3 credit bureaus. 3 facts to know.
You may already know TransUnion, Experian and Equifax are the three national credit bureaus. Simple enough. But knowing more about what they do, what they don’t do and what you can do makes it easier to navigate the credit reporting system—which can save you time, money and aggravation. Here are 3 credit bureau facts you may not know, but should.
Fact 1: Each bureau produces its own report & score.
Each of the 3 credit bureaus produces their own, separate credit report and their own separate credit score. That means one bureau’s report or score may not look like another’s report or score, especially since some creditors may report information to one or more bureaus at different times.
Why it’s important: To get a more complete picture of your credit, you should pay attention to your credit at all 3 bureaus. And that’s why, for example, TrueCredit offers credit monitoring for all 3 bureaus.
Fact 2: There’s no such thing as a legally required free annual credit score.
But many people think there is. You are legally entitled to a free annual credit report from each of the 3 credit bureaus. But none of them come with a score. That said, when you get your annual credit report from one of the bureaus, the bureau may show you a separate offer for your credit score. That score offer may be free or carry a fee. It’s up to the bureau, but just know they’re not required to offer you a free score.
Why it’s important: There are many good reasons to know your credit score—it shows you where your credit stands at any one time and it’s a quick way to keep up with your credit health, among other benefits. Just know you’re not entitled to it free of charge at annualcreditreport.com. Whether you can get free scores somewhere else or how much you’d pay depends on the score, seller and a lot of other details.
Fact 3: Knowing which bureau(s) to contact depends on the kind of issue.
Before you contact a bureau, it’s a good idea to know which bureau or bureaus you need to reach. And that depends on what you want to do.
- To dispute something on your credit report, contact the bureau that produced the report.
- To place a fraud alert on your credit files, pick a bureau, any bureau. It doesn’t matter which, because each of the 3 is required to notify the others about your fraud alert.
- To place a credit freeze (sometimes called a security freeze), you need to contact each of the 3 credit bureaus.
Why it’s important: Knowing which bureaus to contact can save you time, which is nice if you have a little time to save. But it becomes critical knowledge when your credit may be at risk or when you think you may have become a fraud victim. It pays to know what to do when every second matters.