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Credit Bureaus

Where Your Credit Reports Come From

In the United States, there are three major credit bureaus: Experian, Equifax and Trans Union.  All three are regulated by a federal law called the Fair Credit Reporting Act.  The three major bureaus are companies that make a profit by collecting, analyzing and selling your credit information to banks, lenders and other users of credit information.  Their job is to provide credit information – they do not make decisions about whether you qualify for credit.

Credit bureaus get information for their credit reports from businesses that report credit information.  For example, if you have a Citibank credit card, Citibank reports info about your credit card account to the credit bureaus (including the credit limit and your payment history). 

The credit bureaus collect both positive information (information that you paid on time) and negative information (such as information about you paying late, or being sent to collections).  Lots of different businesses report your payment activity to the credit bureaus, from credit card companies, to mortgage companies, to landlords, to utility companies.  Pay these companies on time, and you will be rewarded with a great credit history.  Pay late, or get sent to collections, and your credit history will take a hit.

It is important to note that the credit bureaus are not perfect (far from it!).  They collect billions of pieces of information about hundreds of millions credit items.  They are bound to make mistakes.  Unfortunately, the mistakes hurt you, the consumer.  What if your credit history has errors in it that incorrectly show that you were late in making payments?  You got it – your credit score is going to take a serious hit.

You need to know that you can correct these errors, and by correcting them, you can improve your credit.  You also need to understand that there are lots of mistakes in credit reports (lots of them – one study from a Public Interest Research Group showed that almost 70% of credit reports have errors).

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