5 Free Ways To Find Out Which Credit Bureau Banks Use & Why It Matters

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Banks access or “pull” your credit report whenever you apply for credit.

In my experience, once you cross a certain number of hard (consumer initiated) credit inquiries over a 2 year period, your chance of getting approved for credit cards and other loans reduces greatly.

I estimate this to be between 12 to 16 inquires per credit bureau, and remember that there are 3 main credit bureaus in the US: TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian.

If you are continuously applying for credit, there is a very good chance that you are financially stressed, and less likely to pay back your debt.  Banks don’t like that.

I suspect that banks have developed an algorithm which flags an applicant as risky if he or she has more than a certain number of credit inquiries over a 2 year period.

To increase your chances of approval, you could stagger the credit cards you apply for over a 2 year period, so that you apply for no more than 12 to 16 cards per credit bureau.

For example, you could apply for 2 credit cards every 4 months from each of the 3 credit bureaus.  That way, in a 2 year period you will have 12 inquiries from each of the 3 credit bureaus.

However, this may not work if you have a short credit history (less than 4 to 5 years).

Which Credit Bureau Will a Bank Use?

The main factor in determining which credit bureau a bank will use appears to be based on where you stay.

And some banks will pull your credit report from more than 1 credit bureau.

1.   Credit Pulls Database.   Credit Boards hosts the “credit pulls” database which contains user-submitted information on which banks pull from which credit reporting agency, credit card applied for, credit score of applicant etc.

In my experience, the Credit Pulls database is a good starting point, but sometimes has limited and outdated information.

How to use the credit pulls database:

Step 1:   Visit Credit Boards

Step 2:    Click on “Credit Pulls” in the top right header

Credit Pulls Database

Creditpulls Database Shows Which Credit Bureaus Banks Use

Step 3:   Enter the name of the bank in the “Creditor Name” field.  As an example, enter “Citi”

Leave the “CRA” (Credit Reporting Agency) field blank, unless you want to sort by credit bureau

Leave the “Score Needed” field blank as well

Select the state in which you live.  As an example, select “Florida

Step 4:  Hit the “Search” button.

You will see results for different Citi credit card offerings along with the credit bureau used together with information on where the applicant lived.

Credit Pulls Database 2

Creditpulls Results For Florida

In the example above, an applicant for the Citi AAdvantage Master Card from Jacksonville, FL reported a credit inquiry to Experian.

This doesn’t mean that Citi will always use Experian for applicants from Jacksonville, FL but it is a good starting point.

2.   FlyerTalk Credit Pulls Database.  There is a FlyerTalk thread where folks list where they live, credit card applied for, and which credit bureau was used.  This thread is informative, but you have to read each post to see if your state is listed.

I suppose you could use the search feature (which doesn’t search very well), but it may just be faster to skim the 5 pages instead!

3.   Your Credit Report.  Your credit report contains a list of all your credit inquiries – both “hard” and “soft” for the past 2 years.

If you’ve applied for credit cards from different banks in the last 2 years (credit inquiries fall off after that), you could look at your credit report and see which credit bureaus were used.

For example, if you applied for a Chase credit card last year, you could just look at your credit report to see which credit bureau was used by Chase.

You can get free access to your credit report, from each of the 3 credit bureaus, from AnnualCreditReport.com which is the only FTC authorized source for your annual free credit report.

In addition, you can (and should) get a free copy of your credit report every time you are denied credit or an adverse action was taken because of information on your credit report.

Why?  Because it is free, and it doesn’t hurt to review your credit report for accuracy.

Here are links to the free or discounted request pages of the 3 credit bureaus:

I usually access my credit report electronically and save a PDF version to my computer using the free Primo PDF software.  Remember that your free credit report doesn’t include your credit score.

4.  Who Gave Me Credit.   Who Gave Me Credit is another website with user-generated information on credit scores and inquiries.

However, I find this site to be of limited use because folks often enter in their credit scores from ALL the 3 bureaus, making it hard to determine which credit bureau was really used.

