A credit bureau is a company that collects information from various sources and provides consumer credit information on individual consumers for a variety of uses. It provides information on individuals borrowing and bill paying habits. This helps lenders assess credit worthiness, the ability to pay back a loan, and can affect the interest rate and other terms of a loan.
Interest rates are not the same for everyone, but instead can be based on risk-based pricing, a form of price discrimination based on the different expected risks of different borrowers, as set out in their credit rating. Consumers with poor credit repayment histories or court adjudicated debt obligations like tax liens or bankruptcies will pay a higher annual interest rate than consumers who do not have these factors.
In the United States, credit bureaus collect and collate personal information, financial data, and alternative data on individuals from a variety of sources called data furnishers with which the bureaus have a relationship. Data furnishers are typically creditors, lenders, utilities, debt collection agencies and the courts (i.e. public records) that a consumer has had a relationship or experience with. Data furnishers report their payment experience with the consumer to the credit bureaus. The data provided by the furnishers as well as collected by the bureaus are then aggregated into the credit bureau's data repository or files. The resulting information is made available on request to customers of the credit bureau for the purposes of credit risk assessment, credit scoring or for other purposes such as employment consideration or leasing an apartment. Given the large number of consumer borrowers, these credit scores tend to be mechanistic.
To simplify the analytical process for their customers, the different credit bureaus can apply a mathematical algorithm to provide a score the customer can use to more rapidly assess the likelihood that an individual will repay a given debt given the frequency that other individuals in similar situations have defaulted. Most consumer welfare advocates advise individuals to review their credit reports at least once per year, in order to ensure that the reports are accurate. Consumers can do so at no cost. They are entitled to a free annual credit report from each of the three nationwide consumer reporting agencies, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. Consumers can go to annualcreditreport.com, the Internet site maintained by the three companies, to get their free report.
Commercial credit reports and scoring also exist, which can be used to evaluate the likelihood of a business-paying creditors. Examples of these are the Paydex score from Dun & Bradstreet and the Experian Intelliscore.
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