Letter grades may consume our lives as children, but credit scores are the numbers we pay attention to as we get older. After all, a high credit score can help you earn lower interest rates, qualify for higher limits on loans and credit cards, and avoid paying more for the things you buy. A credit report, however, is just as important as your credit score, as the two are closely linked.
In truth, there are three credit reports that exist for anyone with a credit score. Each of these comes from a different credit bureau. Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion determine an individual’s credit score via select processes, which vary from one bureau to the next. However, it’s necessary for lenders to use one or more reports to understand your full credit history. In fact, it’s often that your credit score will vary from one bureau to the next by several points.
If you’re interested in learning more about credit reports, specifically which one is more accurate, you’ve come to the right place. We’ll discuss what a credit report is and how you can use them to monitor your credit scores. It’s also a good idea to check your scores often in case of errors. There is a way to remove errors from your report, but the complaint has to come from you first.
Are you ready to see which credit report is most accurate? Let’s get started!
What is a Credit Report?
A credit report includes entries of your available credit, loan accounts, and details of your payment history. This report shows creditors how responsible you are with the credit extended to you. Credit reports can vary from a single page for those with new credit to a handful of pages for those with several accounts open.
As a consumer, it is your right to legally obtain your free credit report from the three major credit bureaus once every 12 months. The three credit bureaus are TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian. These companies monitor and track your credit. In fact, most credit companies report your activity to one or more of these bureaus to provide updated information. Note that if you request your score more than once per year, your credit score will suffer.
When you request a credit report from one, two, or all three of these bureaus, you may or may not receive a credit score as well. Credit scores are often reported as a FICO 8 score or a VantageScore 3.0 credit score. Both are based on the information within your credit report. In addition, several companies will monitor your credit for you. This can include the financial institution you’re banking with now.
Credit scores and credit reports are not the same thing, though they are closely linked. A credit report details within it the events that influence your credit score. For example, if you opened up an account with a lender for an automotive loan, that would show up on your credit report. As long as you make on-time payments, that will positively influence your credit score.
Credit scores range from 300 all the way to 850. It’s also possible to have no credit because you lack a history. Poor credit ranges from 300 to 579. Fair credit ranges from 580 to 669 and good ranges from 670 to 739. If you have a credit score between 740 and 799, it’s considered very good. Excellent credit is anything above 850.
As you go through life, your credit score will change as you make and pay off purchases. For most people, a credit score first comes into play when they want to purchase a vehicle. It can take years to build up a credit score high enough to gain a low interest rate on a mortgage as well. Fluctuating credit scores are normal, so don’t let a number define your success. Consider it as part of a larger whole, namely your financial progress in life.
Credit Reporting Bureaus
You can request your credit report from any or all of the three credit reporting bureaus.
- Equifax: Navigate to the Equifax website to sign up for additional credit and identity monitoring as well. You can purchase a family plan for your report, which includes monitoring your VantageScore and three bureau reports.
- TransUnion: You’ll have to pay a monthly fee of $24.95 to gain access to your credit report and other monitoring services. You can also unlock and lock your TransUnion and Equifax credit reports from this website as well.
- Experian: You can open a free account with Experian, but you’ll need the paid service to obtain all three credit reports, as well as your FICO 8 score. You’ll also have access to identity and credit monitoring services as well.
In addition, AnnualCreditReport also offers an application you can fill out once to request your credit report from all three bureaus. It takes less than five minutes to fill the form out and you can send it to the Annual Credit Report Request Service at P.O.Box 105281 in Atlanta, Georgia, zip code 30348-5281. You can also call 1-877-322-8228. Your request should be fulfilled within 15 days of receipt.
Features of a Credit Report
If you’ve ever wondered what’s in your credit report, you’re not alone. Here are a few details you’ll find across all credit reports:
- Personal information: This includes your name and any variations (such as your maiden name), your current and previous addresses, current and previous employers, your date of birth, and your Social Security number.
- Credit history: Every account you’ve opened in the last 10 years will be listed here, as long as the lenders or creditors reported your account to the corresponding credit bureau. Both open and closed accounts are listed here, with details such as when the account was opened and when it will no longer be included in your credit history (typically 7 years from the date it was closed).
