June 24th, 2010

What is a thin file?

15 Comments | Twitter | |

In the world of credit, thin is not a good thing. If you have a “thin file”, it means you have a limited or brief credit history or not enough credit accounts to generate a credit score.

Consumers with thin files have credit reports, though they often cannot pull their credit score, since there’s not enough credit data to generate one. Consumers with thin files are seen as credit risky and inexperienced with managing credit because they have a limited credit history.

If you face similar financial challenges because of your thin file, don’t give up just yet. Fattening up your thin file requires establishing credit and maintaining proper credit habits to build healthy credit. Here’s how to put some meat on your skinny credit:


  1. If you have a few credit cards open, use them! Establishing good credit isn’t just about having credit, it’s also demonstrating that you know how to use it regularly and responsibly. Put a small purchase on your credit card each month and pay it off on-time and in full. That’s the key to effective credit management to build credit.
  2. If you have other lines of credit, such as debts or loans, continue to pay those off on-time and in full too. The more you pay off monthly, the less debt you have. Less debt and positive credit management are boons for your credit.
  3. No credit whatsoever? A secured card is your best bet to establishing credit and ensuring a positive payment history. Secured cards are designed for consumers with little or no credit history, and are pretty much guaranteed approval. Some secured cards do not even require your credit score, which is ideal for those who have a thin file.

Work on these three steps, and you’ll be beefing up your credit in no time.

Disclaimer: All information posted to this site was accurate at the time of its initial publication. Efforts have been made to keep the content up to date and accurate. However, Credit Karma does not make any guarantees about the accuracy or completeness of the information provided. For complete details of any products mentioned, visit bank or issuer website.

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15 Comments

  1. Thank you so much..Interesting read. Looks like I need to find a secured card. Thanks again! :)

    Ingrid at 9:31 pm on June 25, 2010
  2. Credit Karma is no longer returning my credit score and instead reporting “Thin File” from the credit bureau. How can a credit score go from 787 to a “Thin File”?

    Have a paid for house, $80k in available credit cards, 9 open credit cards with no balance on the cards. 20 plus years of credit history. The only outstanding balance is a new car loan.

    Is this an error in the credit bureau?

    Mark at 8:28 am on July 26, 2010
  3. If I were you, I would pull my free credit report from AnnualCreditReport.com (you get one free from each of the three credit bureaus, a total of three credit reports, free every year) and check every listing line-by-line to see if there is an inaccuracy or error on your credit report. Credit bureaus can often report mistaken information that can change consumer credit scores unknowingly. If not, email support@creditkarma.com with your issue and they may be able to resolve it.

    Justine at 4:40 pm on July 26, 2010
  4. I have ordered one. A new twist is that the credit bureau will not provide my report online or over the phone. I had to do it by telephone and they would only mail it and it takes 2 to 3 weeks. There seems to be an issue with a question on my telephone number. They don’t even have mynumber or even an old numbers. I don’t have a convential land line and I am not in the book. I have four T-Mobile numbers incuding a VOIP line.

    Mark at 2:01 pm on July 27, 2010
  5. My credit report has arrived and I have disovered the problem. Transunion has either lost or deleted my credit history. They say that I have only been on their system since July 2010. What is worse is when I tried to dispute this issue online and I am blocked. It seems they need to generate a secrutity question based on my non-existant credit – no history – no security question based on the history in my file – I can’t dispute it online. I have become a persona non grata with Trans Union.

    Has this happened to anyone else?

    As an aside, I am a big fan of Joseph Hellers book Catch 22 and this is a perfect example of a Catch 22 – If we delete your credit file, you cannot dispute our deletion becasue you cannot answer a security question based on your file becasue we deleted your file. Thanks Transunion

    Mark at 8:35 pm on July 31, 2010
  6. I cannot pull up my credit score because I have a “thin file”. I have a car loan and credit card. However, I just pulled up and updated my husband’s score, who hasn’t used or had any kind of credit in 7 years…that’s a thin file. This makes no sense to me.

    Melody at 1:28 pm on January 4, 2011
  7. Yes I haven’t been able to update my score since like last March every time I try to update it says thin file. I knew my credit was not good but I have had nothing else that should have made it worse, and I paid off a collection item that was supposed to show a difference in my score, yet it still says that I have a thin file. I do not understand. Any suggestions.

    Alyson at 11:07 am on January 21, 2011
  8. This is the biggest racket I’ve ever heard of . No debts, no mortgage, and I tried to rent a car last winter and was denied! I’m forced to buy a credit card I neither need nor want. What a society we live in!!

    K. Brobeck at 7:29 am on April 12, 2012
  9. Oh Alyson, you needed a credit card to rent a car? Gee whiz, they didn’t trust you with a vehicle worth more then the money you were probably prepared to put down on it, without any other background history on you or your credit? Gee whiz. It’s been like that for the last 20 years. Get a credit card, or don’t rent a car, or spend the night in a hotel (yes they need credit too)..It may not be nice, but it’s totally logical. The society of today, isn’t the same as it was 40 years ago, that’s exactly why agencies require background info (credit) on you. You also don’t need to ‘buy’ a credit card if you have good credit, creditors GIVE almost THROW them at you, you just have to pay them back when you use them. That’s common sense to me.

    Tim at 7:20 pm on May 7, 2012
  10. do i really need a credit card? ive paid for 2 cars in the past five or so years, doesnt that mean i have a fair length of time having credit? i dont want to pay interest on money i dont need, but i also need to get my score good enough to get a car (without cosigning). how come the loaning agencies dont see the full payment of two cars as credit worthy? arent those “major” purchases?

    m. landon at 7:34 pm on June 19, 2012
  11. When it comes down to it, a credit card is the best way to build credit. Did you pay for both cars in cash? If so, they won’t even show up on your credit report. By getting a credit card, you won’t necessarily be paying interest, unless you carry over a balance from month to month. If you have a thin file, you may want to look into a secured credit card.

    bethy at 10:18 am on June 20, 2012
  12. Hi

    What is a good secured card to get other than capitone that actually reports to the bureaus?

    Screen Printing Miami at 10:58 am on June 29, 2012
  13. Ask your question in our Credit Advice Center, where other community members can share their experiences with you.

    bethy at 10:39 am on July 2, 2012
  14. Question. Should I save old credit reports to prove I exist in the case my payments history is somehow deleted like the previous poster said happened to them.y score is quite high as far as transrisk score. The Vantage score is only in the B range. I did all this only since 2007. I have never paid late. The credit bureaus really frown at using 17% of your overall credit limit. Even if it is almost $80,000. They know I’m good at paying my bills I’m insulted.

    A. La Honta at 10:52 pm on June 3, 2013
  15. Jenna

    I’d imagine (and hope) that credit bureaus losing payment history is quite rare, although it wouldn’t hurt to save your credit reports. You and also try posing your question to our friendly Advice and Learning center to see what other Credit Karma members think!

    Jenna at 3:50 pm on June 4, 2013

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