New to country, not wasting any time establishing credit

This post originally appeared November 26, 2015 on CreditCards.com as “Immigrant seeks to build good credit faster

By Barry Paperno

Dear Speaking of Credit,
Hello Barry, I hope you are doing well. I have four questions; 1. Will paying off my credit card debt in full every month lead the creditor to close that credit card because they are not making interest money of it? 2. I know that paying off credit card debt in full is theoretically considered positive; however, it is not proven to be a rapid credit score builder at least according to some consumers’ reviews online. But what about revolving a very small amount of money on a credit card as few consumers suggest? (i.e., revolving less than $50 balance on $2,200 credit card) Would that show that I am responsible borrower and so on boost my credit score? 3. I came to the United States in August 2013. Since my arrival, I have one personal loan at $3,000, on which I am paying $50 per month until now a days. A credit card at $2,200 (started in September 2014) which I pay off in full each month. Finally, I just got approved last month for another credit card at $1,000 (15 months, 0 percent APR). My question is why my Equifax is still not showing any information in my credit report? 4. What it takes to have all three bureaus show reports of my credit score? Note: The only one showing right now is TransUnion. — Haydar

Dear Haydar,
You’ve clearly done a great job of establishing credit since arriving in the U.S. a relatively short time ago. This despite some questionable advice regarding what it takes to boost credit scores (question No. 2) and in spite of some serious difficulty obtaining all of your credit reports and scores (Nos. 3 and 4). I hope to help you sort out some of the good advice from the bad and point you in the right direction toward getting access to all of your credit information at the credit bureaus.

1. Will paying off my credit card debt in full every month lead the creditor to close that credit card because they are not making interest money of it? It’s not likely. In addition to interest, annual fees, balance transfer fees and other sources of profit for credit granters, credit card companies also make money on interchange fees every time you use a card. This is a fee that the merchant pays the card processor for each credit card sale made.

Additionally, your card company is probably holding out the hope that one of these days you will go from “transactor” to “revolver” and become even more profitable to them. Simply continue using your cards for convenience and credit score building by paying in full each month — or with minimum payments, if you must — and they should remain open for as long as you continue to manage them responsibly.

2. I’m glad you’re paying your balance in full each month and not listening to those consumer reviews. Yours is a perfect example of why consumers should be skeptical of credit score-raising recommendations they read before taking actions that could turn out to be counterproductive.

There is no credit scoring advantage in revolving a balance from month to month, no matter how small the amount. Paying off all credit card debt each month and keeping your credit utilization below 10 percent are the quickest ways to build your credit score while saving money on interest.

3. It’s highly unlikely that with a personal loan and two credit cards you don’t have a credit file at Equifax, since virtually all creditors report to all three credit bureaus — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion — and you appear to be having no such problem obtaining your information from the other two bureaus. The problem then is that, while you undoubtedly have an Equifax credit file, you are simply unable to get access to it.

A likely cause is that the identifying information you’re providing when requesting your Equifax report — name, address, date of birth and Social Security number (if you have one) — is not sufficiently matching the identifying information Equifax has received from your creditors along with your account information. A good  match has to be made before the credit bureau can confidently be sure it’s delivering information to the right person.

To avoid coming up short the next time you request your Equifax credit report, be sure to include all addresses at which you’ve lived or have used as a billing address since arriving in the U.S. If after doing so you’re still unable receive a complete report, contact Equifax, requesting they look into your situation.

4. Based on what you’ve told us, TransUnion appears to be the only credit bureau showing both your credit information and your score, leaving you with an Experian report and no score and without access to either at Equifax.

Once you’re able to resolve the problem of accessing your Equifax credit report, you should then have no trouble also obtaining credit scores based on your Equifax information. As for your inability to get an Experian score, check your Experian credit report to see if the information meets the necessary requirements for calculating a FICO score:

  • One account opened at least six months ago.
  • One account reported to the credit bureau within the past six months.

These two criteria can be met by one or two accounts, which, considering your credit history, tells me you should have a score. My guess is that some of your credit information at Experian may not have been updated recently enough to meet the standard of at least one account reported within the past six months. If you find that to be the case, contact the creditor(s) showing the outdated information to see if there’s a reporting problem and, if necessary, also dispute the information with Experian.

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