UPDATED: October 09, 2022

TransUnion and Experian are two of the three major U.S. credit bureaus. They provide credit reports to millions of merchants, employers, landlords, lenders, and commercial banking institutions worldwide.

You’ll also need your reports from them to monitor your credit score. After all, financial institutions refer to their ratings when credit checking an organization or individual.

Now, while tracking your reports, you might notice some discrepancies. Maybe one bureau gave you a higher FICO score, or perhaps the other reports contained more negative marks.

Which bureau should you trust?

Don’t worry if you’re a bit confused—we can help. We asked our team to research official resources, independent review sites, and legit user testimonials so that we could flesh out the differences between TransUnion and Experian.

You don’t have to guess why your ratings among credit bureaus differ.

Please read without skipping. We’ll share a simple yet often overlooked way to monitor your 3-bureau credit reports for free. Otherwise, you’ll keep overpaying for standard credit monitoring.

Let’s dive into our TransUnion vs. Experian review!

Comparing the differences between TransUnion vs Experian

Before anything else, let’s address the biggest question on your mind right now: why do TransUnion and Experian provide varying credit scores? Simply put, they’re different institutions.

Yes, they both provide accurate credit reports. However, differences in how they assess debtors, collect information, and compute scores lead to rating discrepancies.

As a general rule, you should monitor your reports from both bureaus. They provide one free report per annum—two if you set up a fraud alert or credit freeze.

However, let’s say you need to check your reports more frequently. Although both TransUnion and Experian offer regular credit monitoring, purchasing two premium accounts won’t make sense.

If you need to choose between TransUnion and Experian, you’ll do well to consider the following factors:

Services

Both Experian and TransUnion provide credit information. At a basic level, collect data from banks, merchants, and lenders so that other institutions can accurately assess the creditworthiness of an individual.

Yes, they share some similarities. However, once you dive into their paid packages and premium monitoring services, you’ll notice several crucial differences.

Experian offers a more comprehensive personal credit monitoring package. Its premium plan comes with 3-bureau credit monitoring, plus it scans for fraudulent transactions, account takeovers, credit report changes, payday loans, court records, and criminal reports.

You’ll basically get a one-stop-shop data privacy solution. We highly recommend Experian if you need advanced credit and personal information monitoring for yourself or your household.

Alternatively, TransUnion provides a more diverse range of business solutions. Your organization can use it when credit checking new applications, credit accounts, potential employees, tenants, and prospects.

However, it lags as a personal credit monitoring tool. Even if you upgrade to a premium account, you’ll only get a 1-bureau credit score and report tracking.

Scoring model

Your TransUnion and Experian credit scores will always have a 5- to 20-point difference. No matter how many times you dispute negative marks and clear outstanding loan accounts, your scores will never align.

Contrary to popular belief, consumers have multiple credit scores from varying institutions. TransUnion and Experian are just two of the many organizations assessing your credit information and rating your creditworthiness.

But don’t worry—you can already do much with your TransUnion and Experian ratings. You can later explore other credit bureaus and reporting agencies, but focus on the three main U.S. bureaus first.

As for the score discrepancies, they’re the result of bureaus using different risk assessment formulas. Experian shows you your FICO 8, while TransUnion uses VantageScore 3.0. 

If you’re a consumer, you’ll find it more helpful to reference the FICO 8 score. It stands as the most widely used and acknowledged scoring model among lenders, merchants, commercial banks, and other financial institutions.

However, as a business owner, you might find VantageScore more insightful. It combines credit information from the three main bureaus, giving you accurate, updated insights into a person’s creditworthiness.

Accuracy and reliability

Both TransUnion and Experian provide accurate results. As we mentioned above, millions of institutions trust them for consumer credit information, so you can rest assured that their reports are reliable.

That said, they still use different scoring models. If you have unpaid debts or loan accounts unavailable to one of these bureaus, expect your ratings to vary upward of 20 points.

In these cases, we strongly advise disputing negative marks. Contact the credit bureau involved, file the dispute, and set up a fraud alert on your credit reports.

Otherwise, your credit scores will continue fluctuating. It might not seem like much at a glance, but note that the discrepancies could indicate something serious like ID theft or fraud.

Pricing

TransUnion offers its services individually. You can sign up for any personal or business credit monitoring tool that you need, but it only offers one credit monitoring package.

Credit Monitoring

TransUnion offers a straightforward, no-nonsense personal credit monitoring tool. The monthly rates start at $29.95 but don’t forget to factor in taxes wherever necessary.

Its focal service is 1-bureau credit monitoring. You’ll receive real-time email alerts if the system detects any unusual transaction, purchase, or application in your TransUnion credit report.

You can also check them yourself. Bureaus only provide one free report per year, but you can access your TransUnion credit reports and scores at any time you need after signing up for an account.

We also found that TransUnion offers post-ID theft support. If your information is ever compromised, you can seek help from a designated specialist and recoup up to $1 million worth of losses through insurance.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t come with extra features. Apart from a credit score simulator, don’t expect many add-ons from your personal credit monitoring plan.

As for Experian, it offers three credit monitoring packages, namely:

Basic

The Basic plan is free. It comes with 1-bureau credit monitoring, FICO score change alerts, and credit score tracking.

The plan might not seem like much at first. However, don’t automatically overlook it because other ID theft prevention brands charge at least $10 for the same services.