I use Who Gave Me Credit more as a guide to what are the acceptable credit score ranges than to look at which credit bureau the banks used.

5.   Denial or Adverse Action.   By law, you have the right to know which credit bureau supplied the information, if you are denied credit, employment, insurance or anything else based on your credit score.

So while this is a way of finding out which credit bureau a bank used, it may not be the most helpful method, since it happens after you’ve applied for credit.

But this may be useful to know for future use, or if you have carefully filed all your previous denial notices.  Just pull ’em out and see which bureau was used!

Banks do change which credit bureaus they use, so you shouldn’t assume that they will always use the same credit bureau for your state.

Bottom Line:

If you apply for only a few (3 to 4) credit cards a year, you may not have to worry about which credit bureau was used.

However, if you apply for a lot of credit cards, you may want to know which credit bureau a bank is likely to use, since too many inquiries to 1 particular credit bureau will reduce the liklihood of getting approved.

And as always, don’t apply for credit cards if you will apply for a big loan in the next 2 years.

Have you been unable to apply for credit cards because you had a lot of inquiries on your credit report?  Tell us in the comments!

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76 responses to “5 Free Ways To Find Out Which Credit Bureau Banks Use & Why It Matters

  1. Try searching in the forums at myfico.com as well. Or if you can’t find a relevant thread, just post a question asking what CRA is pulled for ____ bank in ______ location. People there are pretty responsive.

  2. Wow, love that Credit Boards site… thanks.

    • @Darren – Credit Boards has a lot of neat information on it. I particularly like seeing the range of scores which get approved or rejected for credit cards.

      @Jon – I agree – it is nice to see how many inquiries you have without having to wait 12 months to get your free credit report! Thanks for the tip!

  3. Although it won’t show you the underlying detail (i.e. which banks/lenders the inquiries came from), you can keep tabs on the total number of hard inquiries on your TransUnion report through Credit Karma.

    If you click on the section called Credit Report Card, Credit Karma lists the number of hard inquiries, along with a few other useful data points:

    – Open Credit Card Utilization
    – Percent of On-Time Payments
    – Average Age of Open Credit Lines
    – Total Accounts
    – Derogatory Marks

    In my opinion, it’s nice to have access to this information during the 12 months in between my free TransUnion reports.

  4. How do you find out after you’ve been approved for a card what CRA that they used? I cannot use a free credit report at this time to check, and did want to leave information on creditboards because when I checked for my state (CT) there was very little info posted.

    • @Joe – Your credit card may be accompanied by official looking documents which list your credit score and agency used (for recent applications). You could also call the reconsideration line or customer service line and ask them to confirm the credit reporting agency used. Generally, they don’t do this, but it depends on the agent and how you phrase the question. You could also sign up for a free credit monitoring service, access your credit report, and then cancel within the trial period.

  5. Just wanted to say “Thank You” for this very useful information. I have bookmarked Credit Boards and will definitely use it. I appreciate your blog because you give really helpful information. Thanks as usual!

  6. @ Joe
    Credit Karma (which pulls TransUnion) will let you know if you have new inquiries. It won’t tell you who they are from, but it will update with new inquiries. I think there’s a similar free service for Experian, Quizzle? I’ve not used it and not sure if it identifies inquiries. This wouldn’t be helpful for someone applying for six new cards, but you could figure out for one application which was pulled so long as you can see inquiries on at least two.

  7. Great post Daraius! I have been meaning to ask about this for a while. Two further questions: first, what is the basis for your estimate of 12-16 cards per bureau? Second, is the 2 year period a standard of the banks or the bureaus (or is it not a standard at all)? Might some banks examine a shorter period?

    • @Peter – 12 to 16 cards per bureau over 2 years is based on my personal experience, and reading threads on FlyerTalk and FatWallet. Credit inquiries show up on your credit report for 2 years. Different banks have different policies, and inquiries in the near term likely get weighted higher than those further out. But after 2 years, banks won’t be able to see the total number of inquiries.

