You’ve probably heard of ‘The Big Three’ credit bureaus, but how are they similar, and how are they different from one another?

What they all have in common is your credit—each one calculates your score, which affects your ability to get a mortgage, car loan, or credit card. Where they’re different from one another is how they calculate your score, and your score itself. Your credit score can actually vary quite a bit among the 3 bureaus. Knowing which bureau a lender is likely to use when you apply for credit is helpful, and keeping tabs on your credit with all 3 is a good idea. Here’s a closer look at the differences between the 3 major credit bureaus.

The Big Three: Equifax, Experian, TransUnion

Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion are the 3 main credit bureaus in the US. They each collect and maintain a record of your credit history, with details like your borrowing habits, payment history, and overall credit utilization. They all gather similar types of information, but there can be big differences in the data they have on you and how they calculate your credit score.


Data collection: Equifax collects information from a variety of sources, including banks, credit card companies, and lenders. They also consider utility and rental payment histories.

Credit scoring: Equifax uses its own scoring model, as well as the FICO and VantageScore models.

Reports: Equifax reports often include detailed information about your employment history, which can be useful for lenders assessing your stability.


Data collection: Experian’s data comes from similar sources to Equifax’s, but sometimes includes extra information like public records or rental histories.

Credit scoring: Experian uses the FICO Score and VantageScore models, and sometimes others.

Reports: Experian is known for very comprehensive reports that often include detailed information about your past addresses and employment.


Data collection: TransUnion also collects information from various lenders and creditors, along with public records and other financial data.

Credit scoring: Like Equifax and Experian, TransUnion uses both the FICO Score and VantageScore.

Reports: TransUnion often highlights consumer inquiries and personal information changes, such as recent addresses and employment.

When your credit is being pulled

When a lender pulls your credit, they usually request information from one of these 3 bureaus. The choice of which bureau they use depends on several factors:

1. Type of lender:

  • Mortgage lenders often pull a ‘tri-merge’ report, which includes data from all 3 bureaus to get the most complete view of your credit history.
  • Auto lenders and credit card companies may only pull from one bureau, usually based on their own preference or geographic location.

2. Geographic location:

Some regions have a preference for certain bureaus. For example, one lender might generally use TransUnion while another in a different region might use Equifax.

3. Type of credit:

Different types of credit applications might rely on different bureaus. For instance, some credit cards might primarily use Experian, while personal loans could lean more toward Equifax.

Pro tip: check all 3 bureaus

Each bureau collects and reports data independently, so your credit report and score can vary from one bureau to another. Here’s why it’s important to check all 3:

1. Inconsistent information:

Creditors might not report to all 3 bureaus, which can lead to discrepancies in your credit reports. For example, one bureau might have a record of a late payment but the others don’t, which is one reason for different scores.

2. Errors and omissions:

It doesn’t happen often, but credit bureaus can make mistakes, from listing incorrect accounts to misreporting payments. Sometimes they even confuse you with another person who has the same name. Checking all 3 reports is a good way to catch and dispute errors promptly. If you find one, you can dispute it to set the record straight.

3. Comprehensive credit health:

Keeping an eye on all 3 reports gives you a more complete picture of your credit health. If you’re only looking at one, you might miss important information that could affect your ability to get credit or get the best rates.

How to check your credit reports

The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) entitles you to a free credit report from each of the 3 bureaus once every 12 months. Here’s how you can check your reports:


You can request your free annual credit reports from Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.

2. Credit monitoring services:

Consider subscribing to a credit monitoring service to get regular updates and alerts for changes in your credit reports from all 3 bureaus. The Brigit app is an excellent way to monitor your credit1, and it also offers a comprehensive set of tools to help you maximize your financial health.

3. Direct requests:

You can also request your reports directly from each bureau through their websites.

1Brigit monthly subscription required; ranging from $8.99 – $14.99. Cancel anytime.