Credit bureaus are companies that collect and maintain consumer credit information then resell it to other businesses in the form of a credit report. There are many 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. They collect information about you, the consumer. This includes where you live, your job, your payment history and other factors that affect your creditworthiness. Using this information, the credit bureaus compile a credit score, helping companies you want to buy or borrow from make an informed decision on whether to provide you credit.
How The Credit Bureaus Work
The three credit bureaus use information in your credit report to come up with your credit score. A credit report contains such information as:
• How well you keep up to date on paying your bills.
• Whether you have a bankruptcy.
• The amount of your current debt.
You can contact the credit agencies directly if you need to dispute information in your report.
In addition, you can request a free credit report from each of the bureaus every 12 months. This allows you to correct any potential mistakes on your credit report.
Unfortunately, the free credit report you receive does not contain your credit score; you have to pay for that. Most experts recommend you space out your free report requests to receive them throughout the year.
In the U.S., the three credit bureaus fall under the jurisdiction of the Federal Trade Commission and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. Together, the agencies monitor and regulate reporting from national banks and the consumer reporting agencies to protect the American consumer under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, among other regulations.
The 3 credit bureaus
The credit bureaus include Equifax, Experian and TransUnion, with each of the credit bureaus receiving information from some lenders that the others may not receive.
In addition to sending out credit reports, each bureau also offers credit monitoring for a fee.
Founded in 1898, Equifax started out by offering consumer credit reports in the business sector. Eventually, the company began providing credit reports to consumers and offering other services, including identity theft and credit fraud protection.
A group of London merchants started swapping information on customers who failed to settle their debts. One such association, the Manchester Guardian Society, formed in 1826, later becoming a major part of Experian. Eventually, Experian broadened its product range into new industry sectors and markets around the world.
Originally formed as a holding company for Union Tank Car Co., TransUnion eventually expanded its business to include consumer credit monitoring. Like the other major credit bureaus, TransUnion offers credit monitoring products to both businesses and consumers.
Contact Information For the Three Credit Bureaus
Equifax – www.equifax.com
P.O. Box 740241
Atlanta, GA 30374-0241
Experian – www.experian.com
P.O. Box 2104
Allen, TX 75013-0949
TransUnion – www.transunion.com
P.O. Box 1000
Chester, PA 19022