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Credit tradelines, and the information contained in them, are what make up your credit history.
These tradelines can include credit cards, auto loans, home loans or student loans. Scoring models take the information from these tradelines to calculate your credit score.
Lenders not only look to see if you meet their minimum credit score requirements, but they also evaluate your tradelines. Therefore, primary tradelines will look better to a lender than an authorized user credit card account will.
This is why it is worthwhile to look at not only your credit score, but what kind of tradelines you have on your credit file.
What Are Primary Tradelines?
A primary tradeline is any account that you open in your own name. This includes a credit card, loan, virtual credit line, etc., where you fill out the application, and your credit is pulled to determine approval. A primary tradeline will report all of your account information to the credit bureaus each month.
All of that information is then used to calculate your credit score.
An authorized user tradeline, or an account where you are added as a user, is not considered a primary account. This is because you are not the account holder, and if the account goes unpaid, the lender cannot come after you for payment.
While authorized user accounts (espeically from credit cards) are not considered primary tradelines, joint accounts are. So, for instance, a mortgage you take out with a spouse would be regarded as a primary tradeline for both of you.
A credit card that you personally apply to is also a primary tradeline. But If you add your spouse or child on the credit card as an authorized user, the credit card is not a primary tradeline for them. Here is a list of Tradelines to Build Credit to check out.
How Can You Add Primary Tradelines to Your Credit Report?
There are several ways to add primary tradelines to your credit report. The simplest way is by opening a new credit account, i.e., applying for a new credit card or taking out a personal loan.
Or you can open a joint account. This can be a good solution if your credit is insufficient to get the lending you need.
For instance, a college student might not have enough credit history or income to qualify for a credit card on their own.
There are also ways to obtain new primary tradelines on your own, even with bad credit. For instance, you can open a secured credit card and put up a security deposit.
Or you could open a credit builder loan, which often doesn’t require a credit check.
And you can even use services like Experian BOOST™ and BoomPay that add rental or utility tradelines to your credit reports. These accounts are also considered primary tradelines and can help build your credit; they just don’t have the same weight as credit accounts.
How Are Primary Tradelines Different from Authorized User Tradelines?
An authorized user is someone added to a credit card account who can purchase things on the account but is not obligated to make payments.
Often, there is no credit check when adding an authorized user to an account. Often, all the primary account holder needs to do is request the addition of a user to their account.
This is most often done for family or close friends, or in the case of business credit cards, employees.
Then there is also the shady practice of selling authorized user slots.
When it comes to reporting, not all credit cards will report account information to an authorized user’s credit. And even when they do, the information is not weighed as heavily as it would be for the authorized user.
The upside to primary tradelines is that they encompass more than just credit cards and loans. For example, unlike authorized user tradelines, you can obtain primary tradelines for credit accounts, rental history, and utility payments.
How Much Do They Cost?
The cost of opening a primary tradeline depends on the type of account you open.
A secured credit card will require you to put up a security deposit and may also come with an annual fee of some sort.
Unsecured credit cards are often fee-free unless you carry a balance on them, in which case you’ll need to pay the interest charges. Some may have annual fees as well.
Loans are never free. The bank will usually charge some kind of administrative fee and interest. Even credit builder loans will charge you these fees, but they have the upshot of allowing you to earn interest on your secured (locked) funds.
Having your rent reported could be free if your landlord offers the option to you. However, if you are retaining rent-reporting services on your own, then you will need to pay for them. This could start at as little as $2/month and go up to over $100/year.
The one free option is utility reporting. Experian offers their Experian BOOST™ program for free, which will add utility payments and streaming services payments to your Experian credit report for free.
Are Buying Authorized User Tradelines Legal?
For those that struggle to qualify for primary tradelines, there are several companies out there offering to sell you tradelines. These tradelines are authorized user tradelines, not primary tradelines.
These authorized tradelines start at $200 for young, low-limit accounts and go up past $1000 for seasoned tradelines or ones that are older with higher credit limits.
When you purchase these tradelines, they can boost your credit score, but the boost will be temporary. The tradeline will be reported as closed on your account in as little as two months.
While this practice of buying tradelines is technically legal, it can violate the credit card company’s terms of agreement. This means that the action of buying or selling an authorized tradeline is fraud.
FICO even caught onto this practice a while ago and changed the algorithms with the FICO 8 model to start looking for and omitting these fraudulent accounts from credit score calculations.
If you are looking for a way to quickly build credit, you may be tempted to purchase one of these seasoned tradelines, but don’t. They are expensive, fraudulent, and may not improve your credit score.
Instead, opening a primary account is the better option. Even if you have bad credit, there are options out there.
Get Primary Tradelines from These Companies Instead
CreditStrong offers a unique type of loan called a credit builder loan.
