Building credit at the local level

We recently published a report on ways people without a credit history start building one. In order to bring visibility to this issue and spur action at the local level, we’re releasing credit profiles on states and cities across the country. 

A person is considered “credit invisible” if they do not have credit history with any of the three nationwide credit-reporting companies. Our research, based on a sample of consumer files from one national credit-reporting company, has found that most people begin building a credit history at a young age, and that credit records are more frequently created as the result of credit cards than any other financial product. 

People who have no credit history, insufficient credit history, or no recent credit history may have limited access to credit.

Anyone that falls into one of these three categories will likely be unable to obtain a credit score, potentially limiting their access to credit.

We want to raise awareness of ways organizations can help people in their communities become “credit visible” in a positive way.

Steps to take in the community

Help consumers find out their credit status

As a first step, it’s important to find out your credit status. Consumers can do that by requesting their free report, accessing their credit score, or both. Companies such as FICO, VantageScore, and others maintain and publish lists of companies that offer people free access to credit scores. All consumers are entitled to request the information in their credit reports from each of the three nationwide credit reporting companies once every 12 months free of charge at annualcreditreport.com

Help consumers responsibly build credit history 

Promote the responsible use of existing products that provide consumers with an opportunity to practice making on-time payments that are reported to the credit-reporting companies. Products that may be worth exploring include: secured credit cards, credit-builder loans, and retail store credit cards.

Know what matters

Make sure the people you work with understand how their credit scores are affected by different types of loans and any reported late payments. Unpaid utility and phone bills and other things of this nature may be reported to credit bureaus as being in collection. It’s important for consumers to know that, even without opening a credit card, they could have a negative credit history due to these types of reports. 

If these types of steps aren’t taken, we may continue to see what the report shows is happening now: Unlike higher-income earners, people with lower incomes are more likely to become credit visible due to negative records, such as from debt collection or public record, rather than through a loan or credit product. By starting their credit lives with negative information, many lower-income consumers are further disadvantaged when seeking access to credit in the future.

Local communities can take action to address the issue of access to credit. To better understand the scope of this issue at the local level, we took data from our on credit invisibility and created individual credit profiles for some states, larger cities, and smaller cities. In most of the localities we examined, between 16 and 25 percent of adults had limited access to credit due to a limited credit history.

Locality-specific credit profiles 

States

Cities/counties

For more information about people who have limited access to credit, take a look at our report on credit invisibility for highlights about the most significant findings from our 2015 Data Point report.

If you are facing an issue with credit reporting, or other financial products or services, you can submit a complaint at consumerfinance.gov/complaint or by phone at 855-. To learn more about the Office of Financial Empowerment, find us at consumerfinance.gov/empowerment or send us an email at [email protected]

Join the conversation. Follow Miss April on Twitter and Facebook .