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Equifax is one of the leading U.S. credit bureaus. Bankrate explains what they do.

What is Equifax?

Equifax is a credit bureau. Equifax tracks the credit history of borrowers in order to generate credit reports and credit scores. It sells this information to banks and other financial institutions in order to help them determine the credit risk of their customers. The other leading U.S. credit bureaus are Fair Isaac Corp. (FICO), Experian, and TransUnion.

Deeper definition

Equifax’s roots reach back to 1898, when the firm was founded in Chattanooga, Tennessee, as the Retail Credit Company, to research the creditworthiness of customers for a local grocers’ association. Within a decade and a half, the company expanded into the insurance business and began doing business overseas. Management adopted the name Equifax in 1979, and acquired major data companies in the 1980s and 1990s to become one of the leading U.S. credit bureaus.

Equifax credit reports are highly detailed, showing each open and closed account belonging to an individual as well as whether payments were made on time. If you’ve been past due on a credit card bill or a student loan, your Equifax credit report will show the exact month and year of that late payment.

However, late payments don’t remain on the report forever. In most cases, negative information like a past due balance remains on the report for seven years, while positive accounts remain on the report for 10 years.

In addition to account information, the Equifax report shows any liens against your assets and debts that have been reported to collection agencies.

A good way to start building a credit history is with a credit card. Bankrate can help you choose from some of the most rewarding credit cards.

Equifax example

Equifax receives its information straight from creditors like mortgage companies, credit card companies, and auto lenders. These companies usually report to all three major credit bureaus but not all do. In addition, your Equifax report may pull public records like any bankruptcies or tax liens to provide an accurate picture of your financial health.

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