When you apply for a loan, there is no credit check. So even if CreditStrong turns you down (which is almost impossible to do because practically anyone with a heartbeat qualifies), it won’t damage your credit.
Once you are approved for the loan, the loan funds will be sent to a locked savings account.
Each month you make your loan payment, CreditStrong reports your payment to all of the credit bureaus. Then, at the end of your repayment period, you get all of the money in that locked savings account sent to you, minus any fees.
CreditStrong offers a variety of loans to suit your credit building needs. If you want to build credit with the least impact on your wallet each month, you can choose their Subscribe option with payments as low as $15 a month.
If you want to build your savings at the same time you build your credit, then you can choose one of the Build and Save options. With their $48/month plan, you save up to $1000 within 2 years.
Or, if you are looking to build your personal credit for business reasons, they offer their Magnum plans with a loan value of up to $10,000.
They even offer a few packages for building your business credit.
Self Credit Builder Loan & Visa
Self Financial is another company that offers a credit builder secured loan.
Just like CreditStrong, when you apply with Self, there is no credit check. And once approved, your loan funds are locked within a savings account.
Self offers four loan plans, with payments starting at $25/month and going up to $150/month.
And, Self offers you a credit card product to help you build your credit quicker.
The credit card operates a bit like a secured card does. But instead of providing a separate security deposit, you can use funds from the unlocked portion of your account.
To get started, you’ll need your credit builder account to have been opened for at least three months, be in good standing, and have at least a $100 balance unlocked.
Just like the loan, Self will not perform a credit check for the credit card, so there is no risk in applying. Once you receive your card and activate it, you can use it just like any other credit card.
Extra is a debit card that reports like a credit card.
Extra will not perform a credit check; instead, their qualifications are entirely dependent on your bank account balance and spending history.
When you apply for the Extra card, you’ll need to link it to your existing bank account. Extra will then evaluate your income and expense history and set your spending limit. This is not a credit limit.
Each time you swipe or pay using your Extra card, Extra will pay for your purchase upfront. They will then pay themselves back the next business day by automatically drawing the funds out of your linked account.
At the end of the month, Extra tallies up all of the purchases you’ve made and reports this information as payment history to the credit bureaus.
Since Extra doesn’t let you carry a balance, there are no interest charges. Instead, Extra’s subscription plan is just $149 a year.
BoomPay is a service that helps you report your rent history to the credit bureaus.
Rental history usually doesn’t appear on your credit reports unless it is a service specifically offered by your landlord.
If your landlord doesn’t offer this service, several third-party companies, like BoomPay, do.
When you set up your account with BoomPay, you’ll need to either be able to link your rent payment portal or bank account you pay rent from.
For $2/month, BoomPay will report your rent payment activity to all three credit bureaus.
You can also pay an additional $25 to have up to two years’ worth of your rent payment history added to your credit reports.
Having your rent reported like this is a good option for those with no credit or a particularly thin file (only one or two credit accounts reporting).
That said, just be aware that some scoring models will not count the rental tradeline in your credit score calculations (i.e., FICO Score 8 and lower). Though the newer models are incorporating this into their scoring.
Experian BOOST™ is the one service on our list that is 100% free.
To get started, you’ll need to create a free Experian account. This account allows you to monitor your Experian credit report and credit score. Once signed up, you can initiate the process.
You’ll need to link your account to the checking account(s) your household bills come out of. Experian will then search through your banking history for recurring payments like utilities, internet, cable, phone, and streaming services.
The Boost tool will then give you the option to add this information to your Experian credit report. And they will immediately show you what the increase to your credit score is.
Another upside to the service is that they will never post negative information. So if you’ve missed payments to your internet provider, these will not be added to your credit report. And you can remove the accounts from your credit report at any time.
This is another excellent service for those with no credit or a very thin file.
But there are a few downsides.
First, this information is only added to your Experian credit report, so your TransUnion and Equifax credit scores will remain unchanged. The other is that just like with rent payments, not all scoring models count utility payments in their algorithms.
Focusing on your primary tradelines are vital if your credit history needs improvement or you are working towards achieving a good credit score.
Keep up a perfect payment history, increase your number of seasoned primary tradelines, and only open new primary tradelines.
This positive credit reporting will help your credit look more attractive to credit card issuers and mortgage lenders. And most importantly, don’t waste time and money buying authorized user tradelines from a tradeline company.
Read the other articles in our tradeline series:
- How Much Will a Tradeline Boost My Credit?
- How Long Do Tradelines Stay on Your Credit?
- How to Get a Free Tradeline
- Rental Tradelines
- Types of Tradelines
Amanda Garland is a personal finance blogger living in Dallas, TX. 10 years ago she was living paycheck to paycheck and knew nothing about how credit works. She learned some hard lessons in her fight for financial stability. Now she has a friendly competition going with her husband to see who can reach a credit score of 850 first. She is also a poet, having obtained a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing.