Credit report history seem too short? Contact your issuer
American Express has a 'supplemental user' category
Credit Score Report
Dear Credit Score Report,
wife added me as an authorized user to her American Express card, but my credit
report is not showing the entire length of history that she had. (She has the
card for over 36 months, and my credit report is only showing six -- the amount of time since I was added to the account.) She actually had two cards from AmEx and has added me
to both. Now, between us, we have four accounts -- two old ones with 36 months
of history and two new ones (when I was added) with the same credit limit -- but
with only six months of history. How can I solve this? Thank you. -- Bryant
You're probably right that your credit report should include
the date that account was originally opened. But since it doesn't, you'll need
to contact American Express to fix the problem.
And you also may want to clarify your status with American
Express, since you're probably what's known as a "supplemental cardholder"
and not an authorized user. American Express reports the original date an account was opened for both the primary
cardholder and any supplemental cardholder on the account. However, it shouldn't
report any activity for someone who's purely an authorized user. Thus, if you
were only an authorized user, you wouldn't see six months or 36 months of
history on your report -- you'd see nothing.
Most card issuers don't offer supplemental cardholder
status. Most allow you to become either a joint account holder -- with full
privileges and responsibility for a shared account -- or an authorized user -- where
you can use the card and improve your credit history, but aren't responsible
for making payments. However, American Express doesn't offer the joint account
holder option. Instead, you can become a supplemental cardholder, which allows you
to get a secondary card with its own unique number tied to an existing account.
As a "supp," the account gets reported to the credit bureaus for
inclusion on your credit reports. Authorized users on AmEx accounts, meanwhile,
don't automatically enjoy the benefit of the card's credit history. All this suggests
you are probably a supplemental cardholder.
What does that mean for your own credit history? "As a
supp, period, you're going to build a credit history," says AmEx
spokeswoman Desiree Fish. AmEx
distinguishes a supp from an authorized cardholder, who has some privileges with the card
account -- making purchases and payments, for example, or requesting a credit line increase -- but who won't automatically build a credit history.
And you can even be both at the same time: AmEx allows an additional cardholder to be both a supplemental
and an authorized user, with permission to use a card tied to the account and
the ability to manage that account. I'm not sure if you are also an authorized
user, but as I mentioned earlier, you certainly seem to be a supplemental user.
However, as your email explained, the full credit history
for the AmEx account you and your wife share wasn't appearing on your credit
report. Something was wrong, but I'm not sure what, so it's vital to call AmEx
to get help. Since she's the primary (or "basic," in AmEx's language)
cardholder, you may want to have your wife call.
Your situation reaffirms the first step that cardholders
should take when they find something that appears to be wrong with their
account -- shared or otherwise. Reach out to your card issuer, tell them what's
wrong and ask them to help you find a solution.
See related: Credit card authorized users, joint account holders differ
Jeremy M. Simon is a former CreditCards.com reporter who wrote about credit scoring, economic data, credit card crime and other issues. He is based in Austin, Texas. He is a graduate of Vassar College and has previously worked for Thomson Financial in New York City, where he wrote about the stock markets, and Texas Monthly, as well as several publications in Austin.
Published: July 26, 2011