Why Previous Names Appear on Your Credit Report

Couple shopping online with credit card
Dear Experian,

I am married for a second time. Can having my maiden name and two married names negatively affect my credit score? My "middle" score is 780 but I am trying to improve to 800 plus.

- TEV

Dear TEV,

Identifying information, such as your name, has no impact on credit scores. Your credit report will list any and all name variations your creditors have reported to Experian, so your maiden name and both married names may appear. That is important for two reasons.

Why Is Old Identification Information on My Report?

The first reason this identifying information is important is that Experian uses it to compile a complete credit report. This includes previous names as well as previous addresses you've used. Your current married name may be attached to some accounts, while other lenders still may be using your maiden name or previous married name.

By maintaining those names, Experian is able to match them to any accounts that may get reported by your lenders under a previous name and include them in your credit report.

If Experian were unable to match accounts under your previous names, the account's history wouldn't get factored into your credit score—for better or worse.

The second reason Experian shows all of the names and addresses reported as belonging to you is that it can tip you off to fraud. Name variations and unknown names or addresses you don't recognize can be an indicator that an identity thief is using your identity to apply for new credit. If that happens, the list of names and addresses on your report can enable you to take rapid action to prevent ongoing credit fraud.

Can "Fixing" Name and Address Variations Help My Scores?

Because identifying information has no bearing on credit score, changing your name or removing names reported previously will not cause it to improve. The same goes for removing old addresses you've used. You can only improve credit scores by improving your credit account history.

How Can I Improve My Scores?

If you are trying to improve your credit scores, a good first step is to order your free credit score from Experian. When you get your score, it will come with a list of the risk factors that are currently impacting you the most. Knowing these risk factors helps you know where you can improve to hopefully increase your credit scores.

Keep in mind that because your score is already relatively high, it may be difficult to increase your score very much in a short period of time.

If you've had late payments in the past, the first step to improving credit scores is to make sure all your accounts are current and that you are continuing to make all your payments on time.

The second step is often to lower your credit utilization, which is an important credit score factor. This is especially true if one of your risk factors is that your revolving account balances are too high. Your credit utilization is calculated by taking the total of all your credit card balances and dividing that number by the total of all your credit card limits. By paying down your credit cards or paying them off completely, you will lower your utilization rate and potentially improve your scores. Those with the highest credit scores tend to have utilization rates below 10 percent.

Not All Lenders Have the Same Score Criteria

It's important to understand that lenders establish a threshold credit score for approving accounts. That threshold can differ from lender to lender depending on their risk tolerance and the credit scoring system they use.

If your score is above that threshold, you're more likely to get the best rates and terms. Improving your score past that point won't necessarily get you better rates or terms. I suspect your scores are above just about any lender's threshold based on what you've said in your question.

So, unless you just enjoy the challenge of trying to get a higher score, you don't need to worry about the number. Just keep doing what you have been doing, enjoy the convenience of well-managed credit, and your credit scores will take care of themselves.

Thanks for asking.

Jennifer White, Consumer Education Specialist

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