A credit rating agency is a company that estimates and issues credit ratings on individuals, companies, and countries. The credit rating agency compiles personal and financial data, such as social security numbers, past and current addresses and employers, a list of the financial obligations and frequency of payments. In the United States, there are three major credit rating agencies: Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian. The credit ratings are supplied from one of these companies to any person or business for the purpose of credit granting. These credit rating agencies are for profit and charge a fee for the information they provide.
Credit rating agencies can also provide a financial score that represents your credit rating. The financial score is a three digit number that is also known as the FICO score. FICO, or Fair Isaac Corporation, is the mathematical expression of credit worthiness. The credit rating agency considers many factors in calculating a credit score. These factors include: payment history (any late payments can decrease the score), credit utilization (the ratio of current revolving debt, or credit balances, to total available debt, or credit limits), length of credit history, types of credit used (revolving, installment, or consumer financing), and credit inquiries (the number of times you applied for credit). Credit rating agencies also itemizes court judgments, tax liens, and bankruptcies. Each negative entry on your credit report can remain there for as long as ten years before it is automatically removed.
Each credit rating agency has its own database system and the data obtained is different from the other companies. Since each agency has its own area of expertise and deals with specific entities in specific regions of the country, the information reported to them is different. This could explain the reason a certain credit account may show up on one report but not the others. As a result, every person will have three current credit ratings at all times. It is good practice to order credit reports from all three agencies. This can be done online or in writing. If you order your credit report directly from the agencies, you will be charged a fee. The fee is different for each agency. You can compare all three of your reports and notify the agencies if you notice any inaccurate information.