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Question

When you apply for a loan or a credit card, in the US, one credit report is pulled from one of the three "major" company: Equifax, Transunion, or Experian. Is there a way to tell which one will be consulted in advance?

Backstory

I recently arrived in the US and am trying to build a good credit score. I already possess two credit cards (one secured, one from a store) and one auto loan, and feel like the time came to get a third credit card. I don't need to borrow any money as of now, but might, in the future.

In January, I was declined a store credit card based on a "poor" credit score. As it turns out, they pulled my report from Equifax (credit karma says my score based on their report is in the ~650 at that time). My transunion score (still computed by credit karma) is roughly the same, but my experian score is ~70 points above those two scores (according to my bank).

I feel like I would get better chances of getting an additional credit card if I was applying to a credit card that was pulling my report from experian.

  1. Am I right?
  2. How can I know which report will be pulled by the institution I will apply to?
  • Why do you feel like "the time came to get a third credit card"? Do you need more credit now or are you just trying to improve your score? If the latter, your score will improve over time by simply making your payments on time and keeping utilization low. I'm not saying you shouldn't get another card, but you should assess which card to get based on the amount of credit needed and the perks you want. Not just blindly trying to improve your credit score by having more random CC accounts. – CactusCake Apr 30 '18 at 17:38
  • Just trying to improve my score, I don't really care about the amount of credit, but having some perks could be nice. – Clément Apr 30 '18 at 17:40
  • Credit reports and credit scores are two separate things.The report contains information about credit, payments, etc. The major credit reporting agencies [CRAs] are Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian. The CRAs may not have the same data on you. The score takes the raw data from the agency and reduces it to a number. FICO is the best know, but not the only player. Even FICO comes in different variants. – Shannon Severance Apr 30 '18 at 17:44
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    Your score is a combination of the CRA and the scoring algorithm applied. To be more complete the question would be, How one can find the combination of CRA and scoring algorithm that is used by a particular bank for a particular credit product? – Shannon Severance Apr 30 '18 at 17:57
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    Don't assume that a magic "score" generated using a secret formula owned by a credit reference agency is of any interest to a potential lender. Lenders will be more interested in the data that was used to generate that score, so they can make up their own minds whether or not they wish to lend you money. – Simon B Apr 30 '18 at 22:51
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I ... am trying to build a good credit score quickly.

You can't build a good credit score quickly. It takes time to prove that you will make payments on all of your credit accounts. Plus, activity that will be beneficial in the long term will hurt your score in the short term. In your case, it's probable that opening up new credit and taking out a car loan in a short period of time indicates that you have rapidly exceeded your spending, which makes you more of a credit risk, and going for a third card just compounds the problem.

How can I know which score will be pulled by the institution I will apply to?

You don't, and it shouldn't matter. Lenders can pull from any or all of the three providers, and they all should have roughly the same data. If there's a discrepancy or missing data that is causing them to give significantly different scores then you should contact them and sort out the discrepancies.

Pay your bills on time, avoid paying interest like the plague (including the car loan), don't spend money you don't have, and your credit should be fine. Living within your means and not playing games with credit card companies to improve your score will help you out more in the long run than chasing these "perks" that cost you more then they benefit you if you change your behaviors to try and acquire them.

  • By "quickly", I meant the following: I opened the secured card a year and a half ago, the store one ~ a year ago, and the car loan ~ a year ago. I don't actually need to borrow any money as of now, and always paid everything on time, but needs to get a credit score to open utilities, rent a place, and, eventually, borrow money for a house or such. I felt like opening a new line would increase further that score. – Clément Apr 30 '18 at 18:17
  • @Clément Possibly, in the long term, yes. But in the short term new lines of credit will hurt your score, since the age" of your credit accounts will go down. – D Stanley Apr 30 '18 at 18:20
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    I stand by my answer - if there are discrepancies in your report, then fix those rather then trying to find banks that use "better" score. – D Stanley Apr 30 '18 at 18:21
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First, to answer your question: You don’t know for sure which credit bureau and credit score will be pulled ahead of time unless you ask first.

Now, some of your assumptions need to be corrected. There are three consumer credit bureaus in the U.S.: Equifax, Trans Union, and Experian. These three bureaus each maintain a credit report on you.

Separate from that, there are multiple credit score brands. The most well known is FICO, which is what most lenders use. A distant second is VantageScore, and others are even more seldom used than that.

Your credit score is based on the information from your credit report. Since you have three different credit reports, you also have three potentially different credit scores from each credit score brand. For example, one lender may look at your FICO score based on your Equifax report, and another may look at your FICO score based on your Trans Union report. To complicate things further, each credit score brand has multiple score models (formula revisions), giving you different scores depending on which model is being used by the lender.

When you look at your credit score from a free source (such as Credit Karma), you are only given perhaps one score value. It is one particular score model (usually not FICO) from one bureau. Odds are that your lender uses something different.

  • So it's said: Credit Karma shows two scores based on info from two different bureaus (TU and Equifax). – cHao Apr 30 '18 at 18:29
  • @cHao Thanks, it’s been a while since I’ve actually looked at CreditKarma. I’ll update my answer. – Ben Miller Apr 30 '18 at 18:30
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    Credit Karma scores are not FICO scores, they are often referred to as "FAKO" scores and are not useful for anything. They will often deviate above or below your true FICO score by a considerable amount. – Norm Apr 30 '18 at 21:32
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  1. If they're going by your FICO score, then of course a higher FICO score will improve the odds of your being approved. (To a point, of course. It doesn't matter all that much whether your score is 805 or 810.)

  2. Depends on the company. Sometimes the answer is "all three major bureaus".
    You could ask, but the company is not required to tell you. You generally don't know until they've done the hard check (and/or denied you because they don't use Experian).

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