In America, your credit score is serious business. You need a good credit score to do everything from renting an apartment to getting a new job to applying for more credit. Whatever the reason for your credit score needs, you should know a bit about the credit bureaus.
There are three major credit bureaus in America: Equifax, TransUnion and Experian. Each one compiles its own credit file and report on you and calculates a credit score. When a third-party, a potential employer, for example, runs a credit check on you, he asks the credit bureau to produce your file or score. Likewise, a company like Visa will report your financial history to the credit bureaus, who then add it to your file, regardless of whether it’s good or bad.
Unfortunately, some things get overlooked or are entered erroneously on the credit bureau’s end. This is why it’s very important to always check all three of your credit reports – you wouldn’t want to only check your Equifax report and then discover that the Experian report your landlord is pulling shows multiple errors that drop your credit score into in-rentable territory.
Equifax offers third-parties, including lenders, access to your FICO score or VantageScore. When you request your credit score though, they provide a different number, one based on their own proprietary algorithms.
TransUnion offers FICO and VantageScore, but also offers scores that are product-specific. For example, it might offer one score to lenders pulling credit for a credit card application, but another to employers or landlords.
Experian is a bit different. Although they offer FICO scores, VantageScore is only available to lenders upon request.
Because the three credit bureaus are so different and often have dissimilar financial information about you, it is important that you always get your free credit score from each bureau at least once a year. In addition, be sure to request a copy of your free credit report to verify that the information each of the three bureaus has is up-to-date and accurate.
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