What is a credit report?
You may have heard of names like Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. These are names of the biggest credit bureaus in the US. Credit bureaus are financial service companies that record and maintain financial transactions and other relevant data of individuals and businesses. They then compile all the data into a readable format called credit reports.
How to get your free report
By law, you as a consumer are allowed to request for one free annual credit report from the major credit bureaus. This credit report will have information about bank accounts opened in your name, track record of your credit card and other payments, credit card limits, loan information, mortgage information, and any defaults or delinquent payments which may have occurred in the past or present. Credit companies also keep a record of any bankruptcy proceedings, tax liens, and court orders where you were asked to pay money.
Why credit reports are important
- #1 Creditworthiness
Credit reports are really important because they give a picture of your creditworthiness. Banks and financial institutions use credit reports to assess your loan application and credit card application. Sometimes, even cell phone companies use credit reports to assess phone contract applications. Thus, if you plan to avail these essential services, having a good credit report is important. Whenever these institutions send in a request to pull up your credit report, that action is known as a credit inquiry. Too many credit inquiries in a certain time period can affect your credit score.
- #2 Errors
Your credit report may not always reflect accurate information. Sometimes, there may be an error on part of the credit bureau in compiling the information. The credit bureau normally works with third-party data companies to access the data which goes on the credit report. If there is some discrepancy in that process, or if the source (third-party company) that the credit bureau uses makes an error, then that inaccuracy can sometimes find its way onto your credit report.
- #3 Identity theft
At other times, you may have been a victim of identity theft and your finances may have been tampered with without your knowledge. Someone may have fraudulently opened a fake bank account under your name or drawn a payday loan using your personal information. All these transactions will show up on your credit report even if you have not authorized them. This affects your credit report and you will have to dispute the report with the credit bureau.
There are credit repair companies which help you improve your credit score. If you are a victim of identity theft, then either you or a credit repair company can put a credit freeze on your file. By doing this, fraudulent activity can be checked as any change in the status quo will require your authorization.
The three biggest credit bureaus that most banks and financial institutions in the US use to evaluate your applications are:
Experian was founded in 1996. It is the newest of the three major credit bureaus. However, it has the most number of users at 820 million. It is associated with the better business bureau and has a rating of B+. You can reach Experian at 1-888-397-3742. Their mailing address is P.O. Box 2104, Allen, TX 75013-0949.
Equifax was founded in 1899. It is the oldest of the three major credit bureaus at almost 120 years old. Equally impressive is its number of users: 800 million. It is associated with the better business bureau and has a rating of A. You can reach Equifax at 1-800-685-1111. Their mailing address is P.O. Box 740241, Atlanta, GA 30374-0241.
TransUnion was founded in 1968. It is fairly old but not as old as Equifax. It has the least number of users among the big-3 at 500 million. However, that does not mean it is not a reputed credit bureau. It is associated with the better business bureau and has a rating of A-. You can reach TransUnion at 1-800-916-8800. Their mailing address is P.O. Box 1000, Chester, PA 19022.
There is a website called AnnualCreditReport.com which is operated by the big 3 bureaus. This website allows a consumer to access his/her credit report once a year for free. The consumer can avail reports compiled by Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion on this website. If you need your credit reports more frequently, then you will have to pay around $15 to do so.
Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion are popular with consumer credit reports. For business credit reports, Equifax and Experian are quite well known. Experian also offers business credit score, something which Equifax does not. Another company called Dun & Bradstreet offers credit reporting exclusively for businesses. Their services include credit scores for businesses and credit ratings as well. Dun & Bradstreet does not have any consumer credit services and it focuses exclusively on businesses. This company can be reached at 973-921-5500.
Niche consumer reporting agencies
There are some niche consumer reporting agencies or CRAs that track specific aspects of an individual. Following are some companies worth knowing about:
- Accurate Background – This company specializes in background checks that an employer undertakes before hiring an employee. Accurate Background can be reached at 1-800-784-3911.
- Lexi Nexis – Their forte is auto insurance. They keep a track of an individual’s auto insurance record and claims record. They even assign an auto insurance score to every individual. LexisNexis can be reached at 1-800-543-6862.
- Milliman Intelliscript –D igital medical recording is a relatively new field. This company keeps a track of medical records. Milliman Intelliscript can be reached at 877-211-4816.
- Innovis – This company has a close relationship with Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. Mortgage lenders use their services and it may be worth accessing their credit reports. Innovis can be reached at 800-540-2505.
You will find on our website various credit-related financial articles. If you are interested in improving your credit score, getting connected to payday loan lenders, or anything else that is financial related, then feel free to reach out to us via our toll-free number listed on this website. Our friendly customer service executive will work with you right away.