Monday, April 2, 2012

They All Look The Same, Because They Are So Similar: Credit Reporting Bureaus.

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The Basics: Ultimately, it does not matter which of the Big 3 Credit Bureau's you get a report from: they have the same information and tend to come up with similar results.

As my wife and I prepare to move on and move out to get a house of our own (the whole “inherit after the family dies” plan isn’t really working out fast enough), I decided it was a good time to look at my credit report. I decided to take a look at the reports from the three major credit reporting bureaus, Experian, Trans Union, and Equifax. What I discovered was more annoying than anything else.

First, the topic is a moot one. Credit Bureaus are not something you choose. They are gathering the information on you already and they are the ones that realtors, credit card companies and prospective employers are looking at to judge your financial stability. The second reason the topic is moot – they are watching you, they do not need you to choose anything – is two-fold. Outside cosmetic differences with their reports, most of the information is the same from all three credit bureaus and most of the sites that allow you to check your reports for free have the data from all three bureaus.

In other words, all three credit bureaus had every address I have had for the last ten years, the same listings of loans and credit cards, the same publicly available financial information and the same list of past employers. The three bureaus also had remarkably similar credit scores (my credit score varied by ten points total between the three bureaus). What I did discover, though, was that in making a dispute, what is most important is to learn which Bureau has which information. If you make a blanket dispute with all three companies, you might be giving companies which did not have the information you want to dispute that information (in my case, correcting an old address issue).

Ultimately, the point is a moot one and it is not more complicated than that. Picking a credit bureau is easy: they all look and report virtually the same information (Experian was a little more updated and a little less interested in old history than the other two). Far more important is figuring out which way you want to get their reports, but that is a different topic entirely!

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© 2012, 2010 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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