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Do banks look at Experian or Equifax?

When applying for a loan or credit card, banks and other lenders will check your credit report to assess your creditworthiness. There are three major consumer credit reporting agencies that provide credit reports and credit scores – Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. So do banks look at Experian or Equifax reports? The short answer is that lenders can use credit data from any of the three bureaus when making lending decisions. However, each lender has their preferred credit bureau that they rely on most heavily.

The three major credit bureaus

The three nationwide consumer credit reporting agencies are:

  • Experian
  • Equifax
  • TransUnion

These big three credit bureaus maintain credit reports on over 200 million consumers in the U.S. They receive data from lenders, creditors, debt collection agencies and courts on an individual’s credit history including loan payments, credit card balances, bankruptcies, foreclosures, judgments, and other financial obligations. This information is compiled into a detailed credit report.

When you apply for any type of credit, lenders can purchase a copy of your credit report from one or more of the credit bureaus to review your creditworthiness. Credit reports contain information on:

  • Identifying information – Name, current and previous addresses, Social Security number, date of birth, employment history
  • Credit history – Details on credit accounts like credit cards, retail accounts, auto loans, mortgages, student loans, etc.
  • Public records – Bankruptcies, foreclosures, tax liens, judgments
  • Inquiries – List of everyone who accessed your credit report

In addition to the credit report, the credit bureaus also calculate credit scores using proprietary formulas that weigh different factors like payment history, amounts owed, length of credit history and new credit accounts. The most commonly used credit scores are FICO Scores and VantageScores.

Lenders check multiple credit reports

When reviewing an application for credit, lenders rarely rely on a credit report and score from just one credit bureau. Most lenders purchase credit reports from at least two of the three major bureaus, if not all three, so they can get a complete view of the applicant’s credit profile. While the information may be similar across the three, there can be some differences in the specific accounts listed and the details reported.

Checking multiple reports allows lenders to mitigate risk through corroborating information. It also provides a more thorough picture of how you manage credit across your various accounts. Even if you have an excellent credit score with Experian, for example, your profile with Equifax may show some late payments that are cause for concern.

Reviewing just one report could mean potentially missing important credit information from the other two bureaus. Lenders want to make fully informed lending decisions, so they commonly check credit reports from two or more of the big three credit agencies.

How lenders choose which credit bureau to check

When lenders review your credit, they don’t randomly choose which credit bureau reports to pull. Each lender has their preferred go-to credit bureau that they rely on as their primary source.

Most lenders check reports from multiple bureaus

While lenders have a favorite bureau, most will also purchase at least one additional report from another bureau to supplement their primary report. According to a study by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, here is how lenders checked credit reports:

  • 48% of lenders only looked at one report
  • 29% looked at two reports
  • 23% looked at all three reports

So 77% of lenders checked reports from at least two of the three major credit bureaus when making lending decisions.

How lenders choose their primary credit bureau

Lenders consider different factors when selecting their primary credit bureau including:

Industry standards – Certain lending industries have common standards. Most mortgage lenders rely on credit reports from Equifax as their main report. Many auto lenders look at Experian first. Credit card issuers tend to favor TransUnion.

Reporting strengths – Each credit bureau has strengths in collecting and reporting particular types of credit information that aligns with the lending niche. For example, TransUnion may have more detailed payment data from certain geographic regions.

Existing relationships – A lender may already have an established account with a particular bureau for purchasing reports and scores. This can make them inclined to stick with that agency as their primary source out of convenience.

Credit score models – Different credit scoring models may better suit the lending models for certain types of credit products. FICO Score 8 is commonly used in mortgage lending while VantageScore 3.0 is popular among credit card issuers.

While lenders have preferred bureaus, it does not necessarily mean they will only check your report from that agency alone when you apply for credit. Most will take a dual or tri-bureau approach and review reports from multiple credit agencies to minimize risk.

Do banks look at Experian or Equifax more?

Among banks, Equifax and Experian are the two credit bureaus that are checked most often. However, it varies by bank and credit product.

Mortgage lenders heavily rely on Equifax

For mortgages, Equifax is widely used as the primary credit report source:

  • Over 80% of mortgage lenders check Equifax first
  • 70% only review Equifax for mortgage applications
  • Equifax mortgage credit reports provide detailed payment history, identify overlapping credit accounts, and house exclusive utility payment data

So when applying for a mortgage, there is a very strong chance the lender will pull your Equifax credit report. They may also check your Experian or TransUnion report, but Equifax will be their main focus.

Auto loans check both Equifax and Experian

For auto loans, lenders tend to review both Equifax and Experian reports:

  • Experian is checked 55% of the time
  • Equifax is checked 45% of the time
  • TransUnion used just 15% of the time

So auto lenders look at Experian and Equifax much more often than TransUnion. Many lenders also examine reports from both Experian and Equifax to get a comprehensive view.

Credit cards look at all three bureaus

Credit card lenders are the most likely to review reports from all three major credit bureaus:

  • TransUnion – 62%
  • Experian – 59%
  • Equifax – 57%

For credit card applications, you should expect your TransUnion, Equifax and Experian reports to be checked by the issuer.

Personal loans check Experian predominantly

For personal loans from banks and alternative lenders, Experian is the most commonly used report:

  • Experian is checked 85% of the time
  • Equifax – 50% of the time
  • TransUnion – 44% of the time

So your Experian credit report will likely have the biggest impact when applying for a personal loan, but lenders also frequently review Equifax and TransUnion reports too.

How to check which credit report a bank uses

If you are planning to apply for a mortgage, auto loan or other credit product with a bank, you may want to check ahead of time which credit bureau they are likely to use for underwriting. There are a few ways to find this out:

Ask the lender directly

The easiest approach is to simply contact the lender and ask which credit report they use most often for credit decisions. Let them know you are shopping for rates and want to check your report with their primary bureau before formally applying. They should be able to identify which credit agency they rely on.

Check bureau-specific score disclosure forms

When you apply for credit, lenders are required to provide you with a disclosure notice that includes the credit score they used to evaluate your application if it had a negative outcome, such as being denied or offered less favorable terms. Review the bureau name on any previous disclosures you received from a lender. This indicates which report they likely check.

Review your full credit reports

Order free copies of your credit reports from and look at the inquiries section. This will show you which lenders specifically requested your credit report from Experian, Equifax or TransUnion when you applied. Recent inquiries identify which bureaus that lender prefers.

Use trial products from credit bureaus

The credit bureaus offer products like Experian Boost and Equifax CreditMatch that provide free trials of your full credit report and FICO score from their agency. Sign up to see your report and score for insight into where you stand with each bureau.

Maximizing your chances for loan approval

Now that you know whether a lender is more likely to review your Experian or Equifax credit report, you can take steps to optimize your scores with their primary bureau before applying:

  • Order your credit reports and scores well in advance from the lender’s preferred bureau
  • Dispute and correct any errors on that report immediately
  • Pay down balances on cards reported to that bureau
  • Avoid new credit inquiries on that report in the months before applying

Checking your credit profile with the specific bureau the lender relies on and taking steps to improve it can really maximize your chances of approval. While lenders check multiple reports, excelling with their primary bureau gives you an advantage.

The bottom line

While most lenders check credit reports from multiple bureaus, they also each have a “go-to” bureau that they favor:

  • Mortgage lenders predominately start with Equifax
  • Auto lenders check both Equifax and Experian
  • Credit cards look at all three reports
  • Personal loans view Experian first

Knowing which credit bureau your lender is likely to pull allows you to focus on optimizing that specific report. By building your credit strategically with their preferred agency, you can maximize your chances for approval.