What Does it Mean if I Have a “Thin File”?

What Does it Mean if I Have a “Thin File”?

Being thin isn't always a good thing, especially when it comes to your credit score. When there's not enough information on your TransUnion or Equifax credit report to generate a score on Credit Karma, the credit bureau sends back an alert that you have a "thin file." In cases like this, it could take some time to fatten up your score.

There are a few reasons why you might have a thin file. See if your situation fits any of the following descriptions and then read on to see tips on what you can do.

You've never had credit.

You don't have any lines of credit listed on your credit report, like a credit card, mortgage, auto loan, student loan or any other kind of loan. It's impossible for a credit bureau like TransUnion to generate a credit score if this is the case.

Possible Next Steps: If you want to begin building your credit, start simple. You may want to consider a secured credit card, which helps you build credit and is backed by a security deposit that you provide. Secured credit cards often don't require a minimum credit score for approval, so your lack of credit history may not be an obstacle to approval. When applying for a secured card, consider annual fees and other terms to make sure that you're getting a good deal while you build your credit history.

You're new to credit or you're re-establishing credit.

If you've recently opened your first credit card or loan, don't expect to have a credit score right away. It takes time to build your credit history and develop a credit score. The same applies if you've recently started re-establishing credit after having closed many of your credit lines.

Possible Next Steps: You've already taken the first step toward establishing credit. If you're building credit with your first credit card, consider charging a small purchase each month and paying the card off in full. You don't need to carry a balance from month to month in order to establish your credit usage. If you've opened a loan, make your payments on time every month. After a bit of time making steady payments, you can always come back to Credit Karma to check on your credit score.

The credit bureau thinks you're deceased.

It seems crazy, but it happens: Credit bureaus can mistakenly believe you've passed away. Deceased folks don't have credit scores, so you might be told you have a thin file if that's what the bureaus think. Unfortunately, correcting this can be a lengthy, time-consuming process.

Possible Next Steps: If you think you've been marked as deceased, contact the credit bureau in question and notify them of the mistake. You could also file a dispute just like you would when you find a simple credit error. To dispute, you would typically include your full name, current mailing address, social security number, birthday and a written statement saying you're not deceased. You may also need to include notarized proof that you're alive.

Your credit file is split.

Like a credit bureau mistakenly thinking you're dead, a split file is an outlier. Split files rarely occur, but when they do it's often because there is a lot of information on your report or because your personal information, like your name and your address, have changed very frequently. Both causes can lead to a single credit bureau having multiple credit reports and credit scores on file for you, each with different information. If your information is being split, it could potentially lead to a credit bureau trying to generate a score for you based on very limited information. This could cause an incorrect thin file error.

Possible Next Steps: A split file is a credit reporting error, so you'll have to contact the bureau directly in order to have it fixed. Since closed accounts can fall off reports, first check that your information is actually being misreported by obtaining all three of your credit reports and comparing from bureau to bureau. If it's clear from this comparison that one of the bureaus has accidentally split your file, you can then contact the credit bureau directly to have your reports merged.

Bottom Line

In the case of credit, thin is not something you want to be. If you're hoping to apply for credit soon, take some steps to build your credit to a creditworthy state before you do so.

Still have questions? Get some advice from the Credit Karma community.

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this site is not provided by the bank or issuer. Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of the bank or issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank or issuer. Credit Karma may be compensated by companies mentioned through advertising, affiliate programs or otherwise. It is this compensation that enables Credit Karma to provide its members with services like free access to your credit scores and free monitoring of credit and financial accounts at no charge.


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.

About the Author: is a Content Writer at Credit Karma. Since joining the team in June 2013, he's been delivering the financial know-how on the daily. When away from work, you can find Mike watching hockey, Twittering for hours and frequenting trivia nights.

All Comments

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1 Contribution
153 People Helped

Helpful to 153 out of 183 people

This country runs on credit... Borrow from Peter to pay Paul what you really don't have. I believe that the credit companies WANT Americans to be in hock. I tried this Credit Karma, and it came up thin file. However, if I would just go into debt by getting a loan or a card (I'm debt-free and owe no one nothing), then I can find out my credit score. To me, that's foolishness. I'll just continue to pay cash, thank you.

