When you’re checking your credit report or credit score, you may hear about different credit bureaus, including TransUnion and Experian. What are the similarities and differences between these credit reporting agencies, and does it matter which one you use to check your information?
What Are Credit Bureaus?
Credit bureaus, also known as credit reporting agencies, compile credit reports on individuals or businesses based on how they manage credit. The three major consumer credit bureaus are Experian, TransUnion and Equifax. Experian and Equifax also provide credit reports on businesses.
The Main Three Credit Bureaus
Data maintained by Experian, TransUnion and Equifax is used to calculate credit scores. Credit bureaus gather information about your credit accounts, including credit cards, loans and lines of credit. They record your payment history, balances, available credit, late payments, accounts in collections and bankruptcies.
Credit reports also include identifying information such as your name, Social Security Number, current and former addresses, and current and past employers that have been reported to the bureaus by the creditors. They don’t include financial information unrelated to debt, such as your income or bank account balance. In the case of Experian, to help protect you from identity theft, they do not list your actual SSN on your personal credit report.
Credit Scoring Companies: VantageScore® vs. FICO® Score
Both credit scoring companies VantageScore and FICO aim to measure consumers’ creditworthiness with a different method and approach. Different lenders use different credit scores, with FICO Score 8 being widely used, so you may want to keep an eye on this score. To learn more about the differences between the VantageScore and the FICO Score, you can review this article here.
Why Your Credit Scores Differ
Your credit score may vary depending on whether Experian, TransUnion or Equifax is the source of the data used. Why?
- Not all creditors report to all three credit bureaus. If you have two credit cards but one of those cards only reports to Experian, that card’s payment information won’t appear on your TransUnion or Equifax credit report.
- Creditors may report to different agencies at different times. For example, your credit card company might report your account to Experian the first week of the month, TransUnion the second week of the month, and Equifax the third week of the month.
Experian Vs. TransUnion
Both Experian and TransUnion let you check your credit report and score and provide services to help protect or improve your score. Here’s a closer look at what the two companies offer.
Experian offers a variety of products to help protect your identity and boost your credit score, as well as educational tools.
Experian Credit Report & Score
Provide some basic information to create a free Experian CreditWorks Basic account and check your personal credit score for free. You’ll see your FICO Score 8—the credit score most lenders use. You’ll also learn what affects your score, such as payment history, total debt, length of your credit history, credit mix and recent credit inquiries or new accounts. There’s even an interactive FICO® Score tracker you can use to see changes in your credit score over time.
The basic version of Experian CreditWorks is free and includes monthly access to your credit score, credit report monitoring, alerts when your score changes, one surveillance report to show if your personal information is on the dark web, and credit card and loan offers through Experian CreditMatch (more on that below).
CreditWorks Premium is a paid plan offering daily access to your Experian credit report and score; monthly access to credit reports and scores from all three credit bureaus; auto, home and bankcard FICO Scores; a FICO simulator showing how different actions could affect your credit score; and the ability to lock and unlock your credit report with Experian CreditLock. You also get Identity Theft Protection, which includes dark web surveillance, fraud resolution services and up to $1 million worth of identity theft insurance.
There’s a free seven-day trial; after that, the fee is $24.99 per month. Pay in a lump sum to lower your cost by 17% per year.
Experian Boost is a free service that’s part of your CreditWorks Basic account. It can help improve your credit score by adding your payments to utility companies, cell phone providers and streaming services to your credit report. Normally, these types of payments are not reported to credit bureaus and don’t show up on your credit report. If you make the payments on time, however, having them added with Experian Boost can help increase your credit score.
Experian CreditMatch is a free service that matches you with loans and credit cards you may qualify for based on your credit profile. Applying for loans and credit products that fit your credit profile can enhance your chances of being approved.
If you own your own business, you should monitor your business as well as your personal credit score. You can get a business credit report from Experian for $39.99 to $99 per report. In addition to checking your own business credit report, you can also check on companies to which you’re considering extending credit.
Experian also offers an annual subscription, Business Credit Advantage. For $179 annually, receive daily monitoring of your report, unlimited access to your report and score, alerts on credit inquiries, notifications of key changes and three-month trend tracking.
Create a free TransUnion account to set up a credit freeze, preventing lenders from checking your credit report, or get fraud alerts that require lenders to take additional steps to verify your identity when someone applies for credit in your name.
TransUnion’s website offers a link to a free credit report, but the link takes you to the AnnualCreditReport.com website. You can also get a free credit report by signing up for the free TrueIdentity service (more on that below).
