UPDATED: October 09, 2022

When pulling credit reports, Experian and Equifax serve as the industry standard. Millions of lenders, employers, landlords, and financial institutions worldwide trust these organizations for accurate ratings.

With that said, their ratings aren’t 100% identical. You’ll notice several discrepancies and inconsistencies if you compare your Experian and Equifax reports.

Is one better than the other because of these differences?

Don’t worry if you find yourself confused. Just like you, we want to understand why credit bureaus produce differing results, so we asked our team to research official resources, independent review site ratings, and legit user testimonials talking about Experian and Equifax.

By the end of this piece, you’ll know which bureau to entrust with credit monitoring.

Please read without skipping. We’ll share a common yet dangerous misconception about discrepancies between credit bureaus. Overlooking it might put you at risk of identity theft.

So, Experian vs. Equifax: which is better? Let’s find out!

Comparing the differences between Experian vs Equifax

Before anything else, we want to emphasize that neither Experian nor Equifax is better than the other. All three main U.S. credit bureaus provide accurate, reliable results.

Instead of judging which bureau is universally considered better, you should assess the features and services they offer.

Remember: Experian and Equifax are still two different institutions. Not only do they provide different ratings, but they also follow varying score models, credit information, and lender insights.

We strongly suggest pulling free reports from both bureaus. However, if you need regular monitoring and can only choose one bureau, base your decision on the following areas:

Services

Let’s start with the basics—both Experian and Equifax are credit bureaus. At a basic level, they provide ratings based on credit information from merchants, lenders, commercial banks, and financial institutions.

They stand alongside TransUnion as the main credit bureaus in the U.S. Millions of organizations and institutions worldwide rely on them when credit-checking clients and performing risk assessments.

As a general rule, compare all three reports whenever possible. You can request one free credit report per annum, so you don’t have to worry about extra fees right from the get-go.

However, note that this advice only applies to free reports.

Let’s say you want premium monitoring. Although both provide paid credit monitoring services, signing up for two accounts is inefficient and wasteful.

Instead, choose which bureau best addresses your needs. 

Based on the reviews and resources we read, Experian has a slight edge over Equifax when it comes to monitoring. It offers a comprehensive data privacy solution.

Once you sign up for an account, you’ll get quarterly 3-bureau credit reports, 3-bureau credit monitoring, SSN tracking, loan application alerts, and ID theft insurance, among other features.

On the other hand, Equifax offers fewer services. The system only monitors Equifax reports, plus 3-bureau credit reports are only available per annum—which you can request yourself for free.

Scoring model

One reason Equifax and Experian don’t produce exact credit scores is that they follow different scoring models. 

Experian uses the FICO 8. Meanwhile, Equifax uses a 280 to 850 numerical range, although you can also pull your VantageScore credit rating if you sign up for premium monitoring.

The difference in computation often leads to a gap ranging from 5 to 20 points. Although lenders often overlook minuscule discrepancies, that might not be the case for sizable inconsistencies.

In all likelihood, you’ll have to go through extra ID verification. And if the institution still deems your credit too risky, your transaction might not push through.

To avoid these situations, dispute errors right from the get-go. Yes, Equifax and Experian use different scoring models, but their reports should still be somewhat similar.

Inconsistent marks indicate reporting errors. In the worst case, crooks might have been committing fraudulent transactions under your name.

Look into them immediately. Either way, once you set up a fraud alert and file a dispute, the reporting bureau will clear your name with lenders, banks, and credit bureaus. 

Accuracy and reliability

Try comparing Equifax and Experian reports side by side. Not only do they have different ratings, but they’re also divided into different sections. 

As we mentioned above, bureaus collect varying information. For instance, Experian focuses on providing in-depth insights into your recent transactions, while Equifax gives a more comprehensive overview of your seven-year credit history.

Don’t get us wrong—they’re both reliable and accurate. However, lenders, merchants, and employers assessing your creditworthiness and background might prioritize one bureau’s report over the other.

Experian

Experian pulls information regarding your home address, current employer, active credit accounts, outstanding loans, and ongoing long-term loans. Then, it divides this information into different sections.

Although each section has a different theme, expect them all to flesh out the history of each active account. You’ll see exactly how much you’ve paid and what you still owe.

Moreover, Experian goes above and beyond by assessing your debt repayment habits. Its reports will explicitly detail when you paid your bills, how often your accounts lapsed, and what you purchased with your credit line.

Equifax

Equifax reports give you a general overview of your credit history. It collects years’ worth of information and follows the VantageScore mode—which pulls reports from the three bureaus.

Unlike Experian reports, Equifax doesn’t detail the history of each credit account. However, you’ll find all your personal loans, car loans, mortgage loans, bank accounts, and credit cards from the past 81 months listed.

Moreover, they’re categorized as open, closed, or lapsed. Trust us—anyone viewing your Equifax report will know every account opened under your name in the past years.

Since reports contain so many accounts, don’t expect in-depth analyses. You can access outstanding dues and credit utilization rates, but lapsed dues, payment histories, and repayment habits are only available upon request.

Pricing

Experian offers three levels of credit monitoring, namely:

Basic

The Basic plan lets you monitor your credit reports from FICO and Experian. Just note that it doesn’t send automatic alerts, so you’ll have to watch out for negative marks yourself.

Admittedly, it doesn’t offer much. However, we still encourage signing up for an account because it literally costs nothing and gives you basic insights into your credit standing.

Premium

For advanced credit monitoring, try out the Premium plan. It comes with 3-bureau credit monitoring, quarterly 3-bureau credit reports, ID theft insurance, fraud resolution, SSN tracking, social media monitoring, and criminal ID theft warnings.

Monthly rates start at $24.99. However, you can sign up for a 30-day free trial if you still have doubts.