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2 Contributions
92 People Helped
Helpful to 91 out of 109 people

I'm having the same problem and i think it's just wrong. I don't owe anyone anything. Don't use credit cards and it's like it's worse than having bad credit. right now I can't even find a place to live because of my thin file.. this is after paying my rent faithfully for 8+ years. and not being in debt at all

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1 Contribution
37 People Helped
Helpful to 37 out of 47 people

Yep... I fell for the "here's all the credit you ever wanted!" nonsense back when I was fresh out of high school. Managed it for a quite a while, along with a car loan, but like a lot of younger people (or people of any age, really), I ended up in over my head. 20 years later I'm completely debt free and pay cash for everything (and have for several years; I can't actually remember the last time I had a credit card), thus making it so I only purchase what I can afford. Seems like the more responsible path... but if you want a credit card, loan, mortgage, etc, it apparently isn't.

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1 Contribution
45 People Helped
Helpful to 45 out of 53 people

My thoughts exactly,screw their credit card.If I don't have the money to buy something then I don't need it.Of course I have a thin file,I havn't had or needed a loan for years.

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4 Contributions
12 People Helped
Helpful to 0 out of 1 people

There's a lot of misdirected anger here by the commenters.

The purpose of a credit history is to show others that you are credit worthy - that is, based on past experience you appear to be worthy of extending credit.

Credit Karma and the bureaurs are not saying that you're a bad person because you don't have a thin file; they're merely stating that they don't know enough about your history to say whether you have/use/like/etc credit.  They are telling others, who are asking about you, what to know ahead of time - in this case, you are an unknown risk.  You aren't "bad"; you're just "unknown".  Being unknown does not equal bad.

Banks and credit institutions are machines.  They don't know you.  They've never met you.  You might be the Mother Teresa with a $250k/year job, zero debt and never said a cross word to anyone.  They don't know that and nothing can show that to them because you've decided to withdraw from the banking system.  Banks have to use mathmatetical systems to detect good qualities about you.  Computer systems detect good qualities by looking at what other computer systems have told them.

Finally, there's nothing noble or moral about deciding to only ever pay with cash.  Access To Capital is a fundamental part of any economy, whether first world or third.  There are plenty of wealthy asset-rich low-debt investors who borrow millions of dollars every year.  Anyone with a business that pays employees knows that a basic Line of Credit is necessary for month to month operations, even if you have great revenue and a large profit margin.

Credit isn't about "buying things you can't afford".  For a lot of us, it's just a means of shifting cashflow around.  I have "the money" to pay for everything I purchase at contract time.  I use credit because:

1) It gives me the flexibility to conduct transactions without moving cash ahead of time
2) It provides security against robberies or fraud (withdrawing and carrying a pocket full of cash around is inherently risky)

3) It developes a relationship with banks so that they "know me" from a risk standpoint (that's what credit history is)

Don't use credit if you want, but at least understand the ramifications of what you're doing before ranting at others.

1 Contribution
88 People Helped

Helpful to 88 out of 97 people

Just shows that this society is f'd up, and our financial system depends on people being in debt. What kind of system penalizes people who pay for what they need up front? 

Why shouldn't you be a good candidate for credit when you don't carry any debt???!!! It's ridiculous! No wonder Americans are drowning in debt, our system forces people to take on debt in order to qualify for credit. 

I pay my bills every month, on time!! I pay my rent, I pay my taxes, I pay for my groceries, I pay for my clothing, I pay for the services I use. I pay the tolls at toll booths, I pay my parking tickets, I pay my community fees, I pay my electric bill, my cable bill, garbage bill, water bill, and sewage bill. I donate to charity. I pay my doctor and my hairdresser. I pay the babysitter, and the day care. I pay my cell phone bill. And have done so EVERY MONTH for YEARS!!

But NONE of this COUNTS, because I pay for these things without accruing any debt?! WTF? 

So, as a reward for being a conscientious citizen, who pays for the things I use, I can never own a home in this society. You can't get a mortgage without a credit score, and you can't get a credit score without owing someone money. WTF? Shelter is a basic human need, debt is not!!! 

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1 Contribution
15 People Helped
Helpful to 15 out of 22 people

Run for congress,you are so right.

