would be ignored by the credit-scoring firms.
This one is a record of the application for the credit you made. Like for instance, once you seek a car loan or a mortgage, or even you apply for a credit card or a request to increase the credit card limit, these actions could lead to an inquiry or also referred as hard pull of the credit file.
If you pull your own credit report, it is considered as soft pull which will not have any impact to your credit rating.
You are allowed to add a 100-word Consumer Statement to the credit reports under the Fair Credit Reporting Act once you have disputed an item in the credit files, yet the item wasn’t removed since it was verified by the creditor.
Indeed, if you are to scrutinize your credit reports, you are also one step closer to achieving the great credit rating since you would become a better educated about your credit by simply looking at the highlights of every credit file undoubtedly.
But differences could also be spotted by closely examining the credit reports that are given by TransUnion, Experian and Equifax. Again, beware that your credit report must include the above-mentioned sections.
How to Access Credit Reports?
Maybe, you are ready to take a look at your credit reports, but do you know how to access these reports? Well, you only need to visit AnnualCreditReport.com. This one is the site that is authorized by the federal law wherein you can access a free credit report every year.
As you get into this site, you only need to click the “Request your free credit reports” button. And you will need to fill in the personal contact information and your social security number.
And also, you will be asked various security questions as for confirming your identity. This could be helpful to have an access to different bank accounts since the questions could be fairly specific regarding account opening dates, loan amounts, deposits and more.
If you are to go into this process, you could select the credit reports you want to retrieve. It is not advised that you get all the three at once. For first timers, you might want to look through each of the individual report from TransUnion, Equifax and Experian as for comparing entries as well as checking accuracy.
Information on Credit Bureau Reports: Everything You Need To Know
So, have you ever spent any time looking at your credit history, maybe you have also realized that there are three varied credit bureaus which we will discuss one by one later. I also assumed that you also know that the information contained in the credit reports from every bureau could have a strong influence on the kind of credit you have an access to.
With credit bureaus, they are indeed gatekeepers leading to better credit offers. However, you might come to a point of wondering why there are different credit bureaus? Or why do they matter at all? Or you might also wonder about the differences between them.
To unravel the mystery behind these bureaus, read on.
Let us now come to the most important part and that is to clearly discuss to you the three credit bureaus.
First, let us know what TransUnion is. To make things a lot clearer, it is one of the best credit bureaus or a consumer credit reporting agency. They could collect and aggregate information on over billions of consumers in the United States.
Besides, TransUnion will also market the credit reports and some other credit as well as fraud-protection products to consumers directly. The same with other reporting agencies, this company is required by the US law to offer consumers with a credit report yearly for free.
Well, the way in order to get your free TransUnion credit report is to visit the AnnualCreditReport.com only once every year. However, visiting the official website of TransUnion will also provide you credit reports as well as scores for sale but these aren’t for free.
As you receive the report, carefully checking it for accuracy is a must. And if there are any errors, follow the instructions to dispute (which we will also discuss later) and have them be removed from the file.
You could also put a TransUnion fraud alert or a credit freeze and this agency will also notify the Experian and Equifax of the fraud alert, but it is not a freeze.
And the TransUnion Credit Lock is considered as a freezing service rendered as a part of the TransUnion’s credit monitoring service which is sold by paying the subscription monthly.
Another great feature of this credit reporting agency is its SmartMove. This is a tenant screening service intended for smaller-scale property landlords and managers. The renters could use it as for keeping the personal information privately and they also submit rental applications.
SmartMove will send the screening report to the authorized landlord directly. However, the background check by this feature will not have any impact to your credit score. In fact, they are referred as SOFT inquiries.
The TransUnion produces FICO Scores, company-specific scores, Vantage Scores and business scores which aren’t marketed to consumers. There could be many versions of the Vantage Score and FICO Score that are currently in use and all of these could be offered by TransUnion.
TransUnion website offers education score for sale and might not be the same number that a creditor sees. And this credit score range is from 300 to 850.
And for the highlights, TransUnion has the most thorough employment data section when it comes to your personal summary.
You could update or even correct several fields such as the current or previous name of employers, the position you held, and also the date that you were hired.
However, please be reminded that changing this information wouldn’t improve the credit score. But, if you ever look for a loan in the near future, it would be helpful to have the information accurately reflected in the credit report showing the lender the hired date, or the length of the time that you’ve spent at a certain employer.
Also, TransUnion will report list Unsatisfactory and Satisfactory accounts. They would also include the color-coded boxes including red, green, yellow, white and orange along with numbers or words inside them indicating the payment history as follows:
And finally, TransUnion also utilizes the notation Not Applicable or N/A in describing different accounts.
