Why Don't I Have a Credit Score?

Frustrated woman checking credit score on computer

JGI/Jamie Grill / Creative RF / Getty Images

You're following wise advice by checking your credit to be sure to see where you stand. Unfortunately, if you haven't had much experience with credit, you may not have a credit score. Don't worry as you didn't do anything wrong and you're not alone. More than 45 million adults don't have a FICO score, according to the most recent 2015 Consumer Financial Protection Bureau report. This commonly happens to people who haven't established credit histories, especially young adults. It can also happen if you've had credit previously, but all your credit accounts remain dormant for several months, or they were closed.

Two Reasons You May Not Have a Credit Score

Understanding how credit scores are calculated can help you better understand why you don't have a score. Credit scores are a numerical summary of information in your credit report. The scores are used to gauge your creditworthiness and predict the likelihood that you'll pay your debts on time. Higher credit scores indicate that you're more likely to repay credit obligations based on how you've handled credit in the past.

Credit scores are based on information in your credit report, which is a compilation of your credit accounts, including credit cards, loans, and any negative records like debt collections or lawsuit judgments. If you've never had any of these types of accounts, that explains why you don't have a credit score—you don't have a credit history to score.

Say you recently opened your first credit card, but you've only had it for a few months. You may not have a credit score either. The FICO score needs you to have at least one account that's been active within the past six months. Once your account has enough history, you'll be able to retrieve a credit score.

You might have several accounts that you haven't used in several months or even years. In that case, you wouldn't have a credit score, despite having a credit history, because all of your accounts have been inactive for so long. You should begin using your accounts again—as long as they're not closed – to be able to establish a credit score.

How to Check Your Credit History

You can obtain a recent copy of your credit report to see your credit history. If you've never had a credit account, you may not be able to access your credit report either. After all, there can be no credit report without some type of credit history.

You have credit scores based on each of your credit reports from the three major credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. It's possible to have a credit score with one bureau and not the others if the account(s) you have open do not report your history to all three credit bureaus.

How to Establish Your Credit Score

To get approved for most credit cards and loans, you need to have a credit score. Creditors and lenders use your credit score to approve your application. Getting the first credit card can be tough, but there are a few options for beginners or second timers. Some of those options include:

  • Apply at your local bank or credit union, especially if you already have a checking or savings account there.
  • Apply for a student credit card, if you're an enrolled student.
  • Apply for a retail store credit card.
  • Apply for a secured credit card, which requires a deposit to secure your credit limit.
  • Get a joint credit card with a friend or relative.
  • Become an authorized user on a friend or relative's existing credit card.

After you've opened a credit account (that reports to at least one of the major credit bureaus) and you've used it for six months, you should be able to look up your credit score. Lastly, be sure to monitor and manage your credit wisely to build a good credit score.