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In my experience, the Credit Pulls database is a good starting point, but sometimes has limited and outdated information.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