Your credit score is the most important factor for your business loan rates. While you might not know what your credit score is, your business lenders will. They can always just pull your score from a credit bureau, with your permission. But there are also ways for you to get your free credit report and score online.
Your credit score and reports are seldom provided at the same time. The credit Bureaus will give you a free credit report, but it won’t include your score. Let’s look over the details.
Everyone in the US is entitled to a free credit report once per year. This right is guaranteed by the Fair and Accurate Credit Transaction Act (the FACT Act). So, each of the three credit bureaus must provide you a free credit report once each year.
The Credit Bureaus
Experian is domestically headquartered in Costa Mesa, California. The company’s original purpose was to provide credit reports for the Western US. But now, the company is marketing itself as “the leading global information services company.”
You can get your Experian credit report for free from them once per year. They can also reveal your credit score for you. Your Experian credit score is just a score based on the information on your Experian credit report.
Equifax is based in Atlanta, Georgia. The company provides reports in many other countries as well. But in the US, Equifax is the most important credit bureau for the Southern and Eastern parts of the country.
Your Equifax credit report is free once every 12 months as well. You can sign up for their report from the Equifax website.
TransUnion is the smallest of the 3 major US credit bureaus. But it’s still a significant player in the global credit industry. The company is based in Chicago but operates throughout the US and 33 other countries.
TransUnion also makes good on its commitment to provide free credit reports annually. You can get your free credit report from their website.
What Are The Differences?
You can get a free credit report from any of the 3 firms. They operate similarly, but they all have different methods for producing your credit score.
All 3 credit bureaus use your social security number and other personal data to organize your credit information and reports. They all keep track of your credit history. This includes your:
- Payment history
- Credit pulling activity
If you get a third party to do a soft pull on your credit score, your score will remain unaffected. But if you apply for a loan, the lender will typically perform a hard pull. This will have a slight impact on your credit score. Too much credit application activity may have a noticeable impact on your credit score.
These credit reporting firms will also collect information from your private and/or federal student loans and mortgages. Sallie Mae and the Federal Government may report you to credit bureaus if you’re delinquent on your payments. Sallie Mae typically waits 45 days to report delinquencies, while you should have a full 90 days for federal student loan repayments.
If you look at all three credit reports, you will notice a few differences. They don’t all report your credit score in the same way. In fact, many lenders have preferences for one of the 3 major credit bureaus. Likewise, each lender may not report your credit activity to all of 3 them. Most lenders will just choose one of the three and stick to them to assess borrowers’ creditworthiness.
The other major difference between the 3 credit bureaus is the way by which they determine your credit score. According to FICO, each of them has their unique methods, which aren’t set in stone and thus change every few years. You might even occasionally see your credit score from one of the bureaus change, despite not having any new credit transactions. The reason is most likely a simple change in the bureau’s methods.
Alternatives For Your Free Credit Report And Score
There are many different places where you can get your free credit report and score. The credit bureaus are just the only institutions obliged to give you a report. But you can get your credit report, score, and other services from many companies.
Credit Sesame is a full credit score improvement solution. First of all, it only takes 15 minutes to sign up for and provides some services for free. The most significant free service is a free credit score and free credit monitoring. Their free monitoring is limited, but you can see your monthly credit score changes (from one bureau) for free.
Beyond this, they offer cheap paid subscriptions for things such as monitoring from additional credit bureaus.
Read our full report on Credit Sesame here.