Which credit reporting agencies banks use to pull your credit report — and why it matters

Feb 11, 2020

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Editor’s note: This post has been updated with the latest information on credit cards, credit reporting, and credit scoring. It was originally published on Sept. 12, 2013.

One of the most important things to know when you apply for multiple credit cards at once is which credit bureau each bank uses to pull your credit report. In case you didn’t know, there are three major credit bureaus, also called credit reporting agencies (CRAs), in the United States. When you apply for new financing, banks and credit card companies can pay to access your credit report from Equifax, Experian or TransUnion.

Related reading: How to check your credit score for free

The credit reporting agency used by a card issuer to see your credit report can determine whether your application is approved or denied, especially when you apply for several cards in a short amount of time. If several card issuers pull the same credit report over and over again, it could affect your chances of being approved.

However, if card issuers go to different credit bureaus to buy your reports, one issuer might not see that you’re applying for a new account elsewhere. As a result, your chances of being approved for several cards should increase.

Multiple credit applications may reduce your FICO Score, so it’s important to know what you’re getting into before you decide to apply for several cards at once.

Know your score

Before you apply for any type of new credit, it’s critical to know where your credit stands. It’s wise to check your credit scores and reports before you fill out a new application. Knowing the condition of your credit gives you a better idea of how your application may look to potential credit card issuers.

Checking your three credit reports is easy. You can request a free report from Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian once every 12 months online at AnnualCreditReport.com. Checking your credit score, on the other hand, can be slightly more complicated.

The reason checking your credit score is complicated is because you don’t have just three credit scores (one for each of your reports). Rather, hundreds of credit scores are commercially available and some lenders use custom credit scores of their own. The result is thousands of credit score possibilities.

The two most popular credit score brands in the U.S. are FICO and VantageScore. VantageScore, a joint venture created by the three credit reporting agencies, has been growing in popularity since its launch in 2006. But the FICO Score is still used by 90% of lenders in the United States.

Your FICO Score is a number between 300 and 850. The score is based on the information found in your credit report. Lenders use scores to estimate your creditworthiness. The higher your score, the more likely you are to have your credit card applications approved.

According to FICO, a “good” credit score is typically between 670 and 739. A FICO Score of 740-799 is “very good” and 800+ is considered “exceptional.”

Don’t get bogged down with the quest for perfection. An 850 FICO Score might feel nice, but a perfect credit score isn’t necessary. In general, credit card companies don’t differentiate among scores between 720-850.

The factors that make up your FICO score. Image source: FICO.
These are the factors that make up your FICO Score. (Image courtesy of FICO)

It is wise to learn how credit scores work. As you can see in the chart above, five credit-report categories determine your FICO Score to varying degrees. These categories include your payment history, amounts owed, length of credit history, newly opened credit accounts, and the types of credit you use.

Which credit bureaus banks check

When you apply for a credit card, the issuer contacts a credit bureau (or several) to purchase a copy of your credit report. Included in your report are the five categories mentioned above.

You’ll notice one credit-report category, which counts for 10% of your score, is called “new credit.” If you have too many credit applications opened within a short period of time, it could potentially cause you problems.

Imagine the following scenario. You’ve filled out several applications for new credit (e.g., loans or credit cards) in the last 12 months. These applications show up on your credit reports as “hard inquiries” and could potentially damage your credit scores.

Next, you decide to apply for another new credit card. In addition to your score potentially taking a hit, you might experience another problem. The bank processing your application might be concerned about why you’re applying for so much new credit in a short period of time. As a result, there’s a chance you could be turned down for a credit card even if your credit score is in good shape.

Knowing which credit reporting agency card issuers use to pull reports might help you avoid this problem. You can use this knowledge to space out your applications (or bundle them, as the case may be) in such a way that you improve your approval odds for the credit cards you want.

Many credit card companies tend to rely on one bureau when they process credit card applications. The credit bureau they use to buy reports, however, may change depending on the state you live in and the specific card you want.

  • Citi usually pulls credit reports from Equifax or Experian.
  • Amex primarily pulls Experian, though sometimes Equifax or TransUnion reports as well.
  • Chase favors Experian, but may also buy Equifax or TransUnion reports.

Let’s say you find out that Citi usually pulls from Equifax and Chase primarily uses Experian for the specific card applications you want to fill out. You could apply for both cards in a single day and potentially improve your approval odds for both cards.

Unfortunately, credit card companies don’t openly reveal which credit bureau they favor. However, there are online resources that gather customer feedback to help give an overall average of which issuer uses which credit bureau.

