Dear Liz: I monitor my credit reports through an identity monitoring program offered through my credit card company. Month after month, my Experian and Equifax scores are similar; however, my TransUnion score is much lower. I was recently denied for a car loan because the lender pulled the TransUnion score. Should I call TransUnion, or is its scoring method different from the other two companies’?
Answer: If you were turned down for credit, you have a right under federal law to a free copy of the credit report that was used in making the decision. You should examine the report to see if there are errors that need to be corrected. If so, dispute the incorrect information directly with TransUnion.
Remember that the three credit bureaus are private, competing companies, so the information they collect and report isn’t necessarily going to be the same. Some creditors report information to just one bureau. Other times, one bureau will mistake you for someone else or combine a stranger’s information with your file.
Your scores across the bureaus can vary because the underlying information in the reports can vary, and also because the bureaus sell different credit scores to consumers. Equifax typically sells FICO scores, the same scoring formula most lenders use, while Experian and TransUnion may provide their in-house “educational” scores or a VantageScore. The next time you’re about to apply for a major loan, you’ll want to buy FICO scores from MyFico.com to get a better idea of where you stand.