What is a split file?

Confused woman tries to make sense of her split fileImage: Confused woman tries to make sense of her split file

In a Nutshell

A split file can occur when information about your financial history gets spread out over two or more credit reports. The good news is that split files aren’t impossible to correct.
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Understanding your credit reports and how they relate to your credit scores is one thing, but what happens when a credit report doesn’t have the right information in the first place? Credit reporting errors are more common than you might think. One kind of error can occur when your information gets spread out over multiple credit reports. This is known as a split file.

A split file is definitely something you’ll want to address, because it could skew your credit score and affect future credit applications by incompletely telling your story. The good news is that split files aren’t impossible to correct. Let’s go over everything you need to know about split files, from identifying them to getting them fixed.

What is a split file?

Split files, which are also called “fragmented” and “duplicated” files, occur when information about one person gets spread out over two or more credit reports. Due to splitting, consumers may end up with more than one credit report from the same bureau, as well as more than one credit score (neither of which is truly accurate).

How do I know if I have a split file?

If a lender reports back to you that they were able to pull more than one report for you from the same credit bureau, you might have a split file.

Another clue that your file may be split? Receiving a credit report that has dramatically less information than you feel you should have. However, since information differs between bureaus and mistakes sometimes occur, just because you’re missing an account or two doesn’t necessarily mean you have a split file.

Keep in mind as well that, even if you have a long credit history, you still may not have a credit score if you do not have a certain number of open accounts. However, if you have a robust credit file with a number of open accounts, yet you’re receiving a thin file notification or a report that is severely lacking, splitting may be at the root of your problem.

What causes a split file?

The most commonplace cause of split files is an overload of credit information. An excess of information does not refer to five or six credit cards, but dozens of open accounts, new inquiries or other credit report additions.

While getting to a point where you have too much information for one credit report might seem unlikely (and is in fact uncommon), it does happen and could cause this problem. When too much information is added, the report may overflow into another, splitting your information and causing a fragmented report to be created.

Another possible reason for split files is frequent name or address changes. If you’ve had your name changed and changed back due to marriage and divorce, an inconsistent middle initial or name or common misspellings, then the constant switching could cause your credit file to split into two.

Lenders may occasionally also misreport your name to such a degree that a new file is created. Since credit reports are also tied to a Social Security number, switches in names should not normally cause a split — but it does occasionally occur.

What can I do if I have a split file?

If you suspect that your file has been split, don’t wait to act. Here’s what you should do:

  1. Confirm that this is actually the case. Pull your reports from all three bureaus to verify that one of the bureaus is reporting your information incorrectly. Old information and closed accounts might not appear on your credit reports, so comparing between bureaus can help you make sure that you’re dealing with an actual split file.
  2. Contact the bureau directly to have them merge your reports back together. If you’ve applied for a new credit line and fear a split file has affected your approval odds, you could also try contacting the lender directly to let them know what’s happening and suggest they pull a report from a different bureau.

Bottom line

Split files are not necessarily a very common cause of credit report misinformation or variation from your expectations. However, in specific cases, a fragmented credit file could be at the root of a credit report discrepancy. Look out for the warning signs to make sure your credit applications are being judged fairly, using all the information on record.