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No Credit History? You Can Create a Credit Report Without Taking on Debt -- Here's How

Find out if Experian Go, a new service for jump-starting your credit report, is right for you.

Pallavi Kenkare Former editor
Pallavi was previously an editor for CNET Money, covering topics from Gen Z to student loans. She's a graduate of Cornell University and hails from Atlanta, Georgia. When she's not editing, you can find her practicing bookbinding skills or running at a very low speed through the streets of Charlotte.
Pallavi Kenkare
7 min read

Approximately 26 millions Americans are considered "credit invisible" -- which means they have no credit history according to Experian, TransUnion or Equifax, America's three major credit bureaus. Of this number, Black and Hispanic Americans are more likely to have no credit history than whites and Asian Americans. 

Not having a credit history can present major difficulties if you're hoping to obtain loans from banks and other lenders, or trying to achieve basic measures of livelihood, such as renting an apartment, purchasing a car or even getting a job. Historically, credit reports can only be established through traditional methods -- repaying loans or using a credit card, for example. However, due to the cyclical nature of the American credit system, if you lack a credit report it can be difficult to secure a loan or credit card in the first place. 

The newly launched Experian Go service could help "credit invisibles" jump-start their credit by creating a free Experian credit report. Then you can increase your score by reporting on-time bill payments through Experian Boost or through traditional methods, including using a credit card to establish on-time payment history.

Experian Go may be helpful to anyone struggling to establish credit, but it's not the only way to put yourself on the financial map. Here's everything you need to know about Experian Go -- how it works, who it's best for and what to consider before signing up.

What is Experian Go and how does it work?

Experian Go allows Americans without credit to create an Experian credit report almost instantaneously. Experian first rolled out this service in October 2021 to roughly 15,000 people. It reports that, on average, 91% of users who linked everyday cash flow accounts to newly created credit reports went from no FICO score to 665, a measure of fair to good credit. 

Experian Go's free membership also provides access to financial education and recommendations, as well as a marketplace of financial products and offers. The company plans to pitch Go users credit cards -- its current partners are Petal and Capital One -- including cards intended for consumers with limited credit histories. 

Jeff Softley, president of Direct to Consumer at Experian Consumer Services, explained how Experian Go allows consumers to create a credit profile and receive a credit score "without taking on debt." He went on: "It's a big innovation because it's a stepping stone, allowing consumers to gain a financial identity and enter the financial ecosystem on their terms."

Once your Experian credit report is created through Experian Go, you can start to build your credit and expect to see your FICO Score after about six months. If you don't want a credit card right away, you can enroll in Experian Boost, which links non-debt accounts such as phone, utility and streaming bills to your Experian credit report. Just remember, paying on time is key, otherwise your credit could dip.

Ted Rossman, a senior industry analyst at Bankrate (which is also owned by Red Ventures), sees Experian Go as a net positive. "Our credit score is one of the most important numbers in our financial lives," he explained. "And Experian Go -- as a free, secure, beneficial program that enables credit building -- is ideal. It's also financially low-risk, as Experian Go can't hurt your credit score." 

Who is Experian Go best for?

If you do not currently have a credit score or credit history, Experian Go can help you get established. This option is best for anyone without credit who is struggling to get approved for a credit card, loan or other credit-based account. Experian Go may also help if you need to establish credit history to get approved for an apartment or job, but do not want to take on the risk of a credit card.

Drawbacks to consider

Although Experian Go is free and can help you get started on your credit-building journey, there are some factors you should consider before signing up.

1. Experian Go only directly impacts your Experian credit report

Experian Go only creates an Experian credit report. This means in order for lenders to see your newly established credit, they'll need to pull data from Experian and not one of the other two bureaus. In addition, it will also only work with the new credit scoring algorithm, FICO Score 8. This means Experian Go will not directly help you get a mortgage, as lenders will generally request all three of your credit reports, and are also mandated to use older versions of FICO. 

Although Experian Go only benefits your Experian credit score, Rossman notes that it can be used to establish credit at other bureaus. For example, if you apply for a credit card that only pulls Experian data and you're approved, this card will then show up on all three credit reports, and that will allow you to begin building credit across all three credit bureaus. 

Most credit card providers only pull from one credit bureau -- however they don't advertise which one they use up front. So while this approach can help you get approved for a credit card, it's a bit of a gamble. If the card provider uses Transunion or Equifax, you could be denied right away, since you won't have a credit report with either bureau.

That said, even without Experian Go, you could apply for the Chime Credit Builder Secured Visa® Credit Card, which doesn't require a credit check, or the Petal® 1 "No Annual Fee" Visa® Credit Card, which may combine your credit report with your banking, spending and savings data to compile a Cash Score. You can also apply for a secured credit card -- a card that requires a security deposit as your credit line -- that does not require a credit check. All of these options can help you get established with all three credit bureaus.

2. Cybersecurity breaches may be a concern

In an age where data sharing is a major concern and previous credit bureau cybersecurity breaches have resulted in widespread identity theft, Experian Go will require you to provide access to personal and private data. However, Rossman notes that, "regarding privacy concerns, credit bureaus already possess a lot of the data Experian Go would potentially collect."

3. Experian Go collects and sells your data

Heightened data collection is often used by credit-monitoring companies, such as Experian Go and Experian Boost, to upsell customers products and services that may not be in their best financial interest-- and could even land them in debt. 

Rossman advises taking Experian Go's suggested products with a grain of salt, and to be wary of marketing and cross-selling. That being said, he adds, "I feel good about the partners they currently have. Capital One has a great reputation, and Petal is also known as a good way for young people to gain credit."

How to sign up

To enroll, you'll need to download the free Experian mobile app and confirm your identity by submitting personal information, such as your legal name, address, date of birth and the last four digits of your Social Security number. You will also have to upload some form of identity verification, such as a driver's license or passport, and take a selfie. Softley says the entire process takes an average of four minutes. Upon completion, you'll have created your first credit report. 

Can I build my credit score without Experian Go?

Yes. Although Experian Go can help you quickly create and build your Experian credit score, you don't need this tool to establish credit. These traditional options will allow you to build your credit across all three credit bureaus. 

  • Apply for a credit card: A credit card is the fastest way to build credit, but they generally requires credit history to apply. However, student credit cardsecured credit cards and credit-building cards can be great picks for credit invisible consumers. These cards generally won't offer rewards or flashy bonuses, but when used strategically -- paying your full balance each month -- they can help you build and grow your credit history. 
  • Become an authorized user: If a financially responsible spouse, family member or friend has a credit card, they can add you as an authorized user. That way every time the holder uses their card or makes an on-time payment, your credit profile will garner a boost. Keep in mind, though, that negative credit behavior by the holder, such as making late payments or maxing out the card's credit limit, will also reflect upon both your and their credit report. Depending on the card, you may be able to make purchases, as well, though this won't be required to impact your credit history. 
  • Apply for a credit builder loan: A credit builder loan works a bit differently than credit cards. It requires a source of steady income to get approved and rather than giving you the loan amount upfront, the money is held in a separate bank account, while you make monthly payments to pay off the loan and its interest. The lender will report these monthly payments to the credit bureaus, helping you establish and build credit. Once the loan is paid off, you'll receive access to the funds (and any earned interest, which will accumulate at a significantly lower rate than the interest you've paid). 
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