1 Contribution
54 People Helped

Helpful to 54 out of 58 people

For all of us, those of you with no credit or score, DONT believe that you CANT ever buy a house without good credit, bad credit, no credit score, good credit score, etc. BECAUSE YOU CAN! I am living proof! In fact I have bought 4 houses in the past without credit, without a credit score, and it didnt matter. There are ways. The banks and credit bureaus dont want you to know the ways but you CAN own your own home. I got two of my homes with less than $1000 out of pocket at closing. No banks, no credit reports. No Im not selling a book here or 'how to' but just telling you that it is possible and easier than you think. Just look into buying a home on an owner contract. Ask your realtor or attorney or google it. 

Ironically with all four houses I have bought and some i have sold, I paid on time all the payments and all were paid off when I sold them, Ironically NONE of this showed up on my credit report. Why? because no bank was involved and the OWNERs never bothered reporting my payment history to the bureaus. Why bother. 

You CAN BUY A HOUSE!!! With a this file , if your are supposedly dead, or even if you have bad credit. Not everyone wants a credit report! There are home sellers just like us that hate banks and credit bureaus that understand. Find them!! THERE ARE MORE THAN YOU THINK.

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1 Contribution
1 Person Helped
Helpful to 1 out of 1 people

I read your post and I was wondering if I could get more info from you my email Addy Angelbaby1903@yahoo.com

1 Contribution
53 People Helped

Helpful to 53 out of 71 people

I never had a credit card, I have always paid for what I own cash and I did recieve a student loan in 1997 but paid it off, it dosent even show on my credit report anymore since 2001, when I actaually got all three credit reports and it showed my score of 750. Now I try to check my score it says I have a thin file?? I was trying to build up my credit by getting a card, now I cant. I dont understand do your score goes down even it you dont try to get anything for credit. Im glad I found this article, but I still confused. So I guess I cant get credit at all or try to build my credit..lost>>>

1 Contribution
56 People Helped

Helpful to 56 out of 86 people

i can't even get a score. i thought you were supposed to get the score right then, i feel a rip off

1 Contribution
91 People Helped

Helpful to 91 out of 117 people

"Secured credit cards come with guaranteed approval, which means there's no credit check."

This statement is not completely true. I work at a financial institution and we pull credit on every application. Pulling credit proves if you have other debts/minimum payments you are responsible for, as well as runs safe scans on identity. Many lenders utilize pulling credit for many things, not just the credit score and payment history. Share secured credit cards or loans are not always approved. At our credit union, you are required to be working and must be able to afford the minimum monthly payment within your debt to income ratio. Be sure to check with the lender on their requirements before applying.

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1 Contribution
19 People Helped
Helpful to 19 out of 43 people

If it's a no credit check then why do's it keep "e couldnt approve you for the capital one secured credit card"

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1 Contribution
23 People Helped
Helpful to 23 out of 47 people

I tryed to get one and they said no to me lol and I am 19 in colledge and have a job and have 000000000000000000000000  credit !!!!

1 Contribution
27 People Helped

Helpful to 27 out of 37 people

How can you establish credit when you're denied all the time! Especially for those "secured" credit cards! Being a college student freakin sucks! 

1 Contribution
7 People Helped

Helpful to 7 out of 7 people

I am not sure I understand this. FICO says I have a credit score of 741. I have 3 credit cards and a mortgage. I have paid off my car and only owe $87 to my credit cards. Credit Karma tells me that they can't tell me my score because of my thin file. If my Discover card can give me my score why can't you?

1 Contribution
13 People Helped

Helpful to 13 out of 19 people

This article was very helpful for someone like me who has no clue about the credit system and how to establish credit. We need more education on how to develop, establish, and maintain credit to our youth and anyone else who has troubles understanding it. The credit system is just a failed system that limits who can get money based off past principals that may or may not be understanding of current and future sitations. Thank you very much to whomever wrote this. It was a big help for me, and now maybe I finally can take the steps to get some credit. Now to find a credit card company or some other lender to still lend me money to first start my credit. This should be just as easy as pulling teeth

1 Contribution
15 People Helped

Helpful to 15 out of 23 people

Being a paranoid schizophrenic, I was always terrified of credit bureaus tracking my every move. After racking up a few thousand dollars in medical bills, I tried to get off the grid. This didn't work and with medication I was able to get over my fear of credit and start anew. This has served to be a very chanllenging task. No credit is far worse than bad credit I must say. Maybe I should just shack up in a... well a shack.  

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