- Credit inquiries: This lists the number of hard and soft pulls within the last two years only.
- Public records: Here you’ll find listed the financial events that negatively impact your credit score, such as bankruptcies, liens, and civil judgments. These can stay on your credit report for up to 10 years.
Again, remember that between the three reports, you’re likely to have varying scores. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as many lenders will attempt to take your highest score to earn you a lower interest rate. Some credit entries may have only been reported to certain bureaus as well. Thus, no credit report is more accurate than the others. It’s all about representing your credit information.
Why are Credit Reports Different?
Yes, you read it right. There’s no single accurate credit report among the three reports associated with your credit history. While this can be defeating at first glance, there’s a lot more positive to this scenario than first meets the eye.
For example, most lenders report their accounts to one or two credit reporting agencies. In fact, smaller lenders may even report your account to only one of the three bureaus. The truth of the matter is that those small loans can make a huge difference in proving your creditworthiness, which is where Experian Boost comes in.
With Experian Boost, you can add certain accounts to your credit report to add to your credit history. For example, you may want to include your rental history on your report to show that you make payments on time. This can help prove your responsibility recently, especially if you’ve had late payments in the past.
Having three reports to choose from can also show you where inaccuracies may occur. It’s often easiest if there are no errors on your report, but it can be a pain to have to dispute the erroneous information with all three bureaus. We’ll talk more about that process in a minute. However, it’s important to know that your credit reports are just snapshots of your history. They don’t tell the entire story.
Monitor Your Credit With These Companies
It can be a good idea to request your official credit report from Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax each year to ensure the data within is accurate. However, there are ways you can monitor your credit in the meantime. Here are three opportunities that offer you a way to monitor what’s on your report so you can be sure it’s accurate and up-to-date:
- Credit Karma: It’s free to monitor your TransUnion and Equifax credit report with Credit Karma. You can also see what your VantageScore 3.0 credit score is with this service. Credit Karma also allows you to receive personal finance tips and suggestions on credit cards, as well as monitor your identity.
- myFICO: You can access your FICO credit score with myFICO. For a minimum of $19.95 per month, you can access a single credit report every three months. However, at the highest tier, you can request all three reports on a monthly basis for close monitoring. You can also use the free educational content to learn more about credit.
- Credit Sesame: This credit monitoring service requires $15.95 per month to access all three of your credit reports. However, you can also gain access to ID theft specialists 24/7 in case of identity theft. Credit Sesame also gives you a letter grade for each component of your credit report, as well as suggestions on how to increase your creditworthiness.
Most people find credit monitoring apps helpful if they’re working towards affording a house or qualifying for an automotive loan. You may find that monitoring your credit in the months or even years leading up to these life-changing purchases can help you head off any issues before they get out of control.
How to Fix an Error on Your Credit Report
If by chance you do find an error on your credit report, you do have recourse. You’ll need to contact each credit bureau that lists the error, which could potentially be three separate phone calls. You can also send a dispute letter to each of the affected bureaus detailing the issue and what the correct information should be.
Most disputes take about 30 days to be investigated and addressed. If the error is reversed, it may take even longer to take effect on your report. Depending on what the errors involved, however, it can definitely be worth it to reach out and initiate the process. Your credit score could potentially improve if the erroneous information was negatively impacting it.
Yes, you can request your free credit report from each of the three credit bureaus once per 12 months without penalty. Depending on which company you bank with, you may be able to see partial credit qualities that appear on your credit report.
Yes, it’s safe to order your credit report online. Be sure that you’re navigating to the correct websites and verifying their authenticity before entering any personal information.
Most negative marks stay on your credit report for 7-10 years depending on what they are. Bankruptcies will show up for at least 10 years.
Monitor Your Credit with Your Credit Report
Knowing your credit score can be helpful when seeking out loans for houses, automobiles, personal use, and many other instances. We hope you’ve found this article useful in figuring out which credit report is most accurate, specifically that they’re all as accurate as the data held within them. Though error sometimes occurs, you can petition for them to be corrected.
When you know what your credit report holds and what your credit scores are, it’s easier to know what interest rates and loan amounts you can qualify for. If you’re building your credit back up, it can be rewarding to see your progress each year. What will you do with your credit report?