Have you been wondering what credit bureaus are? What do they do? And why there are 3 of them? Well, wonder no more. In this blog post, I shall be talking about the three main credit bureaus, who they are, how they work, and why they are essential.
Credit Rating Agencies:
Now to start things off, it is crucial to understand the difference between credit rating agencies and credit bureaus, especially because the credit bureaus are also known as credit rating agencies.
CRA's or Credit Rating Agencies, do not deal with individuals, but rather companies and more specifically, corporate creditworthiness.
They help investors judge a company's risk and reward potential as well as giving them an insight into the company's financial stability when they want to borrow money. They either use preferred stocks or bonds for this analysis.
Today, there are many CRA's such as Moody's, Standard & Poor's and Fitch, that thoroughly research and analyze a company's financials to assign them a credit rating.
These ratings provide the investors with valuable information about these companies and enable them to make decisions about lending them money.
A credit rating is issued in the form of letters such as AAA, or CCC. This is information that allows potential lenders to evaluate the company in terms of risk factors. They are based on many different variables of which the company is evaluated on.
What is a credit bureau?
Credit bureaus are companies that collect information about their clients, which can be accessed by potential clients to determine their credit worthiness.
While Credit Rating Agencies report about companies, credit bureaus report on individual borrowers.
They maintain a number of important details about their client's credit history. Potential lenders can easily access this information to assess the creditworthiness of anyone that is applying for credit.
They collect plenty of information from banks and other lenders, which they use to update a customer's credit report. In addition, they ensure to include all of your personal information such as your legal names, your address, your contact information, and your social security number.
Here is my review of the three main credit bureaus:
This is a credit reporting bureau that offers clients the ability to log in and access their credit information. In addition, they calculate and give you your credit score in relation to the information available on your credit report.
Experian offers you three ways of checking your credit score – Experian Credit Report with FICO score, Experian CreditWorks Premium, and the 3-Bureau Credit report with FICO Score. All of these will help you monitor your credit score and also offers help on how to improve your score.
All of their services use the FICO 8- score model to give your rating.
Let us analyze each in details;
Experian CreditWorks Premium:
This is a service with a monthly subscription that enables you to monitor the FICO score and also gives you access to other scores such as FICO Bankcard score as well as FICO Auto Scores.
It also includes a breakdown of all factors, – both good and bad, that can affect your score, and this includes your overall debt amounts, your repayment history, and your account mix.
In order to help you increase your score, the system sends you alerts and other tracking tools whenever your score changes. You are also entitled to one credit report per month.
This system also offers you the ability to lock your information through the Experian CreditLock, that keeps thieves and fraudsters away from your personal information.
Experian credit report with FICO score:
This is a one-time commitment. When you sign up for this package, you will get one-time access to your credit report and FICO score. You shall also be able to view all of the information on your report, and how well you have been managing your overall debts and credit, plus, it enables you to see who has been accessing your credit report.
3-Bureau Credit Report and FICO Scores:
This will also give you one-time access, but to all of the credit bureau reports i.e., Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion.
It also allows you to compare your credit score from the three major bureaus and an analysis of your credit report.
How much does it cost?
Experian CreditWorks Premium
This will cost you $4.99 on the first month and subsequent months will be charged $24.99 each.
Equifax also helps you to retrieve your credit report as well as calculating your credit score. It was founded in 1899 in Atlanta, Georgia, and it has become one of the largest and most trusted reporting agencies in the world.
It is able to keep a close eye on your overall credit report, your repayment history, your applications for credit cards and loans, and any bankruptcies to your name, or in case one of your accounts has been sold to a collection agency.
All in all, Equifax provides you with a tailored verification of information for both companies and individuals.
How can you check your report with Equifax?
Once you pay their fee of $15.95, you will get access to their system for 30 days. This allows you to access all the information on your credit report.
Their credit score is normally calculated using a proprietary algorithm, and they also offer you a review on what is great and not great on your report.
This is the youngest of the big “three” companies, and it is also the smallest, even though it has a database of more than 1 billion consumers.
Through its credit monitoring transcription service that costs about $20 per month, you are able to access your credit score and credit report information from their site.
In addition to the score, they offer you expert advice on how to analyze your debt and also how to dispute items on your credit report. The package gives you unlimited access to the website.
Other services offered by TransUnion;
Credit lock Plus – this is a tool that allows you to lock your Equifax and TransUnion credit reports, such that no one else can access them. It prevents potential creditors from looking at your report without your permission.
Instant alerts – The system will send you an alert whenever your report is accessed, and it is an excellent tool that enables you to know when another person has accessed your account.
ID theft insurance – You can be able to ensure yourself up to 1 million dollars, in case you are a victim of identity theft.
Why are credit scores from the credit bureaus different?
When accessing your credit score, you will notice that the rating given by each bureau is different. This can be quite confusing, and most people wonder which one they should use.
The main reason for the differences is that creditors are not actually required to report information to credit bureaus. As such, they may have reported in one, bureau and not the other, and therefore, the reports from the two bureaus will be different.
Now, in regards to which one you can use, well, this depends on the creditor you are using. One may prefer Experian, another one, Equifax and also another one TransUnion. You cannot choose just one, so, it is advisable always to retrieve information from all of the 3 companies.
What you need to know about credit reports is that they are not written on stone. Yes, most lenders will use this information in order to determine your creditworthiness, but if you happen to see a mistake on your report that has the potential of affecting your credit score, you have a federal right to dispute that transaction.
I have written numerous articles about this, and you can be able to find valuable information on the process of doing this, plus which companies you can use to dispute a transaction on your credit report.
It is also essential for me to let you know that every financial decision you make will affect your credit report and score; therefore, be wise with your choices to avoid problems later on.