Credit reporting bureaus are independent agencies that maintain an ongoing record of your financial life. This includes everything from bank accounts to loans to payment history. There are four credit reporting organizations:
PO Box 740241
Atlanta, GA 30374
PO Box 9600
Allen, TX 75013
PO Box 1000
Chester, PA 19022
PO Box 1640
Pittsburgh, PA 15230
Why do creditors report your financial data to the bureaus?
It's a matter of give and take for them, actually. For example, the next time you apply for a credit card or loan, the bank or card company can request to see your credit file from one or more of the reporting agencies.
Then, based on your credit history that shows payment timeliness, amount of outstanding debt and other factors, they can assess the level of risk associated with lending you money or establishing a credit limit.
After all, lending money is a risky business, especially when the creditor doesn't know anything about you. If you are perceived as being "high risk,"you will end up paying a higher interest rate if you are even approved for that new card or loan.
What do credit reporting bureaus do with your data?
Equifax, Experian, TransUnion and Innovis compile and maintain all your financial information electronically. Then, it is quickly accessible to anyone authorized and requesting to see it. This could be lenders, creditors, landlords, employers or even insurance companies.
Additionally these bureaus also calculate your credit score, which is the quantification of your credit data, based on the information they have in your credit file.
As you see, a lot can ride on the information these bureaus have about you. It is important to point out that errors can happen during the reporting process.
What if one or more of the credit reporting bureaus has incorrect data about you? You may end up paying a high price for a mistake that is not yours, such as not qualifying for a loan or not getting a lower interest rate that you deserve.
Therefore, it is important to check your credit report at least once a year to review your information on file, catch any errors, and get them corrected. By law you are allowed to request and receive your credit report once a year from each of the credit reporting bureaus.
Visit AnnualCreditReport.com to order your free reports annually or call 1-877-322-8228.
Be wary of companies that want to charge you to receive your credit reports when you can get them for free. Remember that not every lender reports data to all three credit reporting agencies. To make it even more interesting, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion collect, compile and maintain their data differently.
All of this means each agency can potentially have different data about you in their records, at any given point in time. And since these agencies are competitors, they don't share their data with each other.
Since you never know from which credit bureau your next lender is going to request your credit history, ensure that all three bureaus have complete, accurate information about you on file.
What if you find an error in a credit report?
If you discover incorrect information in your credit file, then contact the reporting bureau right away to file a dispute. Also, the reporting agencies will work with you if you are a victim of identity theft or related fraud. Following are the contact links and numbers for reporting issues.