Having a thin credit file makes it more difficult to qualify for loans, credit cards, and a place to live, like an apartment. Even if you’re approved, your limited credit history may translate to higher interest rates or undesirable terms. Fortunately, you can build your file with a little time and patience, which will bring those low interest rates within reach.
What is a thin credit file?
If you have a thin file, that usually means you have too few accounts or the length of your credit history is too short to generate a credit score. The credit scoring models used by Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax require you to have at least one to two active accounts before you can start building your score. You will often be required to have a payment history of at least three to six months as well.
What causes a thin credit file?
Nobody starts out with credit. It’s something you build over time, but being young or new to credit aren’t the only reasons your file may be thin. Thin credit files can also be caused by the following scenarios:
- Primarily using cash or debit cards to pay your bills
- Only using credit in other peoples’ names, such as your spouse or parents
- Using credit and then stopping, making your report too old to generate a score
- Frequently moving or changing names, leading to split files
Credit bureaus have also been known to mistakenly list living persons as deceased, meaning they have no file at all. Unfortunately, correcting this misunderstanding often entails a lengthy process.
Is it a bad thing to have a thin credit file?
A thin file or limited credit history will both affect your ability to qualify for loans, credit cards, and mortgages. In some cases, a thin or nonexistent file can even make it difficult to do the following:
- Qualify for a rental home
- Get a cellphone
- Open a utility account
- Get a job
And even if you are approved, new credit users often pay higher interest rates, which will increase the overall cost of your loan as well.
Easy ways to fatten up a thin credit file
Building your credit file can take time and dedication, but it’s not impossible. Here’s how you can bulk up a thin credit file.
Apply for a secured card
A secured credit card requires you to put down a cash deposit that acts as your credit line. Since you secure your card, lenders are more comfortable providing these cards to people with short or negative credit histories. As you use the card, the lender reports your payment history to the bureau, helping you fatten your file.
Become an authorized user
When you become an authorized user on someone’s credit card account, their credit history reflects on your credit report. You don’t even have to use their card to reap the benefits! Ideally, you should ask friends or family who use debt responsibly so you can profit from their good habits.
Get a credit builder loan
Credit-builder loans are specifically designed to help you build credit. Essentially, the lender saves your loan in an escrow account that they control. Some will even earn interest.
From there, you’ll make fixed payments on the loan while the lender reports your payment history to the bureaus. Once you repay your debt, you’ll walk away with the money as well as a fatter file. It’s a win-win.
Report bills you already pay
Bills for things like rent, utilities, and streaming services don’t typically show up on your credit file. But some companies offer reporting services that will report on-time payments for these types of everyday bills. By adding them to your report, you can prove you have a history of on-time payments, even if you’ve never been in debt.
Keep tabs on your credit report
Your credit score is a three-digit number that reflects the information in your credit file. But the bureaus don’t always have accurate information. For instance, if you share a name with someone in your town, move frequently, or are mistaken as dead, you may have inaccurate or incomplete information in your file.
To ensure your file is accurate, you can request a free report from each bureau once per year at AnnualCreditReport.com. If you find any errors, dispute them with the bureau to correct your report and potentially raise your score.
When will I have a credit score?
It’s possible to have a credit score even if you have a thin credit file. Typically, you’ll need to open at least one account and make payments over the course of three to six months in order to generate a credit score with any of the bureaus.
Don’t let a thin credit file keep you down!
Fattening up your credit file takes time and usually a little bit of debt. But adding accounts to your report is only the first step. Once you take out a loan or credit card, it’s crucial to keep your balance low and payments up-to-date to build a positive credit history that will make lenders say, “Approved!”
What does thin credit file mean?
A thin credit file is generally defined as one with too little information to generate a credit score. But even if you do have a credit score, a thin file can make lenders wary of letting you borrow money.
How do you build credit if you have a thin file?
Some of the best ways to build credit include becoming an authorized user, taking out a secured card or credit-builder loan, or hiring a reporting service.
Why is my credit score thin?
You may have a thin file if you’re young, new to credit, or generally pay your bills in cash. It may also be thin if you stopped using credit around 7-10 years ago, as that’s how long it takes information to “expire” from your credit reports.