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From the Experts at

Who Are the Major Credit Reporting Agencies?

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The three major credit reporting agencies are Equifax, Experian, and Transunion.

Perhaps you’ve heard of the three major credit reporting agencies (also sometimes referred to as credit bureaus). They are Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax. But there’s a lot of confusion when it comes to what these credit bureaus actually do. What kind of information do they collect? Where does that information end up? Do they create credit scores or credit reports? And what’s the difference?

What do the Major Credit Reporting Agencies Do?

Credit reporting agencies collect and maintain the information that forms your credit history and ultimately, your credit report. That includes information about your existing credit accounts as well your payment history from a variety of financial institutions, including credit card companies, banks, mortgage companies and other lenders. Other businesses, like telephone and utility companies, also report information to credit bureaus. (Generally, though, these non-lending organizations only report late payments and other negative information).

These companies are all for-profit private companies and they do not share information with each other. That means each one may maintain somewhat different information about you.

Personal information – like your name, address, etc – as well as positive information (like the age of your various credit accounts) can remain on your credit reports indefinitely does not have a fixed expiration date. Most negative information remains on your credit report for 7 years. Here’s how long the negative information collected by the credit bureaus is likely to stay on your credit report:

  • Bankruptcy: Ten years from the date of filing for Chapter 7 filings, seven years for Chapter 13 filings and seven years for each record marked as “Included in BK”
  • Charge-offs (when a creditor or lender writes off the balance of a delinquent debt, no longer expecting it to be repaid): Seven years
  • Closed accounts: Seven years if the account was paid late, no expiration date if the account was always paid on time
  • Collection accounts: Seven years from the last late payment on the original account
  • Inquiries: Two years
  • Late payments: Seven years from the date of the late payment
  • Judgments: Seven years from the filing date if paid; longer if unpaid
  • Tax liens: Fifteen or more years if left unpaid, seven years from the date the lien is paid

Once they’ve collected the information, compiled your credit history, and generated a credit report, the credit reporting agencies sell that information back to the lenders, so that they can determine your creditworthiness. Based on that information, lenders can decide whether or not to lend to you, and if they do, what your interest rate should be. They may also sell that information (i.e. your credit report) to insurance companies, employers, and any other company that has “permissible purpose” to access consumer credit data. You are also able to see your credit reports either by purchasing one from one of the credit reporting bureaus or for free once a year from, a federally mandated site. In addition,’s free Credit Report Card provides you an easy-to-understand overview of your credit history, along with your free credit scores.

Credit Reports vs. Credit Scores

The information in your credit reports is used to generate your three digit credit scores. Since there are three credit reporting bureaus, and the information collected by them can vary from bureau to bureau, your credit scores may also vary depending in which bureau they are using to ascertain your credit history. Beyond that, there a many different credit scoring models or formulas, which change from lender to lender. In fact, you’ve probably heard of FICO scores before – but you don’t have just one FICO score – you have dozens!

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  • Credit Experts

    We wrote about that in How to Make Your Tax Lien Disappear. Hope that’s useful to you.

  • Kali Geldis

    Hi Farah —’s two free credit scores are calculated using Experian data.

  • notnowlater

    It all depends David. Was the example lie maybe a car loan? Who paid it off? Do you deserve the release if say, someone else paid it? I saw an ex-wife who had to pay a loan in full just so she could sell HER house? The wierd example was the loan was obtained against HER house and was able somehow to attached though she had nothing to do with such a loan. Strange how how some things can be attached, then paid off, all as maybe in a dream? Maybe a quit claim deed wasnt recorded yet or some such thing. Just weird stranger things have happened. I never could even get fake addresses deleted or fake relatives from my my credit reports and i tried solid for years. Good luck!

  • Susan Lee

    I have a questions – I had signed the quickdeed over to my ex husband and thinking he was paying off the house but he’s not. My name is still on the loan but he can’t get it refiance because he doesn’t have enough credit to refinance the house??? I just got served yesterday knowing the house is going into foreclosure and my credit scores is bad?? If i write a letter that it shouldn’t hurt my credit scores because I am not longer the property owner what are the chances I will get??? I mean I’m going to write them a letter anyways but i Need help and direction??? Thank Susan

    • Gerri Detweiler

      A letter is not the route to go here. You need to talk with a consumer bankruptcy attorney asap. Just because you no longer have title to the home that doesn’t mean you can’t be sued for the debt. You may need to file bankruptcy to get out from under this loan, but the only way to find out what your options are is to talk with an attorney. The first consultation will likely be free. If you need help finding one visit the website of the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys.

  • Paty

    my husband was recently a victim of identity theft.
    is credit repair recommended or a waste of money at this point?

    • Gerri Detweiler

      If there is wrong information on his credit reports due to ID theft he should be able to dispute that information without having to pay someone for credit repair. This article may help: A Step-By-Step Guide to Disputing Credit Report Mistakes

  • Dee

    I have couple of items that are older than 15 years that still showing up. How do I get rid of them? I have medical bills that my ex is responsible and placed it in my name how do I correct that?

    • Gerri Detweiler

      For the items that are older than 15 years old (I assume they are negative), you can dispute them, Please note that unpaid tax liens or judgments can be reported indefinitely.

      As for the medical bills, it’s hard to say. What do you mean “my ex is responsible”? Is that part of the divorce decree or were these her bills and her bills alone (and not incurred in a community property state before your marriage dissolved)? If it was simply that she agreed in the divorce decree to pay them that doesn’t mean you aren’t both legally responsible for them as far as the creditor is concerned.

  • Sue

    how do I go about getting a copy of my childrens credit reports

  • Evelyn leon

    Hi. I paid my eviction this year but problem is im still having trouble looking for a place. Can somebody help me how can get this eviction out of my credit

    • Credit Experts

      Evelyn ā€”
      An eviction is not typically part of a credit report, though it if was sent to collections, the collections item would be. If it is accurate, you may not be able to get it removed. That doesn’t mean you can’t rent, though. We addressed the situation here: How to Rent With Bad Credit

  • Terri

    I checked my credit and one agency has no score; how do I make sure my credit is being reported to them?

    • Kali Geldis

      Hi Terri —

      Even if you’re considered “unscoreable” by a credit reporting agency, you may still have a credit report with them. This is called a “thin file” — you have some items being reported to the bureaus, but there isn’t enough data to create a credit score.

      You can check your credit reports for free at from each of the major credit reporting agencies, which can help you pinpoint which of your credit accounts (loans, credit cards, etc.) are being reported.

      Also, getting a secured credit card can be a helpful tool for building a good credit score. Most credit cards report to all major credit reporting agencies, but it’s best to ask before applying to make sure the card will help you build credit! Hope that helps!

  • Credit Experts

    You can dispute it. Equifax’s online dispute form is here:

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