Which Credit Bureau to Unfreeze

Many credit card companies will only pull your report from a single credit bureau to determine your creditworthiness. Accordingly, when you are applying for a credit card, it is possible to apply with only a single credit bureau unfrozen and get approved. For this reason, we’ve crunched the data from historical credit applications into the table below to help everyone decide which bureau to unfreeze when applying for credit.

Protip: Only unfreeze the bureau(s) your lender uses

Before you apply for a new credit card, if you previously froze your credit, then you need to unfreeze your credit. To save time and effort, you may only need to unfreeze a single bureau for the application, and can leave the remaining two bureaus frozen. Most credit card companies use a single bureau as their “primary” bureau, and a second bureau as a “backup,” that may not be used. On the other hand, some credit card companies always pull your credit file from two bureaus, regardless of your credit score or past relationship with the company.

Credit Bureau Use by Card Company

Equifax LogoExperian Credit Bureau LogoTransUnion Credit Bureau Logo
American Express LogoPrimaryBackupBackup
Chase LogoYesYesYes
Citi LogoPrimaryPrimaryBackup
Bank of American LogoBackupPrimaryBackup
Capital One logoYesYesYes
US Bank LogoSecondarySecondaryPrimary
Discover LogoPrimarySecondarySecondary
Synchrony LogoBackupBackupPrimary
WellsFargo LogoYesYesYes
Barclays LogoBackupBackupPrimary

Table Legend:
Yes – The issuer uses this and other bureaus in roughly the same frequency. May depends on which US state you are applying from.
Primary – more than 50% of issuer applications use this bureau
Secondary – between 10-50% of issuer applications use this bureau
Backup – less than 10% of issuer applications use this bureau. This bureau was likely pulled if the primary bureau’s credit score was close, but not high enough to approve the account.

Source: Historical credit bureau pull data from creditboards.com.

Chase Logo Which credit bureau to unfreeze (all “primary”) by State:

AL, IL, IN, KY, MI, MS, MT, NE, NH, OK, PA, VT, WITransUnion
AZ, AR, CA, CO, CT, DE, MA, NV, NJ, NY, TX, UT, WA, WVExperian
FL, KS, LA, MD, MN, NC, OR, SC, VAExquifax
AK, HI, IA, ID, ME, MO, NM, ND, OH, RI, SD, TN, WY, DCNo clear pattern

Why card companies operate this way

When your credit is unfrozen and a lender checks your creditworthiness, the lender pays each credit bureau a small fee. The cost to the lender is typically $1-2, and gets cheaper with more volume. That fee may not sound like much, but fees add up quickly when a lender processes thousands of credit applications each day. To reduce costs, lenders may not check your credit at all three bureaus when you apply for credit. Instead, the lender may only pull your credit file from a single bureau. The type of credit you apply for has a major impact on the number of bureaus that a lender uses. For example, it’s common for mortgage lenders to pull all three bureaus, since a mortgage is a high dollar loan and worth the extra cost.