Credit Bureaus in the United States
By Tiffany Sorensen
There are multiple credit bureaus in the United States. Credit bureaus are also known as consumer reporting agencies, or CRAs. The three major American credit bureaus are Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.
What They Do
Credit bureaus collect information about consumers that is then used to calculate credit score. Such information may include one’s loan and payment history, criminal history, amount of debt, address, occupation, and more. Credit bureaus then sell this information to third parties, such as employers, banks, and insurance companies. Third parties rely on this information for a variety of reason. Usually, it is to decide whether or not they will loan you money and, if so, what the interest rate will be.
Relationships with the Government
CRAs in the United States are all private, for-profit companies. They are not affiliated with the U.S. government. However, the government can pass legislation that regulates the behavior of credit bureaus. One such example is the Fair Credit Reporting Act. There are also federal agencies that regulate CRAs. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) supervises credit bureau activities, and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) decides which data regarding consumers’ credit histories can be released by banks.
Relationships with Each Other
Credit bureaus are private businesses that compete with one another. Therefore, they do not exchange consumer data. This is why an individual’s credit score tends to vary between CRAs. Despite being competitors, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion came together to form the Consumer Data Industry Association (CDIA). The CDIA sets standards for the credit reporting industry and allows for more efficient lobbying in the nation’s capital.
Every year, you are entitled to one free credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus. To access your free credit reports, you can go to annualcreditreport.com.
Equifax has 7,000 employees and operates in 19 countries worldwide. It processes nearly 158 billion credit score updates on a monthly basis. Equifax has been named one of the best companies to work for and earned Top 50 Service Provider by Mortgage Technology.
Experian employs approximately 16,000 individuals across 39 countries. It has headquarters in the United Kingdom, the United States, and Brazil. Experian was named one of the “World’s Most Innovation Companies” in 2014 by Forbes magazine.
Experian traces its roots back to 1826 with the Manchester Guardian Society. In this association, London merchants would discuss which customers defaulted on paying back debts.
TransUnion conducts business in 33 world countries. It was the first credit bureau to create an online information storage and retrieval data processing system. TransUnion’s technological advancements have allowed for quick access to consumer information.
In 2002, TransUnion founded truecredit.com, a simple website for consumers who wish to monitor and improve their credit scores.
If you’d like to know more about credit bureaus, an expert at Secure Credit Advisors would be happy to answer your questions.