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Credit bureaus

Where the information on your credit report comes from and how it's maintained

Credit bureaus are the companies that house your credit records. While you may have heard of them before, do you really know what they do or how they report your information to lenders? Learn more about the important role that credit bureaus play in keeping track of your credit history.

What credit bureaus do

A credit bureau gathers information about your accounts with lenders, creditors, utility companies, service providers and public records. It also keeps a record of whether you pay your bills on time. This information goes into creating both your credit report and your credit score.

While your credit report is a detailed record of your borrowing and payment history, your score is a single number that a lender uses to help determine how likely you are to fulfill financial obligations. Lenders, creditors, potential landlords and employers may review your credit report and score when you apply for a home loan, credit card, apartment or job.

Each credit bureau maintains its own independent record and regularly updates your files with any new information it receives.

Who the credit bureaus are

Credit bureaus were once primarily local, serving banks and other lenders in individual communities. As credit reporting and recordkeeping became more digital, these small credit bureaus consolidated into regional and then national companies.

Today, there are three national credit bureaus that collect your financial information: Experian® (which supplies the personal information you see on Chase Credit Journey®), Equifax® and TransUnion®. However, some smaller credit bureaus remain, covering certain parts of the country or offering supplementary reports.

Having three national credit bureaus means that no single company is in complete control of your credit history. However, this can make managing your credit history more complicated. A credit report issued from one bureau may look slightly different from a report compiled by another bureau. If you ever need to correct information on your report or follow up on suspected identity theft, you may need to work with each of the three bureaus separately.

How the bureaus report their information

Each credit bureau may report slightly different information about your credit history. That's because:

  • Lenders and creditors don't always report information to each credit bureau.
  • Lenders and creditors report information at different times, so one bureau might have more up-to-date information.
  • One bureau's report could include an error like a missing account.

Your potential lender, employer, landlord, utility company or other creditor may decide which credit report they'd like to review. The level of financial responsibility your report depicts may be different depending on the bureau. Since credit bureaus don't always provide the same information, there may be discrepancies in your payment history.

How to report errors to the credit bureaus

Since you have a separate credit report with each of the three credit bureaus, it's important to check your report for errors.

You can access your credit report anytime on Chase Credit Journey. If you notice a mistake while reviewing your report, you can always dispute it.

Keep in mind that errors you find in one bureau's report could appear on all 3 credit reports. That's why it's typically good practice to follow up with each bureau.

Key takeaways

  • Credit bureaus are the companies that produce your credit reports.
  • There are three major credit bureaus in the United States: Experian, Equifax and TransUnion.
  • Credit bureaus collect information about your borrowing and repayment history from creditors and public records. They use this information to create your credit report and to calculate a credit score, which lenders use to determine how likely you are to fulfill financial obligations.
  • Having three credit bureaus means that no single company is in control of your credit history. However, it can also make managing your credit more complicated if you ever need to correct errors on your credit report or follow up on suspected fraud.
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