Who Are the Three Major Credit Bureaus?

Credit report overview
© SpiffyJ / E+ / Getty

Credit bureaus, or credit reporting agencies, are companies that collect and maintain consumer credit information then resell it to other businesses in the form of a credit report. There many credit reporting agencies, or credit bureaus, in the United States, but most people are familiar with the big three: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. These bureaus are all publicly-traded, for-profit companies who are not owned by the government.

The government does, however, have legislation, the Fair Credit Reporting Act, regarding how these and other credit bureaus should operate.

These credit bureaus have relationships with many banks, credit card issuers, and other businesses that you may have an account with. Because of these relationships, your account history will appear on one or all three of your credit reports with these bureaus.

You have a right to view your credit report and you can order a free credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus each year through AnnualCreditReport.com. You can also purchase a credit report directly from any of the credit bureaus at any time. Equifax and Experian offer 3-bureau credit reports which include all three major credit reports in a single document.

You may also need to contact a credit bureau directly to dispute inaccurate information in your credit report, purchase a credit score, or to place a fraud alert or security freeze on your credit report.

Contact Information For the Three Credit Bureaus

Equifax - www.equifax.com
P.O. Box 740241
Atlanta, GA 30374-0241
1-800-685-1111

Experian - www.experian.com
P.O. Box 2104
Allen, TX 75013-0949
1-888-EXPERIAN (397-3742)

TransUnion - www.transunion.com
P.O. Box 1000
Chester, PA 19022
1-800-916-8800

What the Three Bureaus Do and Don't Do

The major credit bureaus receive credit-related information from companies that you do business with.

They may also pull relevant public records, like tax lien or bankruptcy, and include that information in your credit report. The major credit bureaus sell your credit information to businesses who have a valid need for viewing your credit information and to companies who may prescreen you for their products and services. For example, a company who you've applied for credit with would have a valid need for looking at your credit report.

The major credit bureaus only provide the information or other analytical tools to help businesses make decisions. The bureaus themselves do not make the decision.

Credit Bureau Differences

These three credit bureaus, like all other credit bureaus, are separate entities and operate independently of each other and, generally, do not share your account information with each other. Your creditors may report to all three of the major credit bureaus or just one of them. Because of that, the information in your credit file may be different from one bureau to the next. When potential creditors and lenders check your credit, they may only pull one bureau's credit report, rather than viewing all three. (It's often less expensive for businesses to check just one credit report.) In managing your credit, it's important that you review your credit reports with all three of the credit bureaus.

FICO Is Not a Credit Bureau

FICO, the company who developed and maintains the FICO credit score is not a credit bureau. While they compile your credit score based on data from the major credit bureaus, they do not collect credit report data on their own.