  8. I have an existing Citi AA visa that I got about 8 months ago and attempted to apply for both the Citi AA mastercard and the Citi AA business visa with the 2 browser trick just last week in an attempt to get another 150,000 points. BOTH were denied. My credit score > 740 and I always pay on time. This was the first time I was denied credit in over 10 years. I believe the mastercard was denied because I’m an existing cardholder and the offer was for new customres but they denied the AA business visa because of too many hits on my credit report. We purchased a rental property a few months ago and got a mortgage for it, and I since considered refinancing my mortgage on my own house and my credit was checked then, alhtough we ultimately decided not to. So it seems to be not just the score, but also the number of recent hits.

  9. While you can receive a free credit report each year from each of the three credit reporting agencies, these free credit reports do not provide your credit score. I think this is worth mentioning as well, in case anybody gets these free reports expecting to see their credit score.

    • @zzd – You were likely denied for the personal cards because you were a previous card holder. The current reports are that if you wait 18+ months since your last application you may get the cards again.

      You are absolutely right that banks look to see how many times you’ve applied for credit, because that is an indicator of whether you will pay the loan back or not. That’s why we try to juggle applications among the different bureaus.

      @anon – I’ll make that clearer. Thanks for the suggestion!

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  12. That is a great tip and a great tool. I have always recommended that people not apply for credit too much in a short period of time, but i didn’t realize there was a specific number that your should go over. The “credit pulls” database will come in handy. thanks

  13. Thanks everyone for the information, the CC arrived today w/ the credit bureau name and score today, so I will post it on the CreditBoard site.

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  15. My only problem with credit karma is that its missing quite a few of my hard credit inquiries. I’m really debating paying a monthly fee at some other site so I can be assured I am getting the right score and report. Any thoughts?

    • @Nick M – Credit Karma is just a proxy and if you want your real credit score it may be worth paying for a service. I don’t currently, but have been considering signing up for a service. You can also check you free credit report to see your hard hits, or request one every time you get denied credit.

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  17. Darius,

    Thank you for your insight. I decided to pull all three of my credit reports today. When looking at the hard pulls I noticed that Capital One pulled from all the three credit bureau’s for the Capital One Visa Signature on June of 2010. ( I got this card due to no transaction fees and before I was informed of all the deals that were available) Chase, American Express, and Citi only pulled from one. Is this common from Capital One? Do any other banks pull from all three bureau’s?

    I also noticed that Transunion and Experian have different scoring systems. Why is that?

    Thanks in advance!

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  20. I’m trying to get my children’s credit developed and get them miles. Can you tell me the best cards to do this with and what’s the easiest ones to get approved. One is just 17 so I guess he just needs to start with any credit card at the time. Thanks

    • @Carla Theriot – It’s great that your thinking of establishing their credit history which is going to be very helpful when they apply for miles & points cards later on. Student credit cards are usually the best 1st cards to get and once you establish a pattern of making charges and paying the balance off in full for about 6 to 9 months it should be easier to get approved for the more lucrative miles and points cards. You have to be at least 18 to get a credit card (and have income in your name or have a parent/gurardian co-sign). For a 17 year old, it may be better to add him/her as an additional user to your credit card and then apply for a student credit card at 18.

  21. Thanks.
    am thinking of applying for a car loan in a month or two. do you think it will hurt my apporved rate if I apply for the ink bold today with the intention of using muy continental one pass as leverage if denied? my score is around 730

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  23. My Question is pretty simple:
    There are multiple credit bureaus in the market.How does a bank decide which credit bureau to use for granting a loan/credit card for an individual/bussiness.

  24. @Million Mile Secret
    Again, There will be multiple bureaus where I live in. So that could not be the only reason. When we see the list we find that a bank accept/reject a loan and give specific detail that it used the credit report/score from a certain credit bureau.
    So it’s obvious that they choose one out of many credit bureau and based on the credit report/Score and its own benchmark they finalize the approval/rejection.
    Please throw a light how do they choose which one to use for which individual.
    Please confirm your answer if anyone of your friend works in bank so that answers will be verified.

