When people talk about getting their “three credit reports,” they’re referring to those from Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. Although the so-called “big three” credit bureaus are among dozens of consumer reporting agencies, they dominate the market. They compile information on your credit accounts, how promptly you pay, what you owe, legal decisions, and much more.
The content in each of these reports is pretty much the same, but they’re formatted a bit differently. In addition, sometimes certain accounts may only be reported to one bureau, or reported at different times. It’s good to check each of them at least once a year to make sure there are no errors, but for everyday use we recommend checking one consistently.
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Where To Get Your 3 Credit Reports
You’re entitled to one free report from each bureau every 12 months via annualcreditreport.com. We recommend spreading these out and ordering a different one every 4 months. You can get an additional free report if you place a fraud alert or if a report was used to take adverse action against you (deny your application, increase your rates, etc.).
You don’t have to wait months to get a new credit report, though. By joining WalletHub for free, you’ll have 24/7 access to your TransUnion credit report, updated daily.
Aside from AnnualCreditReport.com, there are no free credit report websites that offer ongoing access to all three bureaus’ reports.
Differences Between the Big 3 Credit Reports
The three credit reports basically tell the same story. All of them have, in some form, 1) Open and closed accounts 2) Collection accounts 3) Public records 4) Credit history requests 5) Personal information. For a more in-depth look at what each of these mean, take a look at WalletHub’s guide on how to read a credit report.
Though they have a lot in common with each other, each bureau’s report has highlights that make them unique. These things tend to be more cosmetic, and related to the way you read the reports.
Here are the big differences between your three major credit reports:
|Payment History Length||81 months||25 months||48 months|
|Info Expiration Dates?||No||Yes||No|
|Monthly Balance History?||No||Yes||No|
|Detailed Employment History?||No||No||Yes|
|Open/Closed Accounts Grouped…||Separate||Together||Together|
|Satisfactory” Labels for Positive Info?||No||No||Yes|
How the Big 3 Credit Bureaus Compare
TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian dominate the market for a number of reasons, including their age, the amount of data they compile, and their reach. So many creditors rely on these three that it’s hard for smaller agencies to make as much headway.
Here’s how the “big three” stack up to one another:
|Bureau Name||Date Founded||Number of People Currently Served||Number of Employees||BBB Rating|
*Note: Experian was created out of an already existing bureau, which is why it was able to compete.
The credit bureaus are a powerful force in the financial world. And as long as you manage your money responsibly, they’ll work to your advantage. But you have to do your homework. And that includes taking advantage of your free reports and scrutinizing them for errors. You can get free credit reports and scores updated daily on WalletHub.