Ask FICO: What To Do When You Don’t Have A FICO Score Or Credit History

Ask FICO is a new Q & A column where our credit scoring expert, Tom Quinn answers common credit score and credit-related questions that you have. Post your questions on our Understanding FICO Scoring and General Credit Topics threads on the myFICO Forums.

The question this month: “I found out that I don’t have a FICO® Score. What should I do to establish a credit history?”

While most U.S. consumers have FICO® Scores, not everyone does.  In order to generate a FICO® Score, your credit report must have the following:

  • At least one account opened for six months or more, and
  • At least one account that has been reported to the credit bureau within the past six months, and
  • No indication of deceased on the credit report

The minimum scoring criteria may be satisfied by a single account or by multiple accounts on a credit file. In certain rare cases, whether a given credit report qualifies for a FICO® Score may vary across different FICO® Score versions.

Initially establishing a credit history can be a challenging process as many lenders want to see how you have managed your credit before extending you new credit. Here are some actions you may want to consider if you don’t have a credit history:

  • Apply for a secured credit card.  Most lending institutions offer secured cards and most will report your performance on the secured card to the credit bureaus.  FICO® Scores consider the reported secured card information like any credit card.  Using the card, paying on time and keeping balances low relative to the credit limit can help you establish credit and qualify for the minimum scoring criteria.
  • Be a co-applicant on a credit card or loan. Engage with a family member or close friend who has good credit and would be willing to be a co-applicant with you.  If approved, the lender will report the performance to the credit bureaus on both applicants, which can help you establish your credit history.  Note: in this scenario, the primary and co-applicant are both legally responsible for the credit.
  • Become an authorized user on a credit card.  Again, engage with a family member or close friend who has good credit and would be willing to have you as an authorized user on their credit card.  The card issuer will typically report the credit card performance to the credit bureaus on both the primary cardholder and the authorized user, which can help you establish your credit history.  Note: if the primary cardholder misses payments or runs up the card balance, it will likely be posted to your credit report as well and could negatively impact your credit rating.
  • Periodically use your credit. Some people don’t like to use credit – and that’s fine, but it could result in you not meeting the minimum scoring criteria due to lack of recent activity.  This situation can be avoided if you periodically use a credit card or other revolving credit (make a small charge and pay it off when the statement arrives in the mail) so that activity on that card is reported to the credit bureau.

As the U.S. economy is heavily credit-centric, having a valid FICO® Score can help you be ready for those times when credit-related needs surface.

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Tom Quinn

Tom Quinn is the Vice President of Business Development for myFICO and has over 25 years of experience working with consumers, regulators, and lenders regarding credit related questions and initiatives.