  25. And one more doubt over your answer as to why they decide based on where do we live. Also how will our living place be helpful in choosing one credit bureau among so many.

  26. Due to cost issue, A bank can not pull the credit score/report from all the credit bureaus to decide the fate of one individual/business. So they have to make up their mind as to which credit bureau should be used for one certain individual/Business. Now how do they reach to a concensus that this particular credit bureau can be used to decide approval/rejection. Hope now I am clear enough in my question.

  27. Darius – I think I may have made a tactical error with my apps. On each app for my wife or myself I have always added the other as an authorized user. We can really manage and target our spending that way. I have read conflicting information about whether authorized users get charged with a hard inquiry. Well, in May I just did an app-o-rama for my wife with 6 cards and got them all, was expecting her score to go down but not mine. My Credit Sesame score when down 22 points from May to June. Credit Karma shows no change it score but most of the new account balances are showing which I expected because we are married. Can you shed a little light on authorized users and if hard queries are in fact being charged or if they can be avoided. Planning an app-o-rama for myself in July need to proceed with caution. Thanks.

  28. When Registering for Creditkarma.com or Creditsesame.com, they ask for SSN. Do you know if they do a show as soft inquiry or hard inquiry on the respective credit reports? I would assume soft but want to be very careful about these. Thanks.

  29. Darius,
    Thanks for your excellent resource. I just recently applied for a Chase Southwest credit card and they pulled Equifax. However, they said that they will be reporting to all 3 agencies.

    I know that I will receive a hard pull from Equifax, but will I also have hard pulls from Experian and Transunion if they are only reported, but not pulled from Chase? My experian report is currently showing that Chase viewed my credit.

    Thanks for your help!!

    • @Paige – You won’t have hard pulls from the other 2 agencies, but Chase will report your balance and credit information to the other bureaus as well. All issuers usually report to all 3 bureaus, but may not pull your credit from all 3 bureaus.

  30. Thank you, Darius. This is very helpful! 🙂

  31. You mention not applying for more cards within 24 months of a new loan –
    As a corollary, do you suggest shutting down some cards — if you have many — in advance of applying for a mortgage if the application will occur in 18-24 months?

  32. the 12 – 16 limit you talk about in the article, does this include all types of inquires or just inquiries for credit cards and lines of credit? For example I have 6 or 7 inquiries, but they are for mortgages and a car loan, and a utility.

  33. I applied and was approved for the Chase Priority Club credit card and then saw on my credit report that there were 2 hard inquiries on the application date. One was listed as Chase using Equifax and one was listed as First USA, NA using Experian. Isn’t this the same company, and why would they pull from two credit bureaus? How do you know if an application will generate more than 1 hard pull?

  34. I recently applied for 6 cc and my credit scores from all 3 bureaus were hit severely. Transunion from 800 to 692; Experian from 798 to 752; and Equifax from 793 to 732. Really big hit. I have never been late to payments. Is there a reason for such a hard hit?

    • @Happy Feet – Is your utilization on the cards high? There is usually a small hit, which you make up in a few month because of the larger lines of credit available to you. I’d go through your credit reports to make sure everything is okay.

  35. Do you know if there is any way to get it to use a certain bureau? I have about 12 hard inquiries each on Transunion and Experian and zero on Equifax. I’ve used about every major bank and none in central Illinois use Equifax. My wife is in a similar situation except she has one hit from Cabella’s in Kansas City (she knows now not to get a credit card just for free beef jerky and a hat). I was wondering, for example, if I found out the US Bank in Kansas City (where my wife’s family is from) tended to use Equifax, could I go into a branch there and apply for a card and get it to go to Equifax? Or is it only based on my home address?

  36. CreditBoards’ “Credit Pulls” show different bureaus for the same card applications in the same state. What does that mean?