Federal laws and regulations, notably the Fair Credit Reporting Act, would help to make sure that the information in an item in your credit report is accurate and would offer a way for dispute an issue when it isn’t.
Once disputing an item on the TransUnion credit report, the company is then required by the law to investigate the matter then correct the inaccuracies. Good to know that TransUnion will allow you to file a dispute online, through the mail and over the phone.
Here’s what you need to do:
Determine the way of submitting the dispute
TransUnion provides services which enable you to submit a dispute by mail, over the phone or online. For those who want to do it by mail, directly send the letter to TransUnion LLC, Consumer Dispute Center, P.O. Box 2000, Chester PA 19016.
While submitting a dispute over the phone, calling the toll-free TransUnion phone number, 800-916-8800, is advised. There are available representatives that you can rely on all the time. And of course, doing it online would only require you to begin the process by visiting the site of TransUnion.
Gather the information and documents
There is a need for information regarding the item that you want to dispute as well as evidence proving its inaccuracy.
Make sure to have a copy of the credit report handy if you will submit it over the phone. There is a need to give the File Identification Number of the report to the representative. Still, regardless of how you plan to submit the dispute, it should include the file number, date of birth, current address, social security number, company name, account number and the reason as well.
You might as well have this credit reporting agency to correct personal information at the same time.
Now, you need to draft a dispute letter
Sending the TransUnion dispute form through the mail will require you to write a business letter describing the item that you want to dispute and the reason why it is accurate. It is vital that you write the letter with the use of a standard business-letter format.
There is also a need to make sure that you include all the required information such as your date of birth and social security number for the receiver to identify you and your credit file adequately.
Finally, submit your dispute to the TransUnion
You should ensure that the information is free from error and could be understood quickly and that you have also included evidence supporting the assertions. Also, make a copy of everything that you will send to TransUnion.
Send copies of documents and not the original ones, if you are sending it by mail. The original ones might not be returned and might be hard to be replaced. And it is important that you mail the letter with the use of certified mail along with returned receipt requested allowing you to know when the credit bureau has received it.
For those who will submit the dispute online, TransUnion will allow them to upload digital copies of the documents that you want to attach as a proof. And for arguments delivered over the phone, representatives will advise you the best way to transmit documents needed to complete the process of investigation.
All you need to do is to wait for a response
If the dispute is already received, the agency would begin investigating the matter and will send you a report of findings, like around 30 days. They will also send notice to individuals or businesses which reported the unclear information.
In case the information is wrong, the business or individual will provide the right one to update the credit report. But, once the company or a specific individual verifies that the information is correct, it will remain.
If the case wherein TransUnion doesn’t receive any response within 30 to 45 days, it will remove the information from the credit report. And for those who filed online, you can check the status of the dispute through logging into the account on the website of TransUnion.
You can also contact the provider of information
As you wait for the response from TransUnion, you can alert the individual or the company which reported the inaccurate information. You should be aware of the fact that under federal law, both the information provider and the credit bureau are responsible for making sure that your credit report is accurate and authentic.
Faster results might be claimed if you deal with the information provider than in TransUnion. In most cases, you can find contact details for the information provider being listed on the credit report dispute form along with the disputed item.
But, unlike the credit bureaus, some providers would only accept disputes by mail so sending them a written letter is needed.
There you have it, filing a TransUnion credit report dispute is as easy as that once you follow the given steps.
Next consumer credit reporting agency that we are to tackle will be the Experian. Same with TransUnion, this credit bureau will collect and aggregate information on more than 25 million businesses in the US.
This company is located in Dublin, Ireland and it operates in almost 37 countries having headquarters in Brazil, United Kingdom and in the United States.
Aside from providing credit services, Experian sells decision analytic as well as marketing assistance to many businesses too. The consumer services could include online access to your credit history and also some products that could protect you from fraud or identity theft.
However, the same with other credit reporting agencies, Experian is mandated by US law to offer consumers with one free credit report annually.
Of course, AnnualCreditReport.com is the one to visit if you want to get your Experian credit report for free. Though Experian site could also provide credit report and scores, it will not be for free. An additional copy could also be provided once the credit report was used in an absolute decision to deny the credit application.
Once you have a copy of the report, checking for accuracy is recommended. And if there are errors, filing a dispute could be considered. Experian dispute could be filed by clicking the dispute process at the same time viewing the report online.
