Credit Bureau Credit CheckIf you are planning to apply for a new credit card or a loan, something you might want to know before you apply is which of the three credit bureaus — Experian, Equifax and TransUnion — the lender will use to check your credit. The benefits of having this knowledge are fairly obvious; if you are able to know which of your credit scores a lender will see, you will have an easier time making sure that you qualify for the credit card or loan you want. But how readily available is this information? Is it even possible to know which credit bureau a lender uses to check applicants’ credit? We know that credit can be confusing, especially when it comes to which credit scores a given lender might be seeing in comparison to what you might see as a consumer. That’s why we’re here to help answer some of these questions and others.

Why would I want this information in the first place?

There are a couple of reasons why people might want to know which credit bureaus or credit scores their potential lender will be using to evaluate their application. First, your credit scores can vary from bureau to bureau, since not all creditors report to all three of them (in fact, most only report to one). Thus, you could have a credit score of 732 from Experian, but a 685 from TransUnion. Having a good idea of what your credit looks like across the board is the best way to ensure that you are applying for the right credit cards or loans for your financial status.

Second, in a world with high instances of fraud and identity theft, many people have taken to protecting their credit by placing fraud alerts or credit freezes on their credit files with all three bureaus. These are great measures of protection, but leaving them in place, especially a credit freeze, when you’re applying for new credit could lead to you being denied by default — definitely not something you want. Some people want to know which credit bureau a lender might use so they can only lift the veil of protection from one, rather than all three.

How can I find out which credit bureau my lender uses?

One of the easiest options of any consumer is to contact their lender directly and ask. Unfortunately, it might not be as cut and dry as you’d like to think, as even if you know which credit bureau a credit card issuer or bank uses, the credit scores you’re seeing may not match what they see. As a 2012 study by the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau which reviewed the credit files of 200,000 people from the three credit bureaus found, one in five consumers are likely to receive a credit score that is “meaningfully” different from the score their lender uses to make a decision. We discussed how your credit scores are calculated in a recent post, but it’s also worth noting that FICO, which claims to be used by 90% of lenders, provides 49 different scores to lenders per person. With so many potential scores and models available, it’s difficult to impossible to pin down exactly what your lender is going to see. That said, it still doesn’t hurt to check your credit history to have a general idea of where your credit stands before you apply.

If your primary reason for wanting to know which credit bureau a lender will check is because you’ve placed a credit freeze on your credit files, you can certainly try calling to ask. However, your best option in these situations is to lift the freeze temporarily while you go through the application process. As soon as you are approved for the credit product you are applying for, you can reinstate you’re the freeze. Just be sure that if you do need to have a credit freeze lifted that you leave plenty of time between your request and when you plan to submit your credit application.

What should I do if I’m turned down for a credit card or loan?

It happens to plenty of people. You think that you’re qualified for a credit product, but after submitting your application, you are stunned to discover you’ve been turned down. There are a myriad of reasons why your application may have been rejected, and the good news is that, under the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, you have the right to be told specifically why by the lender. If you were under the impression that your credit was up to snuff for the particular credit card or loan you wanted, your first action after being turned down should be to obtain copies of your credit reports. There may be something on one or more of them which is dragging your scores down, and whether it’s a legitimate derogatory item or a reporting error, it’s important for you to know what it is so you can work on improving your credit. Also, remember that applying for multiple credit accounts in a row can have a negative impact on your credit scores, so you’ll want to give it some time before you try again.

To learn more about managing your credit, you can follow our credit monitoring blog.