The majority of us have credit reports granted by credit reporting agencies. However, only a few among us are aware of the surprising history of the credit bureaus.

The credit reporting agencies we know today were expanded from small, local companies that were established as far back as the 1800s. In this article, we will learn the interesting histories behind the three major credit bureaus and how they have evolved into what they are today.

Credit Reports

A credit report contains significant data related to a consumer’s credit history. This information includes a list of the past and existing credit accounts, credit limit, payment history of every account, and other personal details. Moreover, it also includes additional data, such as the social security number, addresses, and name.

This information allows the lenders to study the financial history of potential borrowers so they can decide if they are eligible to get their credit limit extended. Besides, they also determine the terms of the loan that should be given to the borrowers.

The Three Major Credit Bureaus


Equifax was established in 1899 under the name The Retail Credit Company and is headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S. The company operates globally across North America, Asia, South America, and Europe. Equifax was founded by Cator and Guy Woolford and witnessed it becoming an instant success.

The company was incorporated in 1913, and it already had 37 major offices in both Canada and the United States within seven years. Over the next few years, the company penetrated the automotive and life insurance markets. The Retail Credit Company continued to witness significant growth and was rebranded as Equifax in 1976.

Today, the company emphasizes providing credit reports to businesses and individuals, along with offering a wide range of products and services. This includes risk management, marketing, and global fraud services.


Experian was started in London, United Kingdom when businessmen began sharing data on customers who refused to pay their bills. These individuals established the Manchester Guardian Society in 1826, which later became a significant part of Experian and spread across the world. In 2018, the company was named one of the “World’s Most Innovative Companies” by Forbes. Moreover, it employs more than 17,800 people in 45 countries across the world.

The company uses the FICO 8 credit score calculation system and offers a CreditWorks Premium plan through subscription. Along with credit reporting services, the company offers other services in analytics, fingerprinting, and marketing.


Initially, TransUnion was established as a holding company for a tank car company in 1968, and then it shifted to credit reporting. A year after its establishment, the company acquired the Credit Bureau of Cook County (CBCC), which manually handled 3.6 million customer files in 400 seven-drawer cabinets.

TransUnion realized that the company’s existing system required an urgent upgrade and became the first company in the credit reporting industry to shift from manual work to automated tape-to-disc transfer. In 1988, the company was already running its operations across the nation. In the course of the next few decades, the company emphasized more on innovation and growing its operations.

The company started providing business-to-business (B2B) services and analytics. By 2002, the company had already acquired and penetrated the direct-to-consumer market, providing customers access to different services online.

TransUnion today provides its services across a wider spectrum of industries, such as portfolio management, debt recovery services, global fraud services, and digital marketing, in addition to credit reporting.

The Bottom Line

The credit bureaus have a surprisingly lengthy and interesting history. From the mid-1800s to the present day, the consumer credit reporting industry has been disrupted with controversies, bias, blunders, and serious security issues.

While time-to-time technological upgrades have allowed the credit reporting agencies to improve and grow, and the legislative rules have been enacted to protect consumer rights, the overall system is still far from achieving perfection.

Besides, your credit scores and reports would be more or less similar across all three credit reporting agencies. If even one of them largely varies, it could be a major indication that your report has incorrect data in it. Your credit report defines your financial health. Keep in mind to check your credit report across all three agencies.

In case you’re unhappy with your credit score, you can take significant measures to get it fixed. You can modify the incorrect information, work together with a credit repair company or improve your report through more responsible spending habits.

Your credit score isn’t set in stone, so always be mindful of it and be prepared to take necessary action.