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Authorized User And Credit Reporting

Will a consumer's credit score will be boosted if the credit card is owned by a non-spouse?

I am only 19 years old and recently discovered I have a bad credit report. I was able to obtain a free credit report and discovered that I had an unpaid balance of almost $3,000 from a gas card. My father was the card holder. He added my name as a user of the card. How can I get this discrepancy off of my credit score?

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Bill's Answer
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Adding an authorized user to a strong account is known as “piggybacking.” Before 2007, authorized users got the benefit (or harm) from that account's history. If a particular account’s history contained on-time payments and low account balances and a long history, the authorized user got the benefit of that strong history. Conversely, if an account was rife with late payments and high balances, the authorized user’s credit score was damaged.

In 2007, Fair Isaac Company, the creator of the FICO score, reversed the long-standing policy of counting piggybacked accounts on an authorized user’s credit score. In 2008 Fair Isaac reversed the 2007 policy, and then in 2009 it announced another refinement when it rolled out FICO 08, the latest edition of its scoring algorithm.

The FICO 08 press release reads in part, "FICO 08 helps lenders protect against authorized-user account ‘piggybacking’ by incorporating new patent-pending technology that materially reduces the potential score impact associated with the abuse of authorized user accounts. By considering authorized user accounts in score calculations, FICO 08 continues to support lenders’ abilities to comply with federal regulations."

In other words, if a potential lender is using FICO 08 software (the current version in 2009), and it encounters a consumer who is an authorized user on a spouse's seasoned and good-credit credit card, that user will get a boost in their credit score. On the other hand, if a potential creditor is using FICO 08 software and it encounters a consumer who is an authorized user on a seasoned and good-credit credit card owned by a non-spouse, that consumer's credit score will not be boosted.


Regardless, it is in your best interest to stop piggybacking on your father’s damaged credit card account. Ask him to contact the creditor and remove you as an authorized user. Then wait 60 days and go to and get a no-cost credit report from each of the three main consumer credit reporting agencies in the US. Dispute any incorrect information, including any mention of your father’s accounts on your credit report. See the Federal Trade Commission document FTC Facts for Consumers: How to Dispute Credit Report Errors for more information.

In this case, it appears that whatever means you used to determine your credit score is not using FICO 08. Piggybacking is no longer the sure-fire way of boosting a non-spouse’s credit score. At best, piggybacking with a non-spouse will create uneven results depending on if the creditor is using FICO 08. If the creditor is using some other software to calculate the debtor’s credit score, it is anyone’s guess if piggybacking on a seasoned account will create positive or neutral results.

For more information on credit reporting and credit scores, please visit our credit information and resources page.

I hope this information helps you Find, Save, and Learn.



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