These companies represent the big three of credit ratings services. You want to buy a car, buy a home, extend your line of credit, get a new credit card with a more favorable rate of interest, at least one, maybe two or all three of these companies will be an integral part of the final go/no-go, get-it/not-get-it decision.

You’re in their information data bank, you’ve got a number that rates your credit worthiness and anyone who is going to lend you money or extend you credit wants know what that number is. If it’s not sufficiently high or, heaven forbid, non-existent, you’re out of luck.

Think in terms of the big three automakers, not today, but say five of ten years ago. TransUnion is number one GM, but with headquarters in Chicago and expertise that extends to 25 countries on five continents. The other two are number two Ford, Experian, but with corporate headquarters in Dublin Ireland and operational headquarters in Costa Mesa, California, and Nottingham, England; and number three Chrysler, Equifax, but with headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia, and employing approximately 7,000 people in 15 countries through North America, Latin America and Europe.

The TransUnion web site touts itself as:

“…a global leader in credit and information management. For more than 30 years, we have worked with businesses and consumers to gather, analyze and deliver the critical information needed to build strong economies throughout the world. The result? Businesses can better manage risk and customer relationships. And consumers can better understand and manage credit so they can achieve their financial goals. Our dedicated associates support more than 50,000 customers on five continents and more than 500 million consumers worldwide.

The Experian web site also claims itself to be:

“…a global leader in consumer and business credit reporting and marketing services and a constituent of the United Kingdom’s FTSE 100 index, with revenues in excess of US$4 billion. We support clients in more than 65 countries and employ more than 15,500 people in 38 countries.

The Equifax web site states:

“Customers have trusted Equifax for over 100 years to deliver innovative solutions with the highest integrity and reliability. Businesses — large and small — rely on us for consumer and business credit intelligence, portfolio management, fraud detection, decisioning technology, marketing tools, and much more. We empower individual consumers to manage their personal credit information, protect their identity, and maximize their financial well-being.

Headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia, Equifax Inc. employs approximately 7,000 people in 15 countries through North America, Latin America and Europe.”

By and large all three primarily are in the business providing credit information to businesses, read that as creditors. That is what started their business. A more recent component is providing the same credit information to folks like John and Jane Q public. Thus for the great mass of us this is why they are worth knowing about. Listen to this sales pitch from Experian, but it could come from any of the three:

“Imagine having your personal credit information available online, 24-7. Or the peace of mind of knowing your Experian, TransUnion and Equifax credit files are monitored every day. And if any suspicious account activity is detected, we’ll send you a prompt email alert.”

To say that is all these companies do is a bit simplistic; they diverse and complex and multifaceted in there in their total business plans. But there core business is maintaining credit worthiness data and for a fee they will share that information with anyone.

One last thought, this is again from Experian’s web site explaining their service to the general public. The federal law referred to was passed in 2008:

“IMPORTANT INFORMATION: This offer is not related to the free credit report that you are entitled to under federal law. To obtain that report, you must go to www.annualcreditreport.com. The (our) free credit report and score offer … requires enrollment in a trial of Triple AdvantageSM. Cancel anytime during the 7-day trial period and pay nothing. Otherwise, you will be billed just $14.95 for each month that you continue your membership.”

Free is good and federally mandated has the ring of assuredness to it. But there’s an old adage, you get what you pay for, or at least you get more, if you’re willing to pay. In the end it all comes down to your own personal comfort zone.

This writer mandates free!

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