Family

The Family plan extends all the features of a Premium plan to up to 10 members. Although the ID theft insurance coverage still caps at $1 million, anyone linked member can ask for ID restoration support if needed.

Monthly rates start at $34.99 a month. We think it provides excellent value since few reliable ID theft prevention brands offer household-wide protection at this price point.

Equifax also offers three tiers of credit monitoring and ID theft protection, namely:

Equifax Complete

The entry-level plan of Equifax provides standard ID theft prevention at a reasonable monthly rate. It comes with 1-bureau credit monitoring, Equifax credit reports, ID restoration support, and $500,000 worth of ID theft insurance coverage.

Admittedly, the plan’s pretty basic. However, you’d be hard-pressed to find another credit monitoring tool at just $9.95 a month.

Equifax Complete Premier

The Premier plan comes with 3-bureau credit file monitoring, annual 3-bureau credit reports, 1-bureau credit report monitoring, $1 million worth of ID theft insurance, and ID restoration. Monthly rates start at $19.95.

At a glance, the plan might seem like a good deal, but it doesn’t provide any real value. The basic plan already does 1-bureau credit monitoring, and annual 3-bureau credit reports are available to any debtor.

Equifax Complete Family Plan

The Family plan extends all the features of a Premier plan to up to four kids and a second adult. They’ll all get insurance coverage, ID restoration support, PII monitoring, and annual credit reports.

Monthly rates start at $29.95. It’s not the most comprehensive package on the market, but it’s one of the cheapest.

Pros and cons

To help you better understand whether to get Experian or Equifax, we listed their most prominent pros and cons in a table.

ExperianEquifax
PROS
Accurate and updated credit ratings since more lenders report to Experian than EquifaxOffers an affordable, accessible alternative to expensive credit monitoring tools that charge hundreds a year
Computes ratings using FICO 8, the most widely used and acknowledged scoring model among lenders and banksComputes using VantageScore, a relatively new scoring model that pulls information from all three bureaus
Premium packages contain a more robust, diverse set of ID theft prevention and credit monitoring servicesCredit reports explicitly specify which credit accounts are active, closed, inactive, and lapsed
CONS
Business plans might not address all the credit checking needs of your organizationPremier plan only does 1-bureau credit monitoring and pulls 3-bureau reports once per annum
The monthly rate is a bit steep, and many other ID theft prevention companies offer the same services for much lessSince VantageScore is relatively new, not as many lenders, merchants, and commercial banks rely on it yet
Not even the full-suite package comes with add-on cybersecurity features like a VPN or password managerAlthough most commercial banks report to all three credit bureaus, small lenders and merchants often only cooperate with Experian 

Overall, Experian and Equifax produce accurate ratings. We can’t emphasize enough how important it is to pull your reports from both bureaus.

Only consider the differences when signing up for paid monitoring. Experian might suit your needs better if you want a robust credit monitoring package, but Equifax carries cheaper, more accessible plans.

Factors to consider when choosing between Experian vs Equifax

Don’t fret if you’re still undecided between Experian vs. Equifax. To ensure that you choose the correct bureau for your credit monitoring needs, consider the following factors:

  • Cost: See if your preferred monitoring tool fits your budget. In all likelihood, you won’t need premium plans costing $20 to $30 unless you already have several outstanding debts and ongoing loan accounts.
  • Trial Periods: Experian offers 30-day money-back guarantees. Unfortunately, Equifax doesn’t, but they let clients cancel their accounts at any time.
  • Scope: Your credit bureau should help you achieve your monitoring goal (i.e., boost credit scores, dispute negative marks, combat identity theft).

Overall, you need a plan that suits your current financial situation. 

Reasons why scores differ among credit bureaus

As we mentioned above, many factors affect reporting discrepancies among bureaus. However, the most crucial ones include:

  • Scoring Models: Most bureaus compute scores using either a VantageScore or FICO scoring model.
  • Credit Information Collected: Unfortunately, not all lenders and merchants cooperate with the three main credit bureaus. As a result, bureaus end up with varying information. 
  • Report Sections: Credit bureaus structure their reports differently. For instance, Equifax focuses on curating long-term overviews, while Experian fleshes out recent transactions.

Warning: Discrepancies between credit reports are only normal to an extent. Please look into your statements and transactions if you notice a significant difference between your Experian and Equifax credit scores.

Again, not all lenders communicate with the three main credit bureaus. Small transactions like payday loans might only appear in one of your three reports—making fraudulent activities harder to track.

Also, watch out for sudden fluctuations. Although bureaus relay fraud alerts to each other, they generally don’t disclose regular debtor ratings.

When you might need credit bureaus

Consider reaching out to a credit bureau if you are:

  • Scanning for fraudulent transactions: Monitor your reports closely and scan for signs of ID theft—unusual transactions, large purchases, and new loan applications.
  • Disputing errors: Credit bureaus will investigate negative marks if you file disputes against them.
  • Buying a new house or car: To ensure that you get the best rates, strive for a higher credit score before taking out a home or auto loan.

Don’t feel afraid to contact credit bureaus. Remember: their primary goal is to collect credit information, not audit outstanding dues and loan accounts.

Experian vs Equifax: Deciding between the two

Yes, more U.S. lenders report to Experian. However, we want to emphasize that it doesn’t automatically make Experian more detailed or reliable.

As we mentioned above, they follow differing criteria. If you want an accurate estimate of your overall creditworthiness, we encourage pulling your reports from both institutions.

Trust us—you can’t blindly rely on just one bureau. Some negative marks and signs of fraud might not appear on all three reports, which could tank your rating if left unaddressed.

Either way, credit bureaus already provide free annual credit reports. You’ll only have to pay extra fees if you need to pull more than one or two copies per annum.

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