Credit bureaus impact where people live, how much money they spend in their lifetimes, and what they can afford. They have gained this level of importance because they keep track of credit history. Lenders, landlords, insurers, and other groups look at your credit score before making decisions that will impact your monthly budget. Who’s in charge of such an important job? This article will provide information about who owns the credit bureaus.
What Do Credit Bureaus Do?
Credit bureaus are financial institutions that compile your credit history to determine your credit score. This information is crucial for credit issuers and lenders to make decisions about your creditworthiness.
Most lenders and other parties use your FICO score to determine your interest rates, loan amount, and other factors. This number falls in the range of 300 to 850, with a higher score entitling you to better loans and more perks. Your credit score shows lenders how you have managed past financial obligations and your reliability. Credit bureaus collect this information through your payment history and other records on your credit accounts.
What Are the 3 Major Credit Bureaus?
There are several credit bureaus, but the three heavyweights carry the most sway in the industry. These three major credit bureaus – Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion – function as separate companies. Lenders typically use one or two of these bureau’s credit reports when reviewing your credit score.
Equifax was founded in 1899 by Cator and Guy Woolford in Atlanta, Georgia. The company now serves more than 800 million individuals and 88 million businesses in over 24 countries. Equifax has a slightly different approach than the other bureaus when it comes to categorizing your credit history.
This company divides a consumer’s opened and closed accounts. This distinction makes it easier for lenders to distinguish which accounts are relevant for current credit data. Equifax breaks down a consumer’s credit information from revolving accounts, mortgages, types of loans, consumer statements and public records.
Equifax calculates its consumers’ credit scores based on credit utilization, payment history, types of accounts, and length of credit history. This credit bureau also typically provides an 81-month credit history report for lenders. But the bureau has been less popular since its data breach in 2017. The breach affected over 147 million Americans.
Experian’s roots go back to 1862 in London, England. The company expanded over time to reach over 1 billion people and businesses in over 37 countries. Similar to the other credit bureaus, Experian creates credit reports detailing its consumers’ credit habits.
Experian calculates credit scores using a consumer’s outstanding debt, the number of late payments, the age of open accounts, and the types of accounts opened. The credit model it uses to calculate your credit score is the FICO credit model.
Compared to the other bureaus, Experian tends to be more thorough in tracking its consumer’s credit history because it updates recent credit searches. The bureau makes these updates each month and stays on top of basic credit information like addresses, employment, and other inquiries.
Experian provides in-depth credit reports that explain why a consumer’s credit score is the way it is. This allows lenders who use their own credit models to score a consumer based on the information from Experian’s report.
Unlike Experian and Equifax, TransUnion did not start out as a credit bureau. The Chicago-based company was created in 1968 as parent to Union Tank Car Co. It only took one year after its founding for TransUnion to be recognized as a credit bureau. TransUnion now has a reach of over 1 billion consumers in over 30 countries.
TransUnion uses the VantageScore credit model when calculating credit scores. Although credit reports for this service are more expensive than Experian and Equifax, TransUnion updates them daily.
TransUnion initiates active fraud alerts and fraud resolution services for consumers who fall victim to this type of theft.
Are Credit Bureaus Government Agencies?
Credit bureaus are not government agencies. They are publicly traded companies owned by shareholders. The government does not run these companies, but the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) oversee them. The CFPB and FTC act as watchdogs, but other than that, the credit bureaus can act on their own.
These three bureaus are legally required to provide their consumers with one free credit report each year. This ensures that these people know their credit scores and financial standing. Consumers can receive additional reports for a fee. You can request a credit report from one of the three bureaus over four-month intervals to avoid paying for credit reports.
Are Credit Bureaus Regulated?
These three bureaus are highly regulated because of the impact credit scores have on consumers. Lenders, insurers, landlords, and other entities trust that this information is accurate when working with consumers. The CFPB and FTC govern the credit bureaus and make sure laws within the Fair Credit Reporting Act are enforced.
The act ensures the accuracy, fairness, and privacy of consumer information. These are some of the key points the act reinforces:
- A consumer’s ability to dispute incorrect information
- Bureaus being transparent about what is in your credit report
- A consumer’s ability to easily access their credit information
- Requires anyone seeking someone’s credit report to be legally permissible
- If a creditor fails to comply with the Fair Credit Reporting Act, they are subject to substantial penalties. The FTC would require compensatory damages per violation done by the creditor.
Who Regulates Credit Bureaus?
The FTC and CFPB oversee the bureaus and enforce the Fair Credit Reporting Act.
The FTC is the United States’ main consumer protection agency that attempts to thwart any deceptive and fraudulent practices. The CFPB makes sure lenders abide by federal consumer financial laws.
Importance of the Credit Bureaus
Credit bureaus play a crucial role for financial institutions and consumers. All three of the agencies collect, store, and calculate your credit history. The major credit bureaus establish standards for their scoring, so loans aren’t given out arbitrarily.
Before the credit bureaus were established, lenders could be more subjective about who received loans. The modern credit scoring system lets lenders assess applicants based on how well they manage their finances. Race, gender, and character do not play a role in your credit score. Before credit bureaus gave everyone a standard model, lenders could consider those characteristics when assessing applicants.
Financial institutions can review your credit report to determine your loan’s terms and interest rate. Many lenders have minimum credit score requirements for their loans. Even if you are above the minimum, your score will impact your available loans, credit cards, and mortgages. Your score even impacts your insurance premiums and phone bills. Credit bureaus hold high importance in the financial industry and for consumers’ livelihoods.
Building Your Credit Score On Every Credit Bureau
The major credit bureaus have a critical role in the financial industry that has a seismic impact on financial institutions and consumers. These bureaus create credit reports for you and create a simpler process for lenders. Improving your credit score will grant you more opportunities. While there are several ways to increase your score, most of it boils down to making on-time payments and paying off your debt. If you do those two things consistently, your credit score can start gaining momentum.
Who owns TransUnion?
Shareholders own TransUnion, but most are institutional investors.
Are the three credit bureaus connected?
The three credit bureaus are not connected. They are separate entities that creditors use when assessing an applicant’s credit.
Who owns Equifax?
Shareholders own Equifax, but most are institutional investors.