When it comes to analyzing your credit score, the terminology and number of resources at your disposal can make it all seem truly overwhelming. One of the terms that could cause confusion is consumer reporting agencies.
What are consumer reporting agencies?
Simply put, consumer reporting agencies are the forces behind credit reports. Among other things, credit reports contain information on how you pay your bills and where you’ve worked, and consumer reporting agencies compile these reports and sell them to creditors, employers and insurers. The most common type of consumer reporting agency is the credit bureau.
Because of the impact that credit records and ratings have on the lives of U.S. citizens, the federal government has passed laws to govern CRA behavior and responsibilities, including the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACTA). These regulations have resulted in many restrictions on how credit reporting agencies and creditors may operate, including giving consumers access to a free annual credit report.
What are some examples of consumer reporting agencies?
The three biggest consumer reporting agencies have become household names over the last several years, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. Although they’re often mentioned in the same breath, they each offer different services and reporting features.
- Equifax – Equifax serves numerous industries, including credit card, financial services, retail, health care, and the government. Founded more than 100 years ago, the company, headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia, provides both commercial and consumer credit information services.
- Experian – Experian is the largest of the three and is very active in providing solutions for their participating merchants, lenders and creditors. In addition to basic credit reporting and grading, their other services include credit monitoring and identity theft protection.
- TransUnion – TransUnion has been in the credit reporting business for more than four decades. The company services roughly 500 million consumers and 45,000 businesses across the globe. In addition to providing credit information, TransUnion also provides risk and portfolio management services to the customers it serves. Some of Trans Union’s clients include companies in the financial services industry and retailers.
Other consumer credit reporting agencies that store consumer data include the LexisNexis, Telecheck, Teletrack, Tenant Data Services, Insurance Services Office and the Medical Information Bureau. Consumers are entitled to a free credit report from each of the big three CRAs every year, and credit reports can be requested by visiting annualcreditreport.com.