    • @Paul – You could try freezing a bureau, but not all banks will pull from a different bureau with a credit freeze.

      – It varies by where you live in the state and the banks could have changed which credit bureau they use.

  37. Hey Everyone,
    I was looking for a new credit card a while back and came a across a few websites that were helpful like whogavemecredit etc.. I thought these sites where a bit outdated, although they were still a good resource. So I decided to make a new website, that will hopefully help people out when looking for a new credit card. If you like what you see I ask that you help grow the database so it can become a valuable resource. its called

  38. What if you have 16 hard inquiries but were denied them all? Even as small as a bass pro shops card? How are you supposed to get accepted? I was not aware until recently that they stay on the report for two years …

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  40. Hello !

    just got denied for Citi AA business card because of “high number of inquiries”.

    1. Do these inquiries drop off in 6 months or 2 years ?
    2. is there a good software or website (free or paid) where you can track all your activities, inquiries, etc… so you can plan your CC applications ?

    Thank you !

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  42. i got denied credit card and loan for business because my i am modifying my home and am late on payments

  43. How do i get inquires off my tu its hard anybody know

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  45. Hello everyone, I just wanted to chime in here because I was searching on Google regarding this due to being declined for a new credit card. I think this really does matter, because I applied for 3 new cards back in July of 2013. I just applied for the Southwest Premier Personal and Business. Interestingly enough I was approved for the business card (my first business card ever) but declined for the personal.

    I called the reconsideration line and asked if there was more information that I could provide, and they checked on my application again. They told me that my exposure was too high, and I clarified about total credit limit, to which the specialist said the total line with Chase was high ($25,000). I then asked if I could reduce the limit on one of my Chase cards to make room for the other. He checked and got back to me saying that they will not be able to do that either, because I have too many new accounts open in the last six months. He then noted my previous Chase card, the new Chase card, a Citi card, and an Amex card.

    He said they would like to see a little more usage and age on those accounts before they approve any additional accounts for me. Unfortunately, there was nothing more I could do at this time to get the account approved — therefore it is my first wasted credit pull.

    On the plus side, I’m not in a big rush to get the Companion pass, because my wife and I will not be able to use it until much later in the year anyway. Perhaps I will try again next quarter or early summer (whenever the 50,000 point offer is going).

    P.S. The rejection letter listed Equifax as the agency for my Chase Southwest application.

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  47. Hi Daraius. Thanks for a super informational post. I will apply for student loans next year since I will be starting grad school. Would you advise not to apply for other credit cards given the type of loan? I actually thought that getting cards would help me build up my nascent credit history with these loans in mind.

    I have around 8 months of impeccable credit card payments and a car loan I fully knocked out over the past three years. I have 15k credit line with a CSP and around 4k with a Banana Republic card I am about to cancel.

    Thanks in advance.

  48. Daraius, do you mean before or after taking out the loans? My concern is applying for CCs before applying for student loans. I am concerned that the loan issuers would give me higher interest rates or just deny me, based on a recent credit history with multiple hard credit inquiries.

    • @Joseph – I did both, but it is best to do what you’re comfortable. The possibility of higher interest rates and being denied isn’t very appealing, so perhaps best to wait until the loans are approved.

  49. Daraius,

    Are these still the five best free ways to determine where your application was pulled from? Does the card issuer provide that information once you have been accepted (i.e. is it given or could you ask for it?)

    Just wanted to make sure. Thanks!

  50. I am still kind of confused by this. If you apply for two credit cards that pull from the same bureau on the same day, that counts as two hard pulls?

    Also, as far as knowing which pulls were from which bureau, do each of the three not share this info with each other so a total aggregate number is reported on future pulls?? Because it would seem to me that you could then have different FICO numbers from each.

  51. I have a Equifax of 713 and Trans union of 652. As when shopping for car yesterday same dealership pulled two scores from Transunion
    One for dealership and one for bank. They told me they would only pull one. I had to lift a credit freeze so they could do the one. Not two hard pulls from same place. Do I have legal recourse?

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