You might already know about the three major credit bureaus: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion -- but you might not know that there are other credit reporting companies that can affect your approval odds and interest rates from lenders.

There’s more to keeping track of your credit than just checking with the three major bureaus. There are also smaller companies you may not be familiar with, such as ChexSystems, MicroBilt / PRBC, and Clarity Services that lenders use to get information about you. Let's take a look at the various credit reporting agencies that exist.

The Big Players: TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian

You likely already know about these. They compile data on your credit history and give lenders reports that help them determine the amount of risk you present for a loan. The information in these reports includes your name and address, social security number, account balances, payment history, credit inquiries, collection amounts, civil judgments, and bankruptcies.

Other Consumer Reporting Firms

Depending on the situation, smaller companies may he used to help lenders determine risk. The following companies offer alternative reports. These include:

  • SageStream (under ID Analytics LLC)

  • Innovis

  • MicroBilt / PRBC

  • CoreLogic Credco

These companies focus on specialized or supplemental data that can help lenders make decisions. LexisNexis Risk Solutions collects information found in public records and from harder to find sources such as professional license info and data pertaining to real estate transactions.

As of 2012 there were 400 credit-reporting agencies in the United States! They consist of a wide variety of companies that shed light on different financial services and products, such as payday loans and checking accounts.

Why Do So Many Small Consumer-Reporting Companies Exist?

Credit makes the business world turn. Think of all the loans you may have applied for over the years – a car loan, a home loan, student loans, or an applying to rent an apartment or get a cell phone. Lenders need as much information as possible to determine your level of risk. For this, they turn to companies collecting more niche information. One example is MicroBilt / PRBC, which helps lenders get information on applicants with very little credit history. This is known in the industry as a thin file.

Why You May Want To Use A Specific Bureau To Check Your Credit

In some cases, you may want to check specific information before applying for credit. If you’re able to, check with your lender and ask which bureaus it sources it’s information from so you can make sure to correct any errors before applying. This is important because different lenders report to different bureaus, which means that any given credit report may have different sources, leading to different scores.

How To Get Your Information From Consumer-Reporting Agencies

As of 2018, credit reporting companies are required to provide you with a copy of your report for not more than $12. Each of the three major bureaus (TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax) are required to give you one free report every 12 months, upon request. To get a report, contact the company in question and ask how you can purchase one or a get a copy for free.

If an adverse action is taken against you because of information on a certain company’s report you are entitled to a free copy of that report. If you are denied a loan you should get something called an adverse action notice. This contains the reason you were denied, which company they got their information from, and how to get your report from them.

How To Get Your Credit Scores

If you would like your scores for free, you can get it from almost any major lender or bank. TransUnion and Equifax offer VantageScore credit scores for free through websites like Citi, Chase, Discover, and Capital One all offer credit score programs with free access to credit scores. If you would like a specific score, such as VantageScore 4.0 or FICO Score 8, you can check with each individual credit scoring model company. The big three bureaus typically offer your credit report, along with your FICO score for a fee of around $20.

What Can You Do With This Information?

Any and all information you can collect on your credit score can help you improve it. If your score is already healthy, then there is nothing to worry about. It's still important about the varied sources of information lenders turn to when making a decision - and it can help you when applying for a loan.

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