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Meet the Big 3 Credit Bureaus

Meet the Big 3 Credit Bureaus

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You might’ve heard of credit scores. Well, who comes up with those scores and why do those scores matter? Credit bureaus. There are three big ones, and they’re important.

A credit bureau is an agency that researches and collects data on your individual credit use and then makes it available to financial institutions, credit card companies, and other lending institutions so they can make decisions about granting loans to you. Although there are several credit bureaus in the U.S., the top three are Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.

Credit bureaus assign scores based on your payment history, amounts owed, length of credit history, credit mix, and new credit. These scores matter because they are predictors of whether you will qualify for credit, and on what terms. The terms could be the interest rate, for example.

A credit score generally ranges from 300-850. A higher number – or “credit score” – signals that you pay your debt on time.

Remember, credit bureaus do not decide whether you will receive a loan. Credit bureaus collect data, synthesize it and then give it to lending institutions. Let’s take a look at the three credit bureaus and the type of information they collect.


Equifax offers both VantageScore and FICO scores to lenders. These are two types of credit scoring models. 

The Equifax credit score range (300-850) is the same as FICO’s, yet it’s not the same thing. You might have different credit scores across VantageScore, FICO, but essentially the scoring models are calculating the same thing: your credit history.


Experian uses the FICO score model (300-850) and also shares your credit history with lenders. Lenders may want to know not just your current score but also how you managed your credit over time.


TransUnion offers both FICO scores and VantageScores. TransUnion also provides information on payment history. TransUnion will take into account the following details: your payment history, your credit utilization (which is the amount of credit you’re using on a credit limit), the types of credit you have (which could be student loans, credit card loans, mortgages, etc.), the length of your history and if you’ve opened or closed accounts recently.

How to check your credit score

Federal law allows you to get a free copy of your credit report every 12 months from each of the top three credit reporting companies we mentioned (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion). If you don’t have your credit score yet, don’t delay and check your score so that you can work on improving or maintaining it at a high mark!

Checking your own credit score will not lower your score. There are various ways to check your credit score. You can usually request a free credit report through your credit card – most cards offer this free service. However, if you don’t have a credit card, you can request your credit report via Annual Credit Report and get your score from all three of the top credit bureaus.

It’s important to get your score from all of the top three credit bureaus because the numbers and information may slightly differ. Knowing your score will help you understand what you need to improve to increase it. 

Lastly, feeling worried about your credit score is normal. The good news is that you can become comfortable with checking your score so that you can begin improving it or maintaining it at a high number. To improve your score, you can make payments on time and consistently and also reduce your credit card balances. 

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