With all the credit report & score providers on the Internet today, you'd think you could hop on Google, enter "credit report score" and be placing your order in minutes. Actually you can, but there's usually some confusion. Even though the vendors attempt to explain what makes their credit report score different than the score down the street, they're essentially selling the same service at a similar price. It only looks hard to compare apples to apples because the apples are packaged to look like exotic fruits.
If you go directly to the source of the data-to Experian, TransUnion & Equifax-you'll get service as good as the other credit report agencies competing for your business via pop-ups, banners and the ubiquitous "Free Credit Report" links. Let's take a look at credit report scores, why one bureau's version of the credit score might differ from another's and then review the pricing & packaging of each bureau's score products.
The "FICO" score (from Fair, Isaac & Company) assigns a numerical value to the consumer's credit report data. The higher the score, the lower the cost of borrowing. Credit reports carry a mixed bag of information, like public record filings, account payment histories and records of companies who have requested your report.
These days, scores virtually drive the lending business. From prequalification through underwriting, the credit score is front and center. Lenders consider many other factors in funding loans, but your score range decides what loan packages are available to you, and therefore your interest rate, down payment, fees, private mortgage insurance and more.
Why bureaus show different scores
Scores come from credit information at each particular bureau, so one bureau's score won't be the same as another's in most cases-but they are usually close. Why is this? Creditors don't necessarily report to all three bureaus, and one bureau may have a stronger regional dominance than another. The scoring models, which all come from Fair Isaac but are bureau-branded with names like Beacon, Empirica & Isaac2, are updated from time to time with new features, and the older models aren't necessarily retired immediately. Sometimes major and sometimes minor, these variations can create different credit scores from one bureau to the next.
In the big picture, the reason to get your credit score is to discover whether there are errors or problems in your report that you don't know about, or to have a benchmark in time that you can use to measure your goals of improvement. Each bureau's score will be able to present you with an accurate look at what your credit report is saying about you, right or wrong, at the moment of purchase.
Experian, Equifax and Trans Union each offer score products through their websites. Scores are not sold separately from a credit file except through Equifax, where you can get all three bureaus' scores and additional features without the accompanying credit reports. Now to pricing:
The TransUnion credit report agency charges $12.95 for a credit report and score. For three scores, you must purchase the 3 bureau report at $29.95 and add an additional $9.95.
The Equifax credit report agency charges $14.95 for an Equifax report and score. All three scores (without accompanying reports) will run you $44.95, but you get the Equifax Score PowerŪ package with each. Score Power includes the bureau's score, an interactive score simulator that lets you test different actions to see potential score results, and explanations & tips on improving your score.
The Experian credit report agency charges $14.95 for an Experian report and score. Experian doesn't offer credit scores from any other credit bureau.
All of the bureaus have an option for a free credit report score with the purchase of a 3 in 1 credit report. A "3 in 1 report score" means that you'll get credit reports from all three bureaus, with the score from the selling bureau only.
Depending on the price and extra features you want, all three credit bureaus will give you what you need to monitor your credit score. And staying cozy with the little number that packs a big financial punch will pay you back abundantly in lower interest rates and fees.