The Evolution of the Credit Report

Written by Alex Bach

Like all things, credit reports had a beginning, too. And like most new  inventions, it started out somewhat clunky and only improved as the years went by. Take a look at the evolution of the credit report and see how far it has come.

If you’ve got a question about your credit reporting agency, you can search our list of credit reporting agencies and see the information we have on hand for them.

The Evolution of the Credit Report

The Beginning:

Much as their main purpose today, credit reports started as a way for businesses to protect themselves as against you, the consumer.  More specifically, against customers who failed to pay for the items they took out on credit with their local stores. The stores realized they could all gain if they shared information on which of their customers paid, and which didn’t. The initial “reports” were comprised of information largely deemed subjective by today’s standards. These small bands of credit reporters were called mutual protection societies.

In order to make this information more accessible–not just relegated to small towns–these mutual protection societies converged into third-party credit agencies: the first installation of credit agencies such as Experian, TransUnion and Equifax. As these credit reporting agencies grew, so did the standards of their information collection, going to a more objective “payment” only history.

The Age of Computer:

Computers are clearly the fastest, most accessible and most reliable way to compile and share credit information. Which is why as soon as the advent of the computer in the ’60s and ’70s credit reporting moved to a computer system. This meant that credit agencies were no longer impacted by geography and could compile a resource for the whole nation.


The Fair Credit Report Act brought about the next evolution of the credit report. The law passed in 1970 and established certain rights for consumers, credit reports, and regulations for credit bureaus. This meant consumers had the right to see their credit scores–and who could request them.  It also meant setting certain guidelines about what information can be included in the report. The FCRA has been amended here and there over the years as new requests, procedures and technologies have arisen.

The FCRA, in addition to the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act of 2003, are responsible for the current report we have today.