Experian and Equifax are two of the three major consumer credit bureaus in the United States – the other is TransUnion. You can use their products and services to access your credit report and score, boost your credit rating and stay on top of your credit health.
What Is a Credit Bureau?
Credit bureaus, or credit reporting agencies, are for-profit entities. A credit bureau collects data from creditors, lenders, and other data furnishers. This credit information is compiled to create credit reports for lenders and creditors that reflect your credit history and how you manage credit. Credit scoring models calculate your personal credit scores that the credit bureaus provide.
Experian vs. Equifax: The Differences
Experian and Equifax serve consumers and businesses in the U.S. and abroad. Here’s a closer look at what they offer and how they vary.
Founded over 125 years ago, Experian is a key player in consumer and business credit reporting. They currently employ 17,800 people in more than 45 countries and serve individuals and businesses in over 100 countries. Their products and services include:
- Credit reports and scores
- Credit monitoring service
- Identity theft protection
- Fraud alerts and security freezes
- Credit card and loan matching tools
- Credit support
- Credit report disputes
- Educational resources
- Business credit services
Consumers can take advantage of Experian’s offerings by signing up for an Experian CreditWorksSM membership. The basic plan is free and features credit monitoring, credit score tracking, and Experian Boost.
Or you can enroll in the premium plan for a monthly fee. It includes all the basic plan features, identity theft monitoring and protection, and Experian CreditLock to protect your credit profile from fraudsters. Experian IdentityWorks™ can also help protect you from becoming a victim of identity theft.
You could also raise your credit score fast with Experian Boost™. This free service reports utility, phone and streaming service payments to your Experian credit report to boost your credit rating instantly.
If you’re a business owner, you can check your customer’s credit profile, improve your business credit and collect on unpaid accounts through Experian’s debt collection solutions for small businesses.
Equifax is headquartered in Atlanta and employs over 11,000 individuals around the world. With operations in 24 counties in North America, the Asia Pacific Region, Central America, and South America, they are a leading global provider of data, analytics and technology solutions.
Below is a summary of core solutions for consumers from Equifax:
- Equifax Value products include Equifax credit score and Equifax credit report, credit monitoring, credit report locks, Equifax blocked inquiry alerts, automatic fraud alerts, identity restoration, and up to $500,000 of identity theft insurance.
- Equifax Premium products include credit scores and credit reports with monthly access, credit monitoring, identity protection through automatic fraud alerts, credit report locks and blocked inquiry alerts, identity restoration, identity theft insurance, stolen funds replacement, and lost wallet assistance.
Business and government products and services are also available.
When Would You Use a Credit Bureau Reporting Agency?
Several circumstances call for the use of a credit reporting agency.
Credit Score Improvements
Before you can improve your credit score, you need to know what’s in your report. The Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions (FACT) Act allows you to get a free copy of your credit report from each of the three nationwide credit bureaus – Experian, Transunion, and Experian – one free credit report each year.
Review all the content, identify any untimely or inaccurate information, and promptly file disputes with the credit bureaus if you find any information you believe to be incorrect. Also, note any negative entries, such as late payments, and create a plan of action to ensure no more negative marks get added to your report. That can be as simple as resolving to make all debt payments on time going forward.
Identity Theft Protection
The credit bureaus feature credit monitoring services to help you detect identity theft when it happens. If you have an account with Experian, for example, you will receive real-time alerts anytime changes occur to your credit file and can file disputes or report fraud to the proper authorities right away if you think an entry has been made erroneously.
You can also lock or freeze your credit reports at any time to prevent access by lenders and creditors. Be mindful that this could delay the decision-making process if you decide to apply for credit.
Loan or Credit Applications
When you apply for a loan or credit card, most lenders and creditors request your credit reports and scores from the credit bureaus before making a lending decision. If you have a good credit score, you may access better interest rates and terms on your loan or credit applications. You can also check your reports and FICO scores or VantageScores before you apply to know where you stand and avoid surprises. For example, before applying for auto loans or reaching out to credit card companies to get approved for one.
House or Apartment Rental or Purchase
Mortgage lenders use your credit scores to determine if you meet their minimum credit score criteria to qualify for a loan. They also factor in other financial data, like your credit utilization and income. However, a score that does meet the minimum threshold required by the loan program could be grounds for denial.
If you’re planning to apply for an apartment or rental home, the landlord may pull your credit to determine if you’ve been a good tenant in the past. Any evictions or collection accounts associated with past rentals could be grounds for the immediate denial of your application.
Credit Report Errors and Disputes
You have a right to dispute inaccurate or untimely information in your credit report. If you review your credit report and notice errors, you can file a dispute by mail, phone, or online to have the issues corrected.
Here’s the dispute information for Experian and Equifax:
- Mailing address- Experian, P.O. Box 4500, Allen, TX 75013
- Phone- 866-200-6020
- Online- Experian Dispute Center
- Mailing address- Equifax Information Services L.L.C. P.O.P.O. Box 105069 Atlanta, GA 30348-5069
- Phone- 866-349-5191
- Online- Equifax Dispute Center
FAQs About Credit Bureaus
The largest credit bureaus in the U.S. are Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. However, Experian is the most popular of the three. It is also worth noting that different scores and scoring models exist, like VantageScore and FICO, but a wider number of lenders use FICO in the U.S.
Some lenders use both Experian and Equifax – others only use one of the two or TransUnion. Check with lenders and creditors to ask about where they pull credit reports and scores from before you apply.
Experian and Equifax offer comprehensive credit solutions to consumers and businesses. The better option depends on your personal needs.
Many lenders only use Equifax when making a lending decision. You can ask the lender which credit bureau(s) they use when evaluating applications to determine if Equifax is their credit reporting agency of choice.
Not all creditors and lenders report to all three credit bureaus. So, your credit reports from Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion may vary, and the corresponding scores could also be different. Inaccurate information can appear on any of your credit reports if it is reported incorrectly by your lender or is a result of fraud. However, you can minimize the chances of it lingering for several years by reviewing your reports regularly and reporting any incorrect or untimely information right away.