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You might have trouble getting a loan if you don't have very many credit accounts on your credit report—also called a thin credit file—because lenders use your credit report to help determine if you can qualify for a loan. If your credit history is scant, the lender might decide to turn down your application rather than take on additional risk of lending to you. However, some lenders have less strict requirements or offer loans without a credit check at all.
What Is a Thin Credit File?
The exact definition for a thin credit file can depend on the lender. But generally, if your credit report has fewer than five credit accounts, creditors may consider it a thin credit file.
People often have thin credit files when they're brand new to credit. For example, young adults who are just opening their first accounts often have thin files, as do people who recently moved to the U.S. However, you could also have a thin file if you haven't used credit accounts recently and your old accounts have been removed from your credit report.
Where Can You Get a Loan With a Thin Credit File?
Your credit report and score can impact your eligibility for a loan and the rates and terms you'll receive. Having an established credit file with a long history of on-time payments can help you qualify for the best offers, but there are also options available if you have a thin file.
- Friends and family: Your friends or family members may offer you a loan without asking about your credit. But think through the potential repercussions on your relationship if you think you might have trouble repaying the loan.
- High-rate installment loans: Some online lenders offer installment loans with low credit score requirements. High fees and interest rates can make them very expensive, but they could be an option.
- Lending circle loans: Mission Asset Fund is a nonprofit that offers lending circle loans with no interest or credit requirement. You won't get to pick your place in the circle, which determines when you receive the funds, but it could be a good option if you don't need the money right away.
- Loans based on alternative data: Some lending platforms let you connect your bank account and examine your cash flow to better understand your creditworthiness. As a result, the financial institution might place less importance on your credit report.
- Buy now, pay later (BNPL) service: If you want a loan to make a purchase, see if you could use a BNPL service instead. These let you pay off the purchase over time—often without interest.
- Payday alternative loan: Some credit unions offer payday alternative loans (PALs) with lower fees or interest rates and longer repayment terms than you'd get with a payday loan.
- Auto title loans: You may be able to use your vehicle as collateral to take out an auto title loan. However, the high interest rates, fees and possibility of losing the vehicle generally make this a last-resort option.
- Payday loans: Payday loans are small, short-term loans that don't require a credit check. But the high fees and short repayment term also make them an expensive option that may be difficult to repay. These should only be considered as a very last resort.
How to Build Your Credit File
Building your credit file could help you qualify for more loans and better offers in the future. You could look into some of the loans and credit cards that are specifically created and offered to help people build credit. There are several actions you can take, such as:
- Opening a secured credit card: Secured credit cards work like regular cards except you send the card issuer a security deposit as collateral. It's easier to qualify for these cards, and issuers often report the account to all three major credit bureaus. If you don't have much to put down as a security deposit, though, your credit limit may be quite small.
- Getting a credit-builder loan: Credit-builder loans let you build your savings and credit at the same time. Instead of distributing the funds right away, the lender generally puts them away in a separate account. You make monthly payments that are reported to the credit bureaus, and receive the full amount once your loan is paid off.
- Becoming an authorized user: If someone adds you as an authorized user on one of their credit cards, the issuer may report the account under your name as well. It could then be included in your credit report and thicken your file.
- Signing up for Experian Boost®ø: With Experian Boost, you can add the phone, utility and popular streaming service bills that you're already paying to your Experian credit report.
Check Your Credit
If you're not sure whether you have a thin or thick credit report, you can check your Experian credit report for free to see how many credit accounts are listed in your file. You can also use your account to get matched to personal loans and credit card offers based on your current credit file.