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

Feb 14, 2021

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Editor’s note: This post has been updated with the latest information.

One of the most important things to know when you apply for a credit card 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, in the United States. When you apply for a new line of credit, banks and credit card companies can pay to access your credit report from Equifax, Experian or TransUnion.

Related: How to check your credit score for free

The CRA used by a card issuer to see your credit report can determine whether your application is approved or denied, especially when you apply for various cards in a short amount of time. If several card issuers pull from the same credit reporting agency, 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. Make sure to check your credit score 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 complex 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.

However, 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. Moreover, many banks now issue free FICO scores to cardholders as a useful perk.

Related: FICO vs. VantageScore: What’s the difference and why does it matter?

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-plus 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 much among scores between 720 and 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’s important to understand how credit scores work. FICO scores are calculated using many different pieces of credit data in your credit report. This data is grouped into five categories: payment history (35%), amounts owed (30%), length of credit history (15%), new credit (10%) and credit mix (10%).

Related: What is a good credit score?

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 may affect your credit score negatively.

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.

You then decide to apply for another new credit card. In addition to your score potentially taking a hit, you might experience another dilemma. 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. By understanding this concept, you can time 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 differ depending on the state you live in and the specific card product you want.

  • Citi uses all three credit bureaus but usually pulls credit reports from Equifax or Experian.
  • American Express uses all three credit bureaus but primarily pulls reports from Experian, though sometimes Equifax or TransUnion as well.
  • Chase uses all three credit bureaus but favors Experian, yet may also buy Equifax or TransUnion reports.

As an example, 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 gauge which issuer uses which credit bureau.

While these resources aren’t perfect, they do provide a guide to better evaluate which credit bureau your credit issuer will pull your credit from. The CreditPulls database on CreditBoards.com is a popular resource for information about credit card applications.

CreditBoards.com

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

 

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. You can also filter by state, credit bureau and application date.

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, 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.

As a test, I performed a sample search of applicants in Florida that applied only for American Express cards in the past six months. Below is a review of the results.

(Image courtesy of CreditBoards.com)

As you’ll see, even people who applied for the same card had different credit reports pulled. In this case, two applicants from Florida each applied for the Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card, just a few days apart. You’ll notice that Amex pulled a credit report from Experian in one application and Equifax in the other. Which credit bureau a card issuer uses to pull credit reports may not depend just on which state you reside in, but sometimes even the part of the state where you live. The results below aren’t comprehensive listings, but rather a jumping-off point.

Conducting some research of our own, we went to CreditBoards.com to find out which credit bureaus are used by the banks. The list below shows the most frequent outcomes of popular cards for California and New York applicants. Still, it’s important to emphasize that the credit bureau a card issuer uses to pull reports can fluctuate between cities and individual customer criteria.

American Express

Credit card: The Business Platinum Card® from American Express

  • California: Experian
  • New York: Experian

Credit card: American Express® Gold Card

  • California: Experian
  • New York: Experian

Credit card: The Platinum Card® from American Express

  • California: Experian
  • New York: Experian

Credit card: Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card

  • New York: Experian

Credit card: Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express

  • California: Experian
  • New York: Experian

Capital One

Credit card: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

  • California: TransUnion (but sometimes Equifax and Experian)
  • New York: TransUnion or Experian

Credit card: Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card

  • California: TransUnion
  • New York: Reports of credit pulls from all three bureaus; most recent reports say TransUnion

Chase

Credit card: Ink Business Cash Credit Card

  • California: Experian
  • New York: Experian

Credit card: Ink Business Preferred Credit Card

  • California: Experian (but sometimes Equifax)
  • New York: Experian

Credit card: Chase Sapphire Preferred Card

  • California: Experian (but sometimes Equifax)
  • New York: Experian (according to recent reports)

Credit card: Chase Sapphire Reserve

  • California: Experian
  • New York: Experian (but sometimes TransUnion)

Credit card: British Airways Visa Signature Card

  • New York: Experian

Citi

Credit card: Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite Mastercard®

  • California: Experian (but sometimes Equifax and TransUnion)
  • New York: Equifax (but sometimes Experian)

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

Credit card: Citi Prestige® Card

  • California: Experian
  • New York: Equifax

Credit card: Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card

  • California: Experian (but sometimes Equifax and TransUnion)
  • New York: Experian

Credit card: Citi® Double Cash Card

  • California: Experian (but sometimes Equifax)
  • New York: Experian (but sometimes Equifax)

Bottom line

Your credit report is a key part of your financial profile that can have a notable impact on your creditworthiness. By understanding which credit reporting agency banks use to review your credit, it may help increase approval odds on your next credit card application.

Additional reporting by Michelle Black and Juan Ruiz.

Featured photo courtesy of Getty Images.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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