How do I get my lender to report payment activity to the credit bureaus?


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To Her Credit with Sally Herigstad

Sally Herigstad is a certified public accountant and the author of “Help! I Can’t Pay My Bills: Surviving a Financial Crisis.” She writes “To Her Credit,” a weekly reader Q&A column about issues involving women and credit, for She also has written for MSN Money and, and has guested on Martha Stewart Radio and other programs.

Ask Sally a question, or see if your question has already been answered in the To Her Credit answer archive.

I will have two paid-off accounts, but just found out that neither have been reporting to the credit bureaus. How can I get the lender to report them?

Unfortunately, there is no law saying lenders must report to
all three major credit reporting agencies. If they don’t report, there’s not much you can do about
it, except to make sure to check first the next time.

Expert Q&A

Check out all the answers from our credit card experts.

Dear To Her Credit,
I have two accounts, one of which I paid off recently with
good payment history and the other will be paid off in April or May.

My problem is they checked my credit to get me the
financing, but when I asked if all my payments have been reported to my credit
report, they said no. I want these accounts to be reported on my credit report
because I paid a lot of money over the years – almost $10,000 between the two
of them – and to hear that they don’t report to the credit bureaus upset me. I
asked for them to report this, but they just say they don’t do that.

What kind of recourse can I take to get this on
my credit report? – Staci

Dear Staci,
Unfortunately, there is no law saying lenders must report to
all three major credit reporting agencies. It costs them fees and set up an
account to report. If they do report, they must make sure they are
following all the relevant laws. The sad truth is, some creditors and lenders
don’t report. If they say they don’t report, there’s not much you can do about

Tip: Before applying for a loan or credit card, always check with the lender or issuer to make sure it reports payment activity to the credit bureaus.

If you were counting on having a higher score because of
these two accounts, don’t give up. You are still in a better financial position
now, having paid off the balances. If you are applying for a home loan, you
would have had to list the monthly payments on your application, and the lender
could have limited the amount of monthly mortgage payment you were allowed.

If you have little or no other credit history and you want
to buy a house now, be sure to find a mortgage professional who is experienced
in loans backed by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA). He may be able to
use your payment history from rent, utilities, cable or cellphones.

Options for rebuilding your credit profile

In the meantime, the best thing you can do now is to move
forward developing your credit in ways that do improve your history and score.
A major credit card, for example, is one of the fastest ways to start a credit
history. If your credit scores are poor, start with a secured card, which requires a deposit that serves as your credit line, and then move to a
card with a small credit limit. Sometimes it’s easy to get a department store
or gas credit card, as they come with low credit limits and high APRs.

Don’t get carried away – you don’t need a wallet full of
cards to build history. One or two should suffice. And don’t spend money you
wouldn’t anyway, or think you need to carry a balance from month to month. You
can build a very respectable credit score with just a few ordinary expenses,
such as gas or groceries, on your card occasionally and paying it off every

If you’re looking for a quick jumpstart to your credit
score, and you have a family member or close friend who is willing to help, you
can have them add you as an authorized user to their credit card account. You
don’t have to apply to be an authorized user, and you don’t even have to use
the card for its history to appear on your credit report. You also won’t be
liable for the card balance. Make sure it’s an account in good standing, and the
payment history and other information will show on your credit reports as if it
belonged to you.

If the credit card to which you are added as an authorized
user does not have such a great payment history, it will do you
more harm than good. Awkward as it may seem, you should ask your family member
or friend about the card’s payment history (meaning no late payments or high balances) before you let them add you to the
account. If you check your credit report and see that the card is actually hurting your credit, ask to have your name removed.

It’s frustrating when you were making payments all this
time, thinking you were building your credit history and score, only to find
out that your lender doesn’t report to the credit bureaus. The good news,
however, is that you have paid off your debts. You are in an excellent position
to build your credit history with other accounts and to work toward your
financial goals. Good luck!

See related: 9 things to know about secured cards, Being added as an authorized user can boost credit age, score

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