Disclaimer: This article is not legal advice. Any legal information is not the same as legal advice, where an attorney applies the law to your specific circumstances, so you should consult an attorney if you’d like advice on your interpretation of this information or its accuracy. You may not rely on this article as legal advice, nor as an endorsement of any particular legal understanding.
Are some credit reports better than others? That’s a tough question to ask, because the answer really depends on what you need. For the average consumer, a single credit report or reporting agency can give them the most important details needed to manage their credit at low or no cost.
When seeking a credit report as a lender, there is often a demand to get the “big picture” in credit reports by seeking an all-in-one or all-inclusive report, sometimes referred to as a tri-merge report. This report is created by compiling data from the “Big 3” in credit.
Who are the “Big 3” in credit reporting?
The “Big 3” in credit are typically referred to when discussing the primary credit reporting agencies of Transunion, Experian, and Equifax. Almost all credit decisions can be traced back to the data on these reports.
The other big players in credit reporting are FICO scores and Vantage scores, but these aren't reporting agencies themselves, but rather risk algorithms that create scores based on the agencies above. Different types of credit reports, just as different scores, again use the base data in the “Big 3” reports.
What is a tri-merge credit report?
A tri-merge credit report is a credit report that merges the data from the “Big 3” reporting agencies into a single report. Instead of having to pull individual reports for each agency, the person or party checking credit is able to get all of the necessary information in a single report. This single report may or may not show the entire history of a person based on the information parameters set or the specific request.
A tri-merge report is often preferred when looking for the “whole picture” of an applicant as each agency can vary somewhat in which details are listed on a credit report. By using a report that combines data from all their agences there it is easier to compare and contrast data to identify risks or anomalies that might not be visible in a single report.
How is a tri-merge report different from a traditional credit report?
A tri-merge report is different from a single report primarily because it combines multiple reporting agency data in a single output. A tri-merge report may also be obtained from the central reporting agency for Transunion, Experian, and Equifax through the Fair Credit Reporting Act via the nationally recognized website.
In short, single reports are free and highly detailed, tri-merge reports often cost to obtain and sometimes have abbreviated data or additional insights. Free tri-merge reports that are not offered through the national and official website may ask you to later sign up for a paid service.
Who uses a tri-merge credit report?
The most common reason to obtain a tri-merge credit report is to review credit for a mortgage, which is why mortgage lenders are the most common requestors of this type of report. Now to be clear, this is your mortgage lender, not your real estate agent. If an agent asks to run your credit for a tri-merge credit report, you should definitely ask why as they aren’t the ones financing your loan.
Beyond mortgage lenders, you may find other agencies that use a tri-merge report follow the same ideas as single credit report requests. You may see a tri-merge report used by an auto lender, rental or leasing agent, or by a future employer. There is no hard and fast rule about who can request a tri-merge report -- as long as the person the report is about has granted permission.
One additional report you may see used by mortgage lenders is a specialized type of tri-merge report called a Residential Mortgage Credit Reports (RMCRs). While some tri-merge reports may abbreviate or summarize data for easier reading, mortgage lenders typically require as much data as they can get. Depending on a person’s use of credit and credit history, this may result in multiple very, very long credit reports that are difficult to compare. An RMCR is created after a mortgage lender hires an outside party to compile this data in an easier-to-read format. An RCMR will not typically be available for free, as there is work required in it’s creation beyond data gathering.
How can a consumer get their own tri-merge report?
Persons can get their own tri-merge credit reports, although it is not typical nor necessarily cost-effective to get the more detailed RMCR for personal use. Persons can obtain a standard tri-merge general report by requesting one at the nationally recognized annualcreditreport.com once a year.
Outside of this free report, it is generally recommended to get tri-merge reports from an online credit monitoring agency. These monitoring agencies frequently offer an initial report for free to help entice users to sign up for regular credit monitoring. Check with each agency to see what one-time and recurring costs are before obtaining a credit report. Users will also want to review whether the credit reports offered are truly tri merge or whether only 1 or 2 of the primary reporting agencies are represented in the data.
Additionally, many companies that are the victims of data monitoring will offer complimentary credit monitoring services for those customers who have been affected. If this same agency offers tri-merge credit reports then users may be able to get these reports at no cost as well.
What is a tri-merge credit report? In essence, a tri-merge report is a compiled report from the three credit reporting agencies (Transunion, Experian, and Equifax). Tri-merge reports typically improve readability on what can otherwise be a large amount of data for lenders to process. Tri-merge reports are available to anyone that can access a credit report, but are most commonly used by mortgage lenders.