In the United States, there are 3 major credit bureaus. There are TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian. These three credit reporting agencies are responsible for amassing information on an individual’s credit history. They collect data from a number of sources called data furbishers.
Data furbishers may be creditors like banks or credit card companies, lenders, utility companies, collection agencies, and courts. Creditors and lenders will give TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian information on how much a consumer has borrowed and on how long it takes them to pay back the loan. Creditors and lenders will give the credit bureaus monthly updates about whether or not the consumer has paid their monthly bill on time. Most of them, however, only tell the bureaus about a late payment if the borrower makes their payment more than 30 days after the due date.
Utility companies usually only notify the 3 credit bureaus if a consumer is seriously in arrears in their billing arrangement. For instance, if they have to place a lien on a property to get an electric or water bill paid, they may notify the bureaus. However, if the consumer is only a month late, they will typically not submit a report. Collection agencies notify the 3 credit bureaus if a consumer owes a bill that has been placed with their office. However, not all collection agencies report all of their debtors. In addition, if a consumer makes a payment arrangement with a collection agency, the agency will usually not provide TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian with monthly updates on the payment arrangement. They will simply notify them when the bill is paid in full or settled for less than the full balance. The courts notify the agencies about public records.
The 3 credit bureaus create reports on each consumer, and they provide these reports to lenders, landlords and some other interested parties. These are what we call credit reports. These parties will look at the consumer’s borrowing and repayment habits. Then, they will determine whether or not they wish to engage in a financial relationship with that consumer. In addition, these parties may also look at the consumer’s credit score. The score is derived from taking data from the credit report and plugging it into a special algorithm. Using their formula, the 3 credit bureaus work to create a credit score for most consumers. However, the credit score that most lenders and creditors look at is not the one created by the credit reporting agencies. It is the one created by FICO (Fair Isaac Corporation). They are an independent organization that creates these scores using information from all of the reporting agencies. You can obtain a free gov credit report once an year from the 3 bureaus, but you need to pay a fee to obtain your credit score. Whether that’s your credit score from the 3 credit agencies or from FICO, you usually have to pay a small fee.
To ensure that TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian are fair with consumers, they are regulated by two governmental bodies. The Federal Trade Commission provides oversight for the bureaus. The Office of the Comptroller of Currency oversees the entities that provide data to the bureaus, and they try to ensure that the data is correct.
If a consumer wishes to see their credit report, they can contact any one of the 3 credit bureaus. According to the federal law, TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian must all provide consumers with at least one free report per year. In some states, they must provide consumers with a report every time something negative is noted on their report.