Along with that, Experian also renders other methods of dispute such as an opportunity for you to submit the supporting documentation. And the information regarding the process will also be noted on the credit report.
If, and even if, there is something wrong with your credit report, it is crucial that you take an immediate action to lock down the credit file and to prevent any further damage. Put a fraud alert on file immediately, and you can also consider freezing the credit long term.
For your information, it is a FICO 8 Score once you purchase the Experian credit score. The credit score by Experian range 300 to 850, and it is the score being used in lending decisions, but not by all lenders.
Besides, Experian also offers many other versions of the Vantage Scores and FICO Scores based on who needs it and some other scores like the business credit scores aren’t marketed to the consumers.
This one is a service that is being sold by Experian. It will include a copy of the Experian credit report, the FICO score, daily credit monitoring along with email alerts, dedicated Experian dispute phone number and fraud resolution support.
However, this one is sold as a monthly paid subscription.
And for the highlights of this credit bureau, I could say that the credit reports contain a unique feature which many users find genuinely enlightening. This credit bureau also shows Status Details that indicates once an account is scheduled to fall off the credit report.
Plus, if you have Experian credit files, you would also see a monthly “Balance History” for all the open accounts and even the closed ones yet with an outstanding balance. So great, right?
So, you don’t want any negative or inaccurate information in your Experian credit report, right? This will not just have an impact on your credit score but to your plan of obtaining a loan or credit.
Because of this, you should always review the information in the credit report at least once yearly and ensure that it is correct. And once there is wrong or an error in your Experian credit report, filing a dispute is possible wherein the credit bureau is required by the law to correct it.
There could be four methods you can consider to choose from, and these include filing online. Filing through the mail, registering with the source company and filing with the consumer financial protection bureau.
Let’s get it started.
By choosing any of these methods, you can file a dispute with regards to your Experian credit report.
And finally, Equifax is another consumer credit reporting agency, which also collects and sums the information on millions of individuals and businesses all over the world. Apart from rendering credit as well as demographic related data and services to businesses, this credit bureau also sells credit monitoring and fraud-prevention services to consumers directly.
And like all the other credit reporting agencies, Equifax is required by the US law to offer a free credit report to consumers annually. And that is what you might be waiting for, right?
The same with the first two credit bureaus, Equifax will provide FICO and Vantage Scores and could calculate the score based on different scoring models. The credit score of Equifax range based on the score that is being calculated. And the most current scores range from 300 to 850.
Be wary too that the credit score rendered for purchase on the site is based on the model of the Equifax credit score and isn’t the same score that is used by most creditors. And the range is 300 to 850 as well.
There is also the so-called Equifax Complete that is referred as a credit monitoring service provided as a monthly paid subscription. This feature includes credit reports, credit scores, alerts and a credit freeze.
For those who experience any errors in the Equifax credit report, the best thing to do is to contact the Equifax and have the errors be corrected. Good to know that Equifax offers an online site for reporting errors.
You could report any errors that are related to personal information, negative credit info, account information or other inquiries. And there is also a need to follow the online report with a letter that would serve as evidence that you have submitted a dispute.
There are two parts that you should follow. So let’s get going:
Knowing that the information listed on every credit report slightly varies, you will also have a different credit score from every credit bureau.
In fact, it isn’t only the data that differs, but the scoring methods as well vary based on which bureau the score is asked from. So, when a lender requests every agency to send them your score, there could be different options provided.
Talking about Experian Credit Scores, this credit reporting agency uses the FICO 8 Score once you buy the credit score from them for any personal use. But, creditors and lenders might also ask for different versions of the Vantage Score and FICO.
This uses the same financial information yet different algorithms provide different weight to related data points.
While TransUnion, on the other hand, offers both the Vantage Score and FICO for lenders and creditors. Still, this credit bureau would provide companies with particular products which focus on different standards based on the kind of information that the company is looking for.
And finally, Equifax also offers both the Vantage Score and FICO to lenders that are pulling scores on the possible customers, yet it uses the Equifax Credit Score Model as you purchase the score from the site.
Even if the credit score range is the same as the FICO’s, it will not be the same. Enough to say, it could be hard to know the credit score since at the end of the day it is a very subjective number.
So, with these critical differences, how do the lenders interpret all these numbers? Usually, they would pull all the three credit reports as well as scores. And from there, they would use the middle score to determine their credit offer.
If you are applying for a loan like a mortgage with your spouse, the lender will use the lower of these two average scores. To sum it up, the middle score is a 780. However, your spouse is a 680, and that is the number that they will go with.