TransUnion vs. Equifax: What’s the difference?

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In a Nutshell

When you check your credit, you may see multiple credit scores from different credit bureaus. A minor difference between scores might not concern you. But a big variance may leave you wondering what accounts for the discrepancy — and whether one score is more relevant than another. Here’s what you need to know.

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All consumer credit-reporting agencies basically do the same thing. They use public records and other sources to generate a credit report and score for you so that lenders can use it to help decide whether to extend you credit.

It’s important to know that while each credit agency, or bureau, creates its own proprietary report, no single agency is more important than another.

You may already be familiar with the three big consumer credit bureaus — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. But nearly 50 companies appear on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s 2020 List of Consumer Reporting Companies.

Let’s narrow things down and focus on two major national credit bureaus: TransUnion vs. Equifax.



Why are my TransUnion and Equifax credit scores different?

When you log into your Credit Karma account, you can access your free credit reports and scores from both TransUnion and Equifax. They’ll likely be slightly different, and it’s possible they could be very different.

Multiple factors could account for why your scores are different.

  • Credit-scoring models can differ and produce different scores. Like all credit-reporting agencies, TransUnion and Equifax use proprietary scoring models. And while credit scores are typically based on the same or similar factors — including your payment history and number of accounts in good standing — each credit-scoring model can weigh those factors differently.
  • The credit bureaus may have different information. Not every credit-reporting company will have every bit of information about you. Some lenders may report information to all three big credit bureaus, while others might report to only one or two. And a lender may report updates to different bureaus at different times. So, it’s possible that Equifax and TransUnion could have different credit information on your reports, which could lead to your TransUnion score differing from your Equifax score.
  • You may be seeing scores from different dates. A credit score is a snapshot of your credit profile at a specific point in time. Since credit scores can change over time, it’s important to compare scores from the same time period when comparing them across credit bureaus.

TransUnion vs. Equifax: Which is most accurate?

No credit score from any one of the credit bureaus is more valuable or more accurate than another. It’s possible that a lender may gravitate toward one score over another, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that score is better.

And while a lender may prefer credit reports and scores from a specific bureau, keep in mind that each situation and application is different, with multiple variables to take into consideration.

Which credit report do lenders look at?

It may be difficult to know which credit report and score a lender is using to evaluate your credit. You can ask, but the lender isn’t obligated to tell you.

But if a lender denies your credit application, federal law requires the lender to …

  • Tell you the main reasons why you were denied.
  • Tell you the numerical credit score it based its decision on.
  • Give you the name, address and phone number of the credit-reporting agency that provided your credit report.
  • Inform you of your right to get a free copy of that report from the credit-reporting company (within 60 days of the denial for credit).
  • Explain how you can fix mistakes on your report or add information to it.

The reporting agency is required to provide you with a copy of the report used for the decision to deny your credit application. If you spot any errors in your report, you can dispute them and the agency is required to investigate and correct any errors it finds.

TransUnion vs. Equifax: How to check your credit scores

The credit history reflected on your credit reports and scores can directly affect your ability to get credit. It also impacts your cost of borrowing. In general, good credit scores can make it easier and cheaper to borrow than low credit scores. Since your credit history can change over time, it’s a good idea to monitor your credit regularly to stay on top of your overall credit health.

You can get a free copy of your credit reports from Equifax, Experian and TransUnion periodically by visiting annualcreditreport.com. You can also request your free credit reports from the specialty credit-reporting agencies at specified intervals.

And you can always check your credit scores anytime with a free Credit Karma membership, which provides free access to your Equifax and TransUnion credit reports and VantageScore 3.0® scores from both bureaus.

Monitoring your credit reports and scores from the major consumer credit bureaus on a regular basis can help you spot opportunities to improve your credit and better understand your borrowing potential. It can also help you spot suspicious activity on your financial accounts that could be a sign of identity theft. Finally, reviewing your reports can help ensure your credit profile contains accurate information, and help you catch and correct any errors that could be negatively affecting your credit.


About the author: Evelyn Pimplaskar is Credit Karma’s tax editor. With nearly 30 years of experience in media, marketing, public relations and journalism, Evelyn’s written about everything — from newspaper accounts of salacious capital… Read more.