Your financial reputation is reflected on your credit report, but you’ll want to review more than just payment history. You actually have three different credit reports, with one provided by each of the major credit bureaus. While the information will be similar, it may not match completely. Let’s dissect what a credit bureau is and what things to look out for on your credit report.
What is a credit bureau?
A credit bureau is responsible for storing and providing detailed information about your credit history. This information is helpful for obtaining loans, renting a home, getting a job, and more. The three major credit bureaus are Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian. Each of these companies receives information from financial establishments where you have accounts, loans, and other services. The bureau is then responsible for compiling this information into a report that is accessible when you apply for new services such as loans, rentals, jobs, insurance, and more.
Why do I have three different credit reports?
Although most of the information will be identical, not every financial company reports to all three bureaus or accesses reports from all three. Because of this, you may see financial history reflected on only one or two reports that isn’t reflected on the other(s). Financial companies pay a small fee to report information to the credit bureaus, so some companies opt to report only to select bureaus.
Often, companies will report to all three for consistency meaning the information that you see on all three reports should match, since it reflects identical account histories. When a business pulls a credit report, you’ll only see that inquiry reflected on the report from the bureau they access. For example, if a company pulls an Experian credit report, you’ll only see that inquiry on your Experian report when you’re reviewing your credit history.
What information should I look for on my reports?
When reviewing a credit report, you’ll want to verify that your identifying information is all correct. Check that your name is spelled correctly, the social security information matches, and that your address, date of birth, and employer information is accurate (if listed). You can correct this information if something isn’t accurate by contacting the credit bureau that the report came from.
You’ll also want to make sure any loans or accounts that are listed do in fact belong to you and that the payment history is reporting correctly. If you see something inaccurate or an account that doesn’t belong to you, you can dispute this with the credit bureau reporting the information and have it corrected.
Lastly, you’ll want to review the inquiries received for your credit history. If you notice companies accessing your credit that you have no relationship with, you’ll want to immediately follow up with the credit bureau and the listed company to get more information. This could be a sign of possible fraud attempts or may give you insight into who is accessing your credit without your knowledge. Keep in mind that preapprovals or sites that provide you access to your credit score will need to access your report to provide you this information.
How often should I review my credit reports?
While there is no definitive frequency that you should be reviewing your credit history, the more frequently you review it, the easier it is to quickly identify inaccuracies and get things corrected so you aren’t surprised when you go to apply for something that requires a credit report or score. It’s a common misconception that accessing your own credit reports will hurt your credit score. In fact, there is no damage to your score when you request a copy of your own report.
Where can I access free credit reports and my credit score?
You can do this at annualcreditreport.com. The website provides you a free copy of your credit report from each of the three credit bureaus each week through April 2021 (and once per year after that). You won’t see a credit score included, but the report will contain comprehensive information about your credit history from each bureau. If you have a Visa credit card with the Credit Union, we provide you with free access to your FICO credit score each quarter as well.
Sources and Resources:
Accessing your reports: AnnualCreditReport.com
Credit bureaus: Experian.com, TransUnion.com, Equifax.com
Credit score information: MyFICO.com