These resources aren’t perfect and are subject to unverified and perhaps outdated user input. Still, you may be able to find information to guide your search — as long as you understand that it may not be 100% accurate.

CreditBoards.com

The Credit Pulls database is a useful resource.
The CreditPulls database is a useful resource. (Image courtesy of CreditBoards.com)

The CreditPulls database on CreditBoards.com is a popular online resource for information about credit card applications. You can use the database to figure out which credit report will likely be pulled for your application, as well as the score you may need to get approved for a particular card. (Tip: Check the dates of the posting; there may have been changes since the data was posted.)

Access the database using the following steps:

  • Visit CreditBoards.com.
  • Click the CreditPulls option on the menu bar.
  • Select your search criteria — the applicant’s state of residence, credit reporting agency (CRA), date applied, and whether the application was approved or denied.
  • Click “Update.”

To see a wider range of card issuer options, only fill in your state and date range in the search criteria.

I performed a sample of searches for some of the most popular cards for applicants in California, New York and Illinois (or any of the three states where data was available). Below is a review of the results.

As you’ll see, even people who applied for the same card had different credit reports pulled. Which CRA a card issuer uses to pull credit reports may depend upon the state where you reside, and sometimes even the part of the state where you live. The results below aren’t comprehensive listings, but rather a jumping-off point.

The list below shows the most common outcomes. However, I must stress again that the CRA that a card issuer uses to pull reports can fluctuate between cities and individual customer criteria. To get the best picture possible, you should check the site for yourself and enter in your own information. Even then, your application results aren’t guaranteed to be the same as what others experienced.

Most Chase Sapphire Preferred applications in California reportedly rely on Experian reports.
Most Chase Sapphire Preferred applications in California reportedly rely on Experian reports.

American Express

Credit Card: The Business Platinum Card® from American Express

  • CA: Experian
  • NY: Experian

Credit Card: American Express® Gold Card

  • CA: Experian
  • NY: Experian
  • IL: Experian

Credit Card: The Platinum Card® from American Express

  • CA: Experian
  • NY: Experian

Credit Card: Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card

  • NY: Experian

Credit Card: Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express

  • CA: Experian
  • NY: Experian
  • IL: Experian

Capital One

Credit Card: Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card

  • CA: TransUnion (but sometimes Equifax and Experian)
  • NY: TransUnion or Experian
  • IL: Equifax (but sometimes Experian and TransUnion)

Credit Card: Capital One® Quicksilver® Cash Rewards Credit Card

  • CA: TransUnion
  • NY: Reports of credit pulls from all three bureaus; most recent reports say TransUnion
  • IL: TransUnion (but sometimes Equifax)

Chase

Credit Card: Ink Business Cash Credit Card

  • CA: Experian
  • NY: Experian

Credit Card: Ink Business Preferred Credit Card

  • CA: Experian (but sometimes Equifax)
  • NY: Experian

Credit Card: Chase Sapphire Preferred Card

  • CA: Experian (but sometimes Equifax)
  • NY: Experian (according to recent reports)

Credit Card: Chase Sapphire Reserve

  • CA: Experian
  • NY: Experian (but sometimes TransUnion)
  • IL: TransUnion

Credit Card: Chase Freedom

  • CA: Experian (but sometimes Equifax and TransUnion)
  • NY: Experian (but sometimes Equifax and TransUnion)
  • IL: Experian and TransUnion

Credit Card: British Airways Visa Signature Card

  • NY: Experian

Citi

Credit Card: Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard®

  • CA: Experian (but sometimes Equifax and TransUnion)
  • IL: Equifax and Experian
  • NY: Equifax (but sometimes Experian)

Credit Card: Citi® Prestige Card

  • CA: Experian
  • IL: Equifax
  • NY: Equifax

Credit Card: Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card

  • CA: Experian (but sometimes Equifax and TransUnion)
  • NY: Experian
  • IL: Equifax

Credit Card: Citi® Double Cash Card

  • CA: Experian (but sometimes Equifax)
  • IL: Equifax (but sometimes Experian)
  • NY: Experian (but sometimes Equifax)

The information for the Citi AAdvantage Platinum card and Citi Prestige has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Another way to find out which reports were pulled by banks you’ve already applied with is to check at your own credit reports. You can access your three reports for free once every 12 months at AnnualCreditReport.com.

For more details on FICO Scores and how to check your credit reports, read these previous posts:

How to check your credit score for free

4 incorrect assumptions about your credit score

What Is a good credit score?

5 credit myths you’ll want to unlearn

Additional reporting by Michelle Black

Featured photo courtesy of Getty Images

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