Do you need to check your credit records at both Experian and Equifax?
They are the two largest credit reference agencies (CRAs) in Britain. So which is most accurate? Which should you check?
And what about TransUnion? TransUnion used to be called Call Credit. As it’s the smallest CRA, can you ignore it?
Three CRAs – three different credit scores
In 2021 there are fourteen credit reports. Sign up to them all and your inbox will be clogged up and it will cost a fortune! Instead see The best way to check your credit score for my pick of the best reports – all free.
If you do get your credit scores from all three CRAs, you will see they aren’t all the same.
Most people would prefer a single CRA with “the right answer” and don’t want to have to look at different ones. But that’s not how things work.
“Why are some of my debts missing?”
Not all lenders report to all the CRAs.
The big banks report to them all. Catalogues often use Equifax. Payday lenders and other bad credit specialists often use Call Credit.
The following numbers are commonly mentioned as showing how many lenders use which CRA:
- Experian 76%
- Equifax 54%
- TransUnion 30%.
Say you have a loan from a lender that only reports to TransUnion. This won’t show up on your Experian or Equifax records.
If you have had missed payments on this loan, then you will find your TransUnion score is a lot lower than your Experian or Equifax score.
If some of your debts are really old – perhaps a credit card you took out a long while ago which you are still using – it may not appear on any credit records. This is because the original agreement you signed wouldn’t have included a statement that you consented to the lender sharing your data with the credit reference agencies.
“Why aren’t the credit scores the same?”
Even if two CRAs show the same details about the same debts, they may calculate a different credit score for you. This is the bit people find most difficult. A few examples from readers:
- “TransUnion gave me 2/5 with a default, then 1/5 when it was satisfied. Experian gave me a fantastic score 996/999 and ClearScore middle of the range but above the national average.“
- “With Equifax I have a poor score ( 360) so below average and Experian an excellent score which is slightly confusing as they appear to have the exact same information.”
- “My scores with Experian, TransUnion and Equifax currently are 987,608 and 376 respectively, translating as excellent, good and OK.”
So which is best? The answer is that you shouldn’t think that any of them is “the right score”.
Lenders don’t use the CRA scores at all – they use their own systems to assess the details of your credit history.
A lender that is lending large amounts at a very good rate is likely to be much fussier than your average store card. And a bad credit lender may not care if you have a few missed payments a few years ago, but a mortgage lender may well reject your application.
And comparing the scores is further complicated by the fact that the CRAs have different score ranges:
- Experian 0-999
- Equifax 0-1000 (this used to be 0-700. It was changed in April 2021 but some credit reports that show “your Equifax score” are still using the old 0-700 numbers – confusing!)
- TrabnsUnion 0-710.
“There are debts that aren’t mine on my record”
You are going to have to do some sleuthing to work out what is happening here.
It could be you are being mixed up with another debtor or it could be identity theft. See Unknown debts on your credit file for more information about how to tackle this situation.
“Do I really have to check all three CRAs?”
That depends on why you are checking your files.
If it’s just curiosity and you only want to be bothered with checking one, then go for Experian – they are used by a lot more lenders than the other two.
There are four situations where you must check all three credit reference agencies:
- you have been rejected for credit and are surprised about this. There may be errors on your credit file or even identity theft;
- you want a mortgage or car finance in the next year. Even if you think your credit file is spotless, still check all three CRAs. You don’t want a mortgage application rejected because of some error that will take months to correct!
- you want to clean up your credit records after insolvency. I have written articles on how to do this after bankruptcy, after a IVA and after a DRO. It’s pretty much the same procedure but the dates and the template letters are a bit different.
- you want to add a Notice of Correction to your credit records. The three CRAs may not all show the same thing, so you need to check them all individually and correct them separately – see How to Add a Notice of Correction for more details.
Make sure you check every detail, not just the headline “score” and the list of your debts. Check your old addresses are correct if you have moved and see if you are linked to anyone that you shouldn’t be.