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 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,” which 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 with roughly the same frequency. It may depend 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, VAEquifax
AK, HI, IA, ID, ME, MO, NM, ND, OH, RI, SD, TN, WY, DCNo clear pattern

Why lenders operate this way

When your credit is unfrozen, and a lender checks your creditworthiness, the lender pays each credit bureau a small fee. The typical cost is $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 daily. 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 significant impact on the number of bureaus that a lender uses. For example, it’s common for mortgage lenders to pull all three bureau reports since a mortgage is a high-dollar loan worth the extra cost.