Ask an Expert: Why Don’t I Have a Credit Report?

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A Reader Asks …

“I tried getting a credit report through Experian, and they weren’t able to find anything. The information I provided was correct. For some reason, it seems as though I don’t have a credit report. Why is this happening?”  —Yvonne

Credit Karma Answers …

This is a great question—and one that can definitely be confusing. There are two likely reasons. The best-case scenario is easily fixed, while the worst-case scenario will take some time to remedy.

Best-Case Scenario: The information on your report is different or wrong.

When you attempt to get a copy of your credit report online, you have to enter information, such as your name, date of birth, mailing address and Social Security number. This information is used by credit bureaus to help match you with your credit report.

If you’ve moved several times or changed your name, it can be difficult for the credit bureau to locate the correct report for you. Plus, credit reports can contain errors. If your name or address is misspelled on your credit report, Experian may not have been able to find it.

What you can do: Use the steps described in this checklist to attempt to get a credit report again. This time, try using information like your former name(s) and address(es). If that doesn’t work, use a different credit bureau, like Equifax or TransUnion. You can also check your credit score through Credit Karma, which uses the same type of process to match you with your TransUnion credit report. If this strategy doesn’t work, keep reading.

Worst-Case Scenario: You’ve never opened a credit account.

Not everyone has a credit report, which documents your history as a borrower. So you don’t have one until you’ve opened your first credit account. If you’ve never had a credit card, auto loan, mortgage, student loan, personal loan or other line of credit, you won’t have a credit report.

Also, if your credit lines don’t report to one or more credit bureaus, then you won’t have a credit report with those bureaus. For instance, if your one credit card reports only to Equifax, then you will have a credit report there, but you won’t with Experian or TransUnion. While you could ask your creditor to report to all three bureaus, it may not honor your request.

What you can do: It can be difficult to gain access to credit if you don’t have any to begin with. If you don’t plan to borrow in the future, you might not need to worry—but if you someday hope to apply for a mortgage or an auto loan (or any other line of credit), you should begin building credit now.

A good place to start is with a secured credit card, which typically doesn’t require a credit check, and it’s backed by a security deposit from you. It reports to the credit bureaus, and can eventually be converted into an unsecured credit card. The one catch? Secured credit cards can sometimes come with an annual fee, so do your research before you apply. 

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