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Understanding Tri-Mortgage Credit Reports: Here’s What You Should Know

Dan Rafter5-minute read

April 15, 2021

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Mortgage lenders take on a risk every time they loan money to home buyers. There’s no guarantee, after all, that these buyers will make their payments on time each month. And if buyers stop making their payments completely, lenders are the ones who lose money.

That’s why lenders study the credit scores and credit reports of buyers before they approve them for mortgages. Both scores and reports tell lenders how well buyers have managed their credit and whether they’ve paid their bills on time. This helps reduce the risk of passing out mortgage dollars.

When you apply for a mortgage, then, you might hear the term “tri-merge credit report.” What is this? It’s a comprehensive look at your financial habits and could make the difference between you qualifying for a mortgage or receiving a rejection from your lender.

What Is A Tri-Merge Credit Report?

A tri-merge credit report, also known as a three-bureau report, combines the information from all three of your credit reports into one. It’s usually mortgage lenders who order tri-merge reports. They want the most comprehensive look at their borrowers’ credit history because they are lending their clients so much money.

You have three credit reports charting your past spending behaviors, one each created by the national credit bureaus of ExperianTM, Equifax® and TransUnion®. These reports contain information about your credit card accounts, loan accounts and payment history.

When you apply for a mortgage, your lender will pull these reports to determine how likely you are to make your home loan payments on time. If your credit reports show a history of missed or late payments? Your odds of qualifying for a mortgage will drop.

Your three-digit FICO® credit score is compiled from the information in these reports and provides lenders another snapshot of your financial habits. The more missed or late payments on your credit reports, the more likely it is that your FICO® Score will be low. FICO® Scores range from a low of 300 to a high of 850. Most lenders consider a score of 740 or higher to be excellent.

A tri-merge credit report combines the credit information collected from the three national credit bureaus of ExperianTM, Equifax® and TransUnion® into a single report. Mortgage lenders use tri-merge reports to boost the odds of lending to those borrowers who are most likely to make their monthly payments on time.

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What Does A Tri-Merge Credit Report Look Like?

A tri-merge credit report includes key financial information about you. This includes a list of your open credit card accounts and how much you owe on them. It also lists your open loan accounts – including mortgage, personal, student and car loans – and the balances on them.

A tri-merge report will also list any late payments you’ve made on these accounts during the last seven years. A payment is reported as late if you’ve made it 30 days or more past your due date.

Other negative financial information is included in these reports, including bankruptcy filings you’ve made in the last 7 or 10 years and foreclosures you’ve suffered in the last 7 years.

The more negative information in the reports, the less likely lenders are to approve you for a mortgage. Lenders don’t want to see high balances on your credit card accounts or late payments on any of your accounts.

One thing this report won’t include? Your credit scores. That’s because credit scores are never included in credit reports. The most important credit score, the FICO® Score, is maintained and created by the Fair Isaac Company. This company says that more than 90% of lenders use FICO® Scores when making lending decisions. Lenders will pull this score when you apply for a mortgage, but it won’t be included in either your individual credit reports or your tri-merge credit report.

Why Do Mortgage Lenders Look At Your Tri-Merge Credit Report?

When you apply to get a mortgage, you are asking lenders to take a big risk. They are lending you hundreds of thousands of dollars, hoping that you’ll pay them back on time each month. Yes, they make a profit thanks to the interest they charge on these loans. But if you stop paying your loans, that profit disappears.

Lenders look at your credit reports, including your tri-merge report, to make sure you have a history of paying your bills on time and managing your credit responsibly. They’re more comfortable lending to people with a good financial history.

Your tri-merge report also helps lenders set the interest rate on your loan. If your credit history is spotty, but not bad enough to result in a rejection, your lender will charge you a higher interest rate. This results in a higher monthly payment that acts as a financial safety net for lenders who are taking a risk on you.

How Does A Tri-Merge Credit Report Affect Your Mortgage Application?

Lenders each have their own credit requirements for borrowers who are buying a house. Some have more tolerance for risk than do others. Lenders will use the information contained on your credit reports, along with your FICO® credit score, to determine if they are comfortable lending you mortgage money.

A clean report and a high credit score will qualify you for mortgage loans at lower interest rates. If your report is spotty, with late payments and high credit card balances, you can still qualify for a mortgage loan. But you might have to accept a higher interest rate.

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How Do You Find Your Tri-Merge Credit Report?

You can’t order a copy of your tri-merge credit report. This report is only offered to lenders. However, you can order copies of your individual reports maintained by ExperianTM, Equifax® and TransUnion®.

You can even do this for free at www.AnnualCreditReport.com. Under federal law, you are allowed one free copy of each of your reports every year. This means you can order your reports from TransUnion®, Equifax® and ExperianTM at no cost every year.

Doing this is a smart move. Studying your credit reports will give you a better idea of what types of mortgages you might qualify for. If your report lists low account balances and no negative information such as missed payments, foreclosures or bankruptcies, you’re more likely to qualify for mortgages with low interest rates.

You might also want to order your FICO® credit score before you apply for a mortgage. Unfortunately, you can’t get this for free. You can order it for $19.95 from FICO. Your credit card provider or bank might also provide you with free credit scores. Just be aware that these free scores are rarely the same ones that lenders use when making lending decisions. Free scores, though, can give you a general idea of how strong your credit is as they usually don’t vary too much from your official FICO® Score.

The Bottom Line

Don’t worry about not being able to read your tri-merge credit report. You already have plenty of information about your financial history available to you in the form of the individual reports maintained by ExperianTM, Equifax® and TransUnion®. And if you want to boost your FICO® core, make all your monthly payments on time and pay down as much of your credit card debt as you can.

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Dan Rafter

Dan Rafter has been writing about personal finance for more than 15 years. He's written for publications ranging from the Chicago Tribune and Washington Post to Wise Bread, QuickenLoans.com and RocketHQ.com.