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The three major consumer credit bureaus are TransUnion®, Equifax® and Experian®. A credit bureau is a company that gathers and stores various types of information about you and your financial accounts and history. They draw on this information to create your credit reports and credit scores.

These three big credit bureaus are often grouped together. But they’re separate companies that compete for the business of creditors, who may use the credit reports and scores from these bureaus to help them make lending decisions. And they’re not the only three bureaus out there, either.

Keep reading to learn how credit bureaus get the information they use to create your reports and scores, and how you can go about contacting them if you think something’s wrong.

A credit bureau uses the information it has gathered about you to generate a credit report. The credit bureau may also use the information on your report to calculate a credit score for you.

Your credit reports may be used by creditors, such as a company that issues credit cards, when they’re considering whether they will open a line of credit for you. As a consumer, you can request your credit reports from the bureaus for free once a year.