What’s Your 4th Bureau Credit Score Like?

Most people know that they need a good credit score to get by in life — to get a good credit card, loan and even a good job. They are aware that Experian, Equifax and TransUnion are the three major credit reporting agencies, and that their FICO credit score calculated from these credit reports determines how financially sound they are seen to be by lenders.

What many don’t know is that the FICO credit score is only a part of the picture that banks, lenders and other parties consider. In reality, they tend to look up two other credit reports as well.

The 4th Bureau

For every financial transaction that you enter into, the party that you transact with keeps records of how regularly you pay. A number of agencies track your financial records in these transactions as a way to fill in the gaps that regular credit reports may have. Collectively, these other agencies are known as the 4th bureau. Any business that needs to judge the financial soundness of an applicant only needs to contact one of them.

Different agencies specialize in different types of transactions. The National Communications, Telecom and Utilities Exchange tracks utility account payments; Alliant Data looks at the way you pay your membership fees at whatever health club, astronomers’ club or other organization that you may belong to; L2C tracks how regular you are with your magazine subscriptions, car warranty payments, payday borrowing and phone bills.

These companies collect information from the individual businesses that you deal with in any given area, and sell the information to the lenders you may apply to for a loan. Lenders never approve a loan without consulting with a few 4th bureau data brokers. They find their detailed consumer information very useful.

If you’re denied a loan even when your credit reports seem clean, you may legitimately suspect that the 4th bureau has been at work in your case. If you’d like to know what exactly it is that’s wrong with your financial past, there isn’t one central bureau to get information from. You will need to ask the lender for information on the bureau or data broker they used. You may be able to approach them and try to set things right.

The ChexSystems Bureau

While employers and landlords typically only look at credit reports and 4th bureau reports, banks look at a fifth one — the ChexSystems reports. ChexSystems keeps a record of the banking behavior of every individual — the checks that you’ve bounced, any check fraud that you may have suffered, uncontrolled ATM withdrawals and so on.

Unlike the 4th bureau reports, everyone gets to see their ChexSystems score. You simply need to go to consumerdebit.com/consumerinfo/us/en/freereport.htm and request a statement.

If your report has erroneous items, you can write to the bureau and follow their error correction process. If a negative item they record is justified, you will need to take your business to a credit union for at least 5 years. That’s how long ChexSystems keeps individual records.

Keeping track of your financial reputation is a complex business. You need to be responsible every step of the way to make sure that all credit reporting agencies have a healthy record of who you are.

 

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