It is impossible to answer which credit bureau tends to give the lowest, middle, or highest score.
The scoring companies designed the rating systems to mean the same thing at each of the big three bureaus. Therefore, each individual will have a unique combination of high, middle, and low scores.
The 5 major factors can help each consumer to narrow down the odds. Improving the worst rating first is the best strategy to increase approvals and improve interest rates.
Lowest Scoring Credit Bureau
No credit bureau tends to show the lowest score across-the-board. Equifax, Experian, and Transunion have the same distribution of FICO and Vantage ratings across the hundreds of millions of consumers in the United States.
A look into the 5 most important credit score and lender preference table factors bring us closer to an answer.
Important Score Factors
Learning the most important credit score factors can help you identify the reporting agency that usually rates any individual the hardest. These are the most significant components determining a person’s credit rating that might the result lower.
- Payment history makes up 35%
- Amounts owed controls 30%
- Length of history influences 15%
- Mixture of account types shapes 10%
- New account activity affects 10%
The credit bureau that scores the lowest for you will do one of three things.
- Display less favorable information on one or more of the five most important factors
- Report more negative data on one or more of the critical components
- Output a slightly lower result when data is identical across all three agencies
The third point is difficult for most people to grasp and for writers to explain!
Each consumer-reporting agency operates differently. They have unique sources, methods of matching data, and lender usage patterns. Therefore, the equations adjust to account for these systemic anomalies. They output a number that is often different for the same person at each bureau.
FICO and Vantage designed the rating systems to meet lender needs – not consumer needs. They developed the equations to mean the same thing at each consumer-reporting agency. This allows lenders to make consistent underwriting decisions – despite the underlying vagaries of each data source.
650 at Equifax = 650 at Experian = 650 at TransUnion = X% delinquency rate
Lender Preference Factors
The bureau your next lender uses is most important. Usually, it is the provider with the lowest scores for people in your local area. The typical bank or finance company loses ten times more money on a bad account (default) than they make on a profitable one. Therefore, they play things conservatively.
Most lenders default to geography to help them decide which bureau will help them avoid future losses. This, in turn, causes ratings to drop further because the hard inquiry normally appears on only the report that already graded hardest.
The big three credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) score lowest in the geographies where they have the strongest file. Each has regional strengths and weaknesses. Therefore, most lenders maintain bureau preference tables built around the perceived file strength (primarily the amount of derogatory information) in local areas.
Three factors drive this allocation reasoning.
- The industry began with hundreds of localized consumer reporting agencies. Over time, they consolidated to form the big-three national brands. For example, each still has perceived file superiority in the regions surrounding their headquarter areas.
- Equifax – Georgia
- Experian – Southern California
- TransUnion – Illinois
- The big three players are not single entities. Each has regional affiliate companies that manage relationships with local data sources. The regional affiliates feed their local information into the corresponding national database.
- Certain sources report only negative information (non-payment). They tend to serve smaller local areas and often report to only one or two of the big three bureaus.
- Utility companies providing gas, water, and electric
- Medical collection agencies serving local doctors, dentists, and hospitals
- Property owners and management companies renting apartment units
- County courthouses issuing public records such as liens, judgments, and bankruptcies
Hard Inquiry Component
The credit bureau that has the lowest score tends to show more hard inquiries on file.
Hard inquiries cause credit scores to drop. They act as an early warning trigger of possible new account activity – which is the fifth most significant aspect (10%) determining your rating. People who are eager to borrow more money are riskier than most.
Hard inquiries display only on the report of the agency providing the information. Most lenders only pull one report when evaluating a new account application. Therefore, two of the big three bureau files are missing important information. This exacerbates the trend of lenders allocating business by geography.
Mortgage transactions are the only exception to this rule. Conventional home loans require a tri-bureau merged report. A hard inquiry appears on all three of the agency files. This, in turn, brings us to the discussion of the middle number.
Middle Score Credit Reporting Agency
Determining which credit-reporting agency usually has the middle score becomes a hot topic when a consumer is applying for a new home loan or refinance. Most of the government agencies (FHA, USDA, VA) and government-sponsored enterprises (Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac) require the use of the tri-bureau merged report with mortgage transactions.
Since credit scores differ for any one consumer at each of the three agencies, the question becomes which rating should the home lender pick.
Middle Score Mortgage
Home lenders pick the middle credit score for most mortgage applications. They determine the middle result by throwing out the highest and lowest of the three rating numbers. Banks make their decision based on the rating in between the other two.
Mortgage lenders evaluate the tri-bureau merged report using automated underwriting tools tuned for this specific purpose. These systems use the composite information.
However, the FICO and Vantage rating systems do not consider the merged information. The rating companies fine-tune the equations for the unique way each agency collects, matches, and displays data and for the regional lender usage patterns.
Middle Score Meaning
The middle credit score definition is very simple. It does not mean the average of the three ratings. Lenders must base their decision on one result, so they choose the median number in the three-part sequence.
Picking the middles tally means the fairest treatment for the applicant. The alternative would be overly harsh to either the consumer or lender.
Increasing Middle Score
Increasing the middle credit score can improve your mortgage qualifications. However, many consumers will find that this is not the ideal strategy. Ratings fluctuate constantly.
Swapping places is the best strategy to raise your middle credit grade. Attack you weakest area first. Lift your rating at the bureau showing the poorest rating until it is in second place.
Highest Scoring Credit Bureau Reports
Identifying which credit bureau usually reports the highest score has the least value for most consumers. It is also most difficult to pinpoint, as the factors determining the answer are more obscure.
Scroll through the list of significant components. Take the lessons from what is working and use them to lift the two lagging ratings.
Affects Fewest People
The credit-reporting agency with the highest score affects fewer people. Lenders are less likely to pull from this source, and mortgage companies disregard the result.
- Most lenders shy away from using the agency that tends to grade highest in any specific geography. They want to avoid losses. They gravitate to the source with the most negative information in any local area.
- Mortgage lenders ignore this result and work with the center number. Improving the best rating does not cause the numbers to swap places in the sequence.
Helpful Score Factors
Sometimes the credit bureau with the highest score is the source pulled by lenders. Their geography-based preference tables consider positive information as the secondary criteria along with the negative. This is a reason to cheer if it applies to your situation.
Helpful information from the three remaining key credit score factors could push a rating higher at one particular agency.
The credit bureau showing smaller amounts owed or larger overall borrowing limits will show the highest score. The amount owed is the 2nd most important rating component (30%). An extra or missing account could work in your favor.
- Extra revolving accounts with large limits and small balance improves the balance-to-limit ratio
- Missing installment loans with large principal amounts help shrink total balances
The credit-reporting bureau showing the longest average history will tend to score highest. The average length of history for all accounts is the 3rd most influential component of your rating (15%).
The longer an account has been open in person’s name the more history any equation has to make a reliable prediction. Consumers with short histories do not give the formulas much to work with. On the other hand, consumers with longer histories give the equations a richer data set.
The consumer-reporting agency showing the biggest variety of account types will tend to show the highest credit score. A good mixture or diversity of account types is the 4th most crucial component of your rating.
These are the basic account types a person should have in his or her file to get the top number. Diversity allows for a prediction that is more reliable.
- Revolving accounts
- Unsecured Credit Cards
- Secured Home Equity Line of Credit
- Installment contracts
- Unsecured personal loans
- Secured Auto financing
- Secured Mortgage
- Charge cards such as Amex or Diner’s Club