Home > Credit 101 > A Simple Guide to the Different Kinds of Credit Bureaus

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You may hear people talk about their credit report as if there is only one, coming from one source. But that’s just not the case. There are many credit reports and credit bureaus out there. When you review your credit, chances are that it is coming from one of the “big three” — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion — the main credit bureaus lenders use. Many credit scores are also calculated based on the information contained in the databases of the big three.

Reporting to the Bureaus

The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires that if a creditor reports credit histories, the information is accurate. However, creditors are not required to report credit histories of their customers to all credit bureaus. Because of this, not every credit bureau will necessarily have the same information, so your reports won’t always be identical, which is why it’s a good idea to review all of them for any problems. (If you do discover any mistakes, you can read this guide on how to dispute derogatory marks on your credit report.)

“Lenders pay a subscription fee to a credit bureau for the privilege of pulling consumer files,” according to Randy Padawer, a consumer education specialist for Credit.com partner, Lexington Law firm. “And as part of that agreement, they also supply data. Because of this expense, smaller creditors may only be able to report to one or two bureaus rather than all three.”

Other National Specialty Consumer Reporting Agencies

As we alluded to earlier, there are other credit bureaus aside from the big three. FCRA classifies bureaus that fall into its jurisdiction as a Nationwide Specialty Consumer Reporting Agency (NSCRAs). There are a number of other NSCRA companies with databases that hold information that may affect your credit, which may include the following:

  • Credit history
  • Medical records or payments
  • Residential or tenant history
  • Check-writing history
  • Employment history
  • Insurance claims

Examples of NSCRAs are LexisNexis (which holds all kinds of personal consumer data, such as bankruptcy information and judgments) and ChexSystems (which holds data on your checking account history). The data in these systems are often vastly different from credit bureaus (which are also a NSCRA). Under FCRA, NSCRAs are required to give you one free copy of your consumer report just like the major credit bureaus.

In addition to free consumer reports, other FCRA requirements for NSCRAs include having a toll-free number and having adequate resources to handle consumer requests and disputes of the information.

Getting a Good Snapshot of Your Credit

No two credit bureaus are exactly the same, and all contain different information about your credit history, which is why it’s important to look at reports from more than one. As we mentioned, you can get a free copy of your credit reports from all three major bureaus once every 12 months by visiting AnnualCreditReport.com. If you’d like to keep a closer eye on your credit throughout the year, you can take a look at two of your credit scores for free, updated every 14 days, on Credit.com.

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