Credit Report Q&A

Why are my scores different for the 3 credit bureaus?

In the U.S., there are three national credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) that compete to capture, update and store credit histories on most U.S. consumers. While most of the information collected on consumers by the three credit bureaus is similar, there are differences. For example, one credit bureau may have unique information captured on a consumer that is not being captured by the other two, or the same data element may be stored or displayed differently by the credit bureaus.

A predictive FICO scoring system resides at each of these credit bureaus from which lenders request a FICO® Score when evaluating a particular consumer’s credit risk. The FICO scoring system design is similar across the credit bureaus so that consumers with high FICO Scores on bureau “A’s” data will likely see a similarly high FICO Score at the other two bureaus and conversely consumers with lower scores at bureau “A” will likely get a low FICO Score at the other two bureaus when the underlying data is the same across the bureaus.

When the scores are significantly different across bureaus, it is likely the underlying data in the credit bureaus is different and thus driving that observed score difference. However, there can be score differences even when the underlying data is identical as each of the bureau’s FICO scoring system was designed to optimize the predictive value of their unique data.

Keep in mind the following points when comparing scores across bureaus:

  • Not all credit scores are "FICO" scores. So, make sure the scores you are comparing are actual FICO Scores.
  • The scores should be accessed at the same time. The passage of time can result in score differences due to model characteristics that have a time based component. Comparing a score pulled on bureau “A” from last week to a score pulled on bureau “B” today can be problematic as the “week old score” may already be “dated”.
  • All of your credit information may not be reported to all three credit bureaus. The information on your credit report is supplied by lenders, collection agencies and court records. Don't assume that each credit bureau has the same information pertaining to your credit history.
  • You may have applied for credit under different names (for example, Robert Jones versus Bob Jones) or a maiden name, which may cause fragmented or incomplete files at the credit reporting agencies. While, in most cases, the credit bureaus combine all files accurately under the same person, there are many instances where incomplete files or inaccurate data (social security numbers, addresses, etc.) cause one person's information to appear on someone else's credit report.
  • Lenders report credit information to the credit bureaus at different times, often resulting in one agency having more up-to-date information than another.
  • The credit bureaus may record, display or store the same information in different ways.
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