If you have been denied credit, insurance or employment; are unemployed and seeking unemployment; have applied for welfare assistance; or have reason to believe you are a victim of fraud, you can use TransUnion’s mobile app to get a free TransUnion credit report.
TrueIdentity is a free service that lets you lock your TransUnion report with a single swipe or click, gives you unlimited access to your TransUnion credit report, alerts you when critical information on your credit report changes, and provides up to $25,000 in identity theft insurance.
TransUnion Credit Monitoring is a paid service that provides unlimited access to your VantageScore® 3.0 credit score and TransUnion credit report, alerts you to critical changes in any of your three-bureau reports, and provides educational resources to help you understand your credit report and reach your score goals. It also includes identity protection features such as the ability to lock your TransUnion and Equifax credit reports, up to $1 million in identity theft insurance, instant email alerts when there is an inquiry on your credit report and unlimited toll-free access to identity theft specialists.
Credit Monitoring costs $24.95 per month. Servicemembers on active duty can get free Active Duty Credit Monitoring, which provides unlimited access to your TransUnion credit report and email alerts within 48 hours of critical changes being reported to your credit file.
Experian Vs. TransUnion: The Differences
After reviewing what both Experian and TransUnion offer you, let’s take a look at some of the similarities and differences of these two companies.
Both Experian and TransUnion have A+ ratings from the Better Business Bureau.
Products and Services
There are some key differences in the products and services the two credit bureaus offer.
- Experian’s free credit score is the FICO Score 8, the score most lenders use. TransUnion provides the VantageScore 3.0, which is used far less often. Although your scores in the two credit scoring models should be similar, it makes sense to check the score lenders are more likely to use.
- Experian offers a free tool called Experian Boost that can help you improve your credit score and Experian CreditMatch, a service to find relevant credit offers; TransUnion doesn’t offer anything similar.
- Experian’s CreditWorks Premium and TransUnion’s Credit Monitoring are very similar products. However, TransUnion only alerts you to changes in your three-bureau credit reports; Experian gives you full access to the reports. Experian also provides dark web surveillance to protect your identity, and access to auto, home and bankcard FICO Scores.
Experian and TransUnion charge a similar price for their premium product. However, Experian’s pricing is more transparent. Experian’s website includes a comparison of different products, while TransUnion buries pricing data in fine print. Unlike Experian, TransUnion doesn’t offer a free trial or a lump-sum payment option for its premium Credit Monitoring product.
How to Check Your Credit Scores
You can check your credit score at any of the three major credit bureaus’ websites. Your bank, lender or credit card company may also offer a free credit score option, as do many third-party websites.
FAQs About Experian Vs. TransUnion
TransUnion and Experian are two different credit bureaus. Although they may gather some of the same information about you, they are different companies.
Your credit report may differ from one credit reporting agency to another, and you can’t be sure which credit history was used to generate your credit report. Some lenders use data from all three credit bureaus. To be safe, check your credit report with the primary consumer credit bureaus at least once a year.
Normally, you can get a free copy of your credit report from each of the bureaus once every 12 months at AnnualCreditReport.com; during the pandemic, however, you can access these reports once a week. Checking your credit report can help prevent identity theft. If you notice anything odd, such as a new account you don’t recall opening, it could indicate someone is trying to get credit in your name.
All three consumer credit bureaus are reliable sources for checking credit scores. Experian offers FICO Scores, which are the most commonly used by lenders. However, to make sure that they have correct information, you should review your credit report once a year to make sure it’s complete and accurate. You might find some of your credit accounts aren’t listed or that a loan you’ve paid off shows as outstanding. You can file a dispute with the credit bureau to have inaccurate information corrected.
Experian’s free CreditWorks Basic service provides plenty of tools to help monitor your credit and get alerts that could indicate suspicious activity. However, if you want to track your credit reports and scores from all three credit bureaus, are extremely concerned about identity theft, or are planning to apply for a large loan (such as a mortgage), paying for Experian’s services may be worth the cost.
It’s impossible to know which credit bureau lenders use most, since each lender has its own criteria. However, we do know the FICO Score is used in some 90% of credit decisions. Since Experian, unlike TransUnion, provides a FICO Score, using Experian credit services can help you monitor the score that matters most to lenders.
Experian Vs. TransUnion: The Bottom Line
While both TransUnion and Experian have some similarities, Experian offers a more robust suite of consumer services. It also reveals your FICO Score 8—the score most lenders use—which can give you a better idea of what lenders see than the VantageScore that TransUnion provides.