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Dr. Don Taylor, CFA, Bankrate.com advice columnistCable, utility payments aren't on credit report

Dear Dr. Don,
Some time in the near future I will be looking to finance my first home, so I obviously have been taking a more serious look at my credit score.

However, when I look over my report, I don't see things such as utility, TV or Internet bills. I thought such things would help my score and go on the report ... or do they only show up as a negative when I pay late?

Can you clarify what things actually make it on there?
Thanks,
-- Andrew Attenuate

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Dear Andrew,
It would be unusual for a creditor to not report your payment history to at least one of the three principal consumer reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian or TransUnion), but other businesses you deal with make a decision whether or not to report your payment history to the credit bureaus. You can't force a business to report your payment history, but if they chose to do so they have to follow the reporting requirements of the Fair Credit Reporting Act, or FCRA.

Not seeing the information on one credit report doesn't mean that it isn't on one of the other two. Check with all three credit agencies. You are eligible for one free credit report from each agency every year. If you haven't taken advantage of this right, Bankrate provides the contact information.

I asked Rod Griffin, the senior manager of public education at Experian to provide a little more background about businesses reporting payment history on a credit report. Here's what he had to say:

"Utility companies, cellular telephone service providers and cable
television providers do not typically report information to the credit
reporting companies. In fact, some states prohibit utility providers from
reporting account payment information.

"These kinds of accounts are what the industry is calling 'alternative
credit data.' Experian is studying these and other credit-like
relationships that could be part of a credit report. Experian believes
that utility payments and other similar relationships could help people
like your reader establish a positive credit history and gain access to
the traditional credit marketplace ...

"For now, though, utility, telephone and cellular service payments are
not reported regularly."

A credit score is based on the information in your credit report. Each credit reporting agency has its own credit score. A new credit score called a VantageScore uses the information in all three reports. A Bankrate feature, "New credit score now online," explains VantageScores in greater depth. You can estimate your FICO credit score for free on Bankrate.

To ask a question of Dr. Don, go to the "Ask the Experts" page, and select one of these topics: "financing a home," "saving & investing" or "money."

Bankrate.com's corrections policy-- Posted: March 20, 2007
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