Credit bureaus seem to know everything about you, but where does all that credit data come from?

When you first read your credit report (see also How To Read a Credit Report), it may seem like the credit bureaus know everything there is to know about you.  Your personal data, account information, employment history… It’s all there – which might lead you to wonder, where does this data come from?

Every time you apply for a loan or credit card, whether through a bank, credit union, or other licensed money lender, the creditor requests basic personal information from you.  Requesting this info is necessary for the creditors to submit an inquiry to one (or more) of the three major US credit bureaus to access your credit history.  This initial credit inquiry, and the associated data, may also come from a non-lending creditor such as a utility company like your cable provider or a potential landlord as well.  Regardless of whom the inquiry comes from, if you have no pre-existing credit history then the credit bureaus will start a credit report file for you, populating it with the information provided for that first inquiry.  

Once you have established a credit report file with one or more of the credit bureaus, they need a way to continue to update your report and ensure it remains current.  This is done via data furnishers.  Data furnishers may be paid 3rd party service providers, but generally they come in the form of any creditors who are providing you with a loan or credit product (banks, etc.).  These data furnishers send the credit bureaus regular updates with your credit account statuses and payment history information in order to keep your records up-to-date.  These updates will include your most current address information, details about your line(s) of credit, account activity and payments, and notes on any delinquencies or collections.

The data shared by data furnishers makes up the bulk of your credit report, which helps determine your credit score (read about the difference between credit reports and credit scores here). All of this data remaining both current and accurate is critical to ensuring creditors can correctly assess your ability to repay and work with credit.

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