Friday, October 11, 2013

The Credit Bureaus "Rise to Power"

By Robert W Linkonis Sr.

The vast majority of Americans have to obtain a loan to purchase a new car or home. During this process, the lender will order a copy of one or all of your three credit reports to make either a lending or an adverse action decision to the request. The interest rate or fees that you will have to pay on these loans may be directly related to how you have handled your credit.   

Every one who has heard me speak over the years knows that I am big on handling credit "wisely". This means in part - maximizing your credit score by understanding the credit score. But - the credit score is computed based on data obtained by the three credit bureaus. How did the three credit bureaus rise to the level of power that they have to influence the lives of every one of us?

History of the Credit Bureaus

As far as back as the 1860s we can find traces of the origins of credit bureaus. Local merchants would share and maintain lists of individuals who were high credit risks. That allowed them to offer more credit to people who weren’t on the lists, whereas previously, most merchants only extended credit to people they knew personally.

Later on as populations became more mobile and a wider group of merchants across the country needed information to help determine the creditworthiness of individuals, credit bureaus as we know them today began to materialize. 

What Are the Three Credit Bureaus?

Over the years, as the number of people seeking credit grew, the ability to find consolidated credit reporting information took on added importance. Today, some 2 billion data points are entered every month into credit records in the U.S, and approximately 1 billion credit cards are actively being used in the U.S. That’s a lot of data!

There are literally thousands of small credit bureaus doing business today. Most are just resellers of data from the "Big Three": Equifax, Experian and Transunion Let’s take a brief look at their history.

History of Equifax

Equifax was founded way back in 1899 as the Retail Credit Company. They grew at a furious pace and had offices throughout North America by the 1920s. By the 1960s, they had credit information for millions of Americans on file, and weren’t afraid to share it with whoever wanted to pay them for it.

The passage of the Fair Credit Reporting Act of 1970 placed some limits on what information could be shared with who, as well as put laws in place to govern the credit industry and protect consumers. Retail Credit Company suffered a bit of an image problem, but by 1975 they had successfully re-branded as Equifax.


TransUnion was the second of the Big Three to come along. Founded in 1968 as the holding company of Union Tank Car, a rail transportation equipment company, TransUnion jumped into the credit sphere in 1969 when they began acquiring regional and major city credit bureaus. They’ve grown over the years to the point where they now have over 250 offices across the U.S., as well as in 24 other countries.


Experian is the latecomer to the Big Three. They were founded in 1980 in England as CCN Systems. They expanded to the United States in 1996 by acquiring a company called TRW Information Services. They’ve continued to grow their operations to 4 main geographic regions, employing 15,000 people working in 41 countries.

Credit from here and beyond...

With the dawn of the internet age, credit bureaus now offer the ability for consumers to view their credit reports online, as well as give them access to dispute incorrect items that may have shown up on their credit reports.

There are many ways, right and wrong, to dispute errors on your credit report. Always seek professional advice before blindly disputing errors on your credit reports. Did you know that disputing the incorrect way could sabotage your credit repair efforts??

Call a specialist today for a free credit consultation. 

There is never a charge for a consult and good advice. Call today: 800-648-5157.   Or visit us on the web: