Can I Kick My Parents Off Our Credit Card?

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Sometimes, removing your name from your parents’ credit card (or vice versa) has its advantages. For starters — it’s kind of nice to handle your own bills without getting the glowering stink eye about your spending sprees on the card’s statement. And while you’re on the card, your credit is generally linked to your parents’ credit, so if your parents are irresponsible, you’ll look irresponsible too, said Eric Lindeen, vice president of marketing for ID Analytics in San Diego, California.

“It can be a great financial head start to be listed on a parent’s card, but [it] can become awkward or damaging if their credit isn’t sterling,” he said.

To get an idea of how your parents’ card use may be affecting your credit, it’s a good idea to check your credit report. That’s because if your name is listed on a shared credit card account, the good and bad habits of all users can show up on your credit report.

“It should be easy to spot problems and decide if you should remove yourself from the card,” Lindeen said. “A horrible card will be less than a year old, maxed out, with multiple late payments.”

You can pull your credit reports for free each year at AnnualCreditReport.com. You can also watch for changes by viewing two of your credit scores for free every 14 days on Credit.com. If you ultimately decide it’s time to go your separate credit ways, the next steps vary, depending on how the account is shared. Here’s a rundown of your options.

1. If You’re an Authorized User on Your Parent’s Card

You can breathe a huge sigh of relief if you’re an authorized user, because you’ll have no responsibility for repayment of the credit card’s debt, according to Rod Griffin, director of public education at credit bureau Experian. If you want to come off the account, call the card company to learn its policy for removing your name. It normally only takes a call to remove authorized users, although the issuer may request a letter, or for the person responsible for the account to contact them directly, which could admittedly get awkward.

“The biggest challenge in a situation like this is having the conversation with the parent (or more often, the child) to explain the action. We can hope they accept graciously,” said Lindeen.

In addition to contacting the card issuer, you should also get in touch with the three major credit reporting agencies to have the account removed from your credit report.

“Experian will remove authorized user accounts from the credit history upon request,” said Griffin. This step is particularly important if your parents’ credit card habits are a little irresponsible.

You can go here to learn about disputing errors on your credit report.

2. If Your Parent Is an Authorized User on Your Account

Let’s say you were helping your parent rebuild credit by adding them as an authorized user to one of your accounts, but the process has gone awry: You can call to have them removed from the account. However, keep in mind, while this removal can prevent future problems, it won’t eliminate any black marks mom or dad have already added to your credit report.

“An authorized user can definitely damage a primary cardholders’ credit report, as the primary cardholder assumes all responsibility for the [authorized user’s] activity,” said Sukhi Sahni, director of communications and marketing public relations for Capital One.

In other words, as a primary accountholder, you’re considered liable for the debts your parents may have run up — and, if those debts caused you to miss any payments on the card, you’ll have to wait for those to age off of your credit report.

3. If It’s a Joint Account

If you are a joint accountholder on the card in question, you can move to have the account closed. Either party can unilaterally close the account by contacting the card issuer over the phone or in writing. Once closed, the cards of both joint account holders and any authorized cardholders will be deactivated, and any future attempt to make purchases will be declined. But both parties are generally still considered on the hook for any debt remaining on the card. And, yes, those debts and/or missed payments will likely appear on your credit report until they’re paid down or age off, respectively.

 

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Can Alternative Credit Scores Hurt You?

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We’ve written quite a bit on alternative credit scores at Credit.com over the years — and on how these non-traditional scores based on things like utility and rent payments can help consumers with “thin” credit files qualify for credit cards and loans. But can the opposite also be true? Can people who have healthy “traditional” credit scores be stymied by the use of alternative scores?

There’s emerging evidence that it is, in fact, possible.

A recent article in the Los Angeles Times recounts the experience of one such man, Joseph, who applied for a travel rewards card through Bank of America only to be rejected because of the bank’s use of an alternative credit score from a company called Credit Optics.

Now, keep in mind that Joseph told the Times that his traditional credit score from FICO is an 820. That’s an excellent score based on FICO’s scale of 300-850 (learn more about what counts as a good credit scores here). And Joseph told the Times that his debt-to-income ratio is below 20%, which you might already know means he carries very little debt based on his ability to repay. While FICO doesn’t measure debt-to-income, the amount of debt you’re carrying compared to your total credit availability is a critical part of your FICO score.

Joseph’s alternative score through Credit Optics was a 374 on a wide scale of 1 to 999, which, a company representative reportedly told the Times was a “pretty good” score. But it wasn’t good enough for Bank of America to approve his request for a new credit card. (Bank of America did not immediately respond to Credit.com’s request for comment.)

The rest of the details around Joseph’s rejection aren’t clear, but it begs the question: Can it happen to you? The short answer is yes.

It Could Happen to You

“When alternative credit data first started to be used, the idea was that this was going to fill in thin files for people who didn’t have a lot of credit history with traditional financial products,” said Thomas Bright, a writer with Clearpoint Credit Counseling Solutions. “That was the idea early on, and this looks like more of a trend toward using these scores for even the traditional consumer who has a positive traditional credit history. That’s a new trend that brings a whole new set of concerns.”

