The following is an actual user-submitted question:

Q: Which of the 3 credit reports matters the most?

A: The short and sweet answer is that they all matter.  Every U.S. citizen who has had some sort of credit activity, whether that be applying for a credit card, a mortgage or a car loan, has a credit report.  In fact, you have 3 credit reports as there are 3 different companies that compile this information – Equifax, Experian and Transunion.

A wide variety of sources provide the information that shows up on your credit report, including creditors, insurers, lenders and even employers.  The trick is that each of these reporting sources does not necessarily report their information to all 3 credit bureaus.  This means that your credit reports can vary.  So your credit report from Equifax can contain different information from your credit report from Transunion.

Lenders don’t necessarily focus on a particular credit report.  Each lender is different, and they may prefer one over the other.   Because of this, you really need to stay on top of all 3 credit reports.  The best and most cost effective way of doing this is to sign up for a credit monitoring service that covers all 3 credit bureaus, like Identity Guard or Trusted ID.

I will share a cautionary of tale of only checking one of your credit reports.  Someone we work with recently had an (erroneous) collections notice hit only one of his credit reports, and not the others.  As a result, his (previously excellent) credit score dipped 140 points!  The good news is that he was enrolled in a 3-bureau credit report monitoring service, so he was notified within 24 hours of the change and was able to instantly beginning working to correct the issue.  If he hadn’t been alerted, or if he had only checked a report that didn’t have the issue, he never would have known about it….until he applied for some sort of credit.  Then he would have been in for a shock.