Premium

For advanced credit monitoring, upgrade to a premium account. It comes with PII monitoring, credit information tracking, score change alerts, SSN usage, identity validation, and dark web surveillance.

Also, the PII tracking system scours dozens of online and offline records. Experian claims that it can spot unauthorized usage of your data in loan applications, credit card purchases, non-credit loans, financial account takeovers, court records, and criminal reports. 

And if you find yourself in a data breach, the bureau will provide extensive support. You can recoup up to $1 million in ID theft-related losses, plus a designated ID restoration specialist will guide you.

Monthly rates start at $24.99, but they have a 30-day free trial.

Family

Experian offers a comprehensive Family package. It extends all the premium plan’s credit and PII monitoring features to up to 10 household members.

You can request quarterly 3-bureau credit scores and reports. However, note that every linked member has unlimited access to their Experian credit reports every day.

Pros and cons

To help you better understand the differences and similarities between TransUnion and Experian, let’s weigh the pros and cons:

TransUnionExperian
PROS
Provides a diverse range of credit checking services for SMBs, organizations, financial institutions, and merchantsOffers a robust personal credit monitoring system that rivals the top ID theft monitoring companies on the market
Uses VantageScore 3.0, a scoring model that pulls credit information from the three main bureausFamily plan extends all ID theft protection, insurance coverage, and ID restoration benefit to up to 10 household members
Offers a streamlined, no-nonsense credit monitoring planComputes credit scores using the FICO 8, the most widely used scoring model among lenders to date
CONS
VantageScore 3.0 isn’t the most widely used scoring model among lenders yetPremium plan’s monthly rates are a bit steep, and several ID theft monitoring tools cost significantly less
Even premium plan accounts can only monitor TransUnion credit reports and scoresFor a plan almost $25, you’d expect extra cybersecurity features like password management, VPN surfing, and anti-malware protection
Several ID theft brands already offer 3-bureau reports and monitoring for the same price pointBusiness plans might not meet all your organization’s credit checking needs

Overall, TransUnion and Experian are both reliable credit bureaus. We highly suggest signing up for a free account, regardless of whether or not you opt for their premium services.

Factors to consider when comparing TransUnion vs Experian

Are you still on the fence between TransUnion and Experian? To reach an objective, informed decision much quicker, consider the following factors:

  • Budget: We always advise clients to go beyond prices when assessing ID theft prevention tools. However, you don’t have to break the bank for reliable monitoring.  
  • Credit Standing: Debtors with multiple outstanding dues, lapsed accounts, and high-value transactions might need more in-depth monitoring.
  • Data Privacy: If your PII has recently been exposed, invest in sophisticated ID theft prevention and credit monitoring tools that scour thousands of online and offline records.

If neither TransUnion nor Experian meets your needs, feel free to consider other ID theft protection tools.

Reasons why credit scores vary per bureau

Credit bureaus provide different credit scores because they:

  • Use different scoring models. Check whether your preferred bureau uses a VantageScore or FICO scoring model. 
  • Collect different credit information. Not all institutions report their transactions to the three main credit bureaus. Some SMBs and small lenders only cooperate with one bureau.
  • Follow different credit rating factors. Credit bureaus prioritize varying factors (i.e., outstanding dues, filed bankruptcies, ongoing loans) when determining a debtor’s creditworthiness and overall risk.

Expect your scores to vary by 5 to 20 points per bureau.

When you might need credit bureaus

You should consider reaching out to the three main credit bureaus if you need to:

  • Check your credit standing: You can request credit reports and scores from the three main credit bureaus. They provide one free copy per annum. If you need more but don’t want to pay for premium monitoring, expect to shell out around $15 per extra copy.
  • Set up fraud alerts or freeze your credit: If you fear that someone might already have unauthorized access to your credit and banking information, consider setting up a fraud alert on your credit reports.
  • Dispute negative marks: Make sure to file disputes on errors, or else they’ll hurt your credit ratings across all bureaus.

Don’t shy from contacting credit bureaus. You can only protect your credit information and improve your credit rating if you utilize their services properly.

Monitoring your credit reports

You should monitor your credit reports routinely to improve your creditworthiness. Watch out for signs of ID theft, dispute negative marks, peruse your transactions, and keep track of score fluctuations.

Both TransUnion and Experian offer paid credit monitoring. However, note that you don’t necessarily need premium services to maintain good credit standing.

Pro Tip: All three credit bureaus provide free annual credit reports. Instead of pulling your 3-bureau ratings simultaneously, request one every three to four months.

That way, you’ll have a solid grasp of your credit all year round. After all, credit scores fluctuate significantly in just a few months, so you can’t solely rely on annual monitoring.

TransUnion vs Experian: Which is more reliable?

Both TransUnion and Experian, along with Equifax, provide reliable credit information. You’d do well to pull credit reports from all three credit bureaus if you want an accurate update on your credit standing.

Again, utilize your free credit reports properly. You don’t have to break the bank for standard credit score tracking and monitoring.

With that said, we also understand that some situations might require you to choose between TransUnion vs. Experian. After all, paying for two premium monitoring accounts doesn’t make much sense.

In these cases, you should weigh your options.

For robust, comprehensive personal credit monitoring, you should consider Experian. Alternatively, if you need an extensive credit checking package for your business or enterprise, try TransUnion instead.

Either way, we’d still advise pulling free credit report copies from the three major U.S. bureaus.

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