Specifically, those concerns revolve around not knowing what information will be used to make up your alternative credit scores. It could be your utility bills, your rent — essentially every single bill you might receive. Bills for not returning library books on time. Or even your driving and arrest records, as some alternative scores include information from public records. Nearly anything could be fair game when it comes to determining your creditworthiness.

“It’s really comes down to transparency,” Bright said. “When you look at FICO, it’s very clear. There are five categories that make up your score, and then it’s one step from there to figure out how you can influence these five categories. And then you can really take your destiny into your own hands and shape your credit score and credit profile. But when we talk about alternative data, that’s not possible for most people because … it’s not clear how much alternative data there is on them, and they don’t have access to see it.”

What You Can Do

Broader use of alternative scores in conjunction with traditional credit scores means you’ll need to make certain you make timely payments on every financial commitment you have to avoid any blemishes that could negatively impact you, Bright said. You’ll also need to appear stable, so having direct deposit from your employer can be helpful, as can moving infrequently.

Setting up auto-pay for your monthly bills can help ensure you don’t miss or make a late payment. Also, avoiding overdrafts on your bank accounts can also help because some alternative data takes that information into account when determining your credit score.

If you’re ever denied credit, it’s good to review the denial to find out what credit reporting agency the financial institution used. If it’s one of the big three agencies, it’s a good idea to pull your credit reports, which you can do for free every year at AnnualCreditReport.com. You can then begin to clean up any blemishes and improve your credit scores. Likewise, if you see errors on your reports, you can dispute those errors so they are removed.

If you were denied because of a report issued by an alternative credit scoring company, you can contact them and see if they will explain to you what is included in their calculations so you can attempt to dispute, correct or mitigate that data. But that could be easier said than done.

[CREDIT REPAIR HELP: If you need help fixing your credit but don’t want to go it alone, our partner, Lexington Law, can manage the credit repair process for you. Learn more about them here or call them at (844)-346-3295 for a free consultation.]

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Does Everything on My Credit Report Affect My Credit Scores?

Credit reports, as you’ve no doubt heard, are tremendously important. After all, the information on them dictates your credit scores, which, in turn, dictate whether you’re able to readily score things like a mortgage, auto loan, credit card and even affordable insurance or cellphone plans.

But not every piece of information on that crucial report carries weight.

Personal Info Is a No-Go

“No identifying information affects credit scores,” Rod Griffin, director of public education at Experian, said in an email. “That includes things like your name, address, previous addresses, date of birth, Social Security number and so on. I’m sometimes asked if your ZIP code is considered in credit scores. It is not.”

Your age also isn’t technically factored in your credit scores, Griffin said. (It is true, however, that older folks tend to net higher numbers than younger ones, all factors being equal, because your length of credit history — determined primarily by the length of your oldest credit account and the average age of all your accounts put together — is a major component of most credit scoring models.)

And employment information, including your salary, occupation, employer and job history can sometimes appear on your credit report, but it’s generally not factored in traditional credit scores.

Making a Statement 

Credit scores, too, generally don’t factor in statements a consumer adds to their credit reports, such as fraud alerts or disputes.

“However, the statements may cause the application to be delayed in order to verify your identity or explain or document why you disagree with dispute results, which is exactly what should happen,” Griffin said.

Statements indicating that an account is being repaid through credit counseling do not technically affect your score.

But “if the counseling service negotiates debt settlement on your behalf, the account could then be reported as ‘settled,’ which will hurt credit scores,” Griffin said. “It’s the status of the account, not the statement, that affects the score. The term ‘settled’ indicates the account was not paid in full, or as agreed under contract.”

Still, some lenders may view a statement referring to credit counseling as a positive, he said, “because it shows that you have taken initiative to try to learn how to manage your credit and debt more wisely.”

The Skinny on Inquiries (& Authorized Users)

Soft inquiries — essentially those unrelated to a consumer’s request for financing — may appear on your personal credit report but won’t damage your credit in the same way that a hard inquiry will.

“Inquiries for employment purposes, insurance, pre-approved offers, account reviews by existing lenders, and getting your own report do not affect credit scores,” Griffin said. “Only inquiries resulting from your application for credit are shared with lenders and could affect credit scores.”

Finally, Griffin said, credit reports may show that you are an authorized user on someone else’s credit card account. But that account should only affect your scores if the payment history associated with them is positive.

“If [the] payments become late, you can request that the account be removed,” he said. “So being an authorized user on an account can help credit scores but shouldn’t hurt them.”

Aiming for Accuracy

Of course, you shouldn’t discount errors regarding any of the aforementioned pieces of info that may appear on your credit report, given that they aren’t actually affecting your scores. Inaccurate information, like an unfamiliar address or out-of-left-field soft inquiry, could be a sign identity theft has occurred. So if you discover any, you should still dispute the information with the credit bureau in question.

You may also want to consider putting a fraud alert or even a credit freeze on your credit reports. At the very least, you should continue to monitor your credit closely to help make sure no fraudulent accounts have been taken out in your name. You can pull your credit reports each year for free on AnnualCreditReport.com and view your free credit report summary, updated each month, on Credit.com.

More on Credit Reports & Credit Scores:

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