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When it comes to credit scores, we're often too critical, focusing on the negatives rather than the positives. But it's positive information — such as accounts paid on time and credit cards with low balances — that can really boost your credit scores.

So what happens when your good credit references aren't showing up on your credit reports? A consumer who goes by the screen name Vishu Pulle recently posted this question in the Credit.com forums:

"I have a secured card from 08/25/2012, but I can't generate or add a credit report. Prior to this I had no credit history."

Another reader, David, posted this question on the blog post "Can you force a bank to report to the credit reporting agencies?"

"I have a credit score of a 640 with Equifax but not scoreable on Transunion and Experian. My bank only reports to one to credit agency. I've been trying to get a home loan, what can I do?"

Vishu and David are both right to be concerned that their single account is not appearing on all of their credit reports. While it's hard to have high credit scores with only one account, you have to start somewhere.

There are several ways that good credit references, such as secured cards and bank loans paid on time, can help your credit:

Accentuate the positive. Everyone knows a positive payment history helps your credit scores. But there's more to it than that, says Barry Paperno, Credit.com's community director and a credit-scoring expert.

"One of the things the score looks at is the proportion of positive to negative items," Paperno says. That means that even if your credit report lists negative information, such as late payments or bankruptcy, for example, having accounts that are paid on time can help to offset that negative information.

"People know that the more negative information, the worse it is for your scores; but, conversely, the more positive information, the better," he says.

Length of credit history. The score will look at the average age of all your accounts, as well as the age of the oldest and newest accounts. "Older accounts can help — even a paid-off mortgage," Paperno says.

Credit mix. The credit score considers the mix of different types of accounts you have. Ideally, you want to have both installment and revolving accounts listed.

Why is the good stuff missing?

So what are some of the reasons why good credit references may not appear on your credit reports?

Lenders don't report. This is probably the most common reason why references aren't on your reports. Not all lenders report their customers' payment histories to the credit-reporting agencies. Some report only negative information. And others, as in the case of David's bank, report to only one or two agencies. There's nothing you can do to force a lender to report accounts that it normally doesn't report, because the credit-reporting system is voluntary. And credit-reporting agencies generally don't allow you to add individual credit references because they have to make sure any companies that report -- called "furnishers" in federal law -- follow the Fair Credit Reporting Act. It's simply too expensive and time-consuming to work with furnishers on a case-by-case basis.

If you are trying to build or rebuild your credit, it's especially important to make sure that your payment history on any loans or secured cards you get will be reported to all three credit-reporting agencies. Otherwise, those references really don't count.

In Vishu's case, it may simply be too soon to expect this account to be reported. When he wrote to us, his account was not yet 60 days old, and it sometimes takes 45 to 60 days or longer for new accounts to show up. He should contact the lender and ask what its credit-reporting policy is. If it says it does report positive information on a regular basis to all three bureaus, then he should double-check that the personal information it has on file for him is correct. If the account doesn't show up within another 30 days or so, he should contact the lender again and ask it to re-report his account.

In David's case, he is going to have to either build credit by obtaining a secured card or another account that reports to all three agencies. He can also check out eCredable.com, which may be able to help him build credit using other types of payments he already makes.

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