Credit Scores and Reports

Credit report history seem too short? Contact your issuer


Credit history can be a tricky thing, especially if you’re not the primary person on a credit card account. But if you’re ever unclear, don’t hesitate to call the issuer, our expert says

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Question for the expert

Dear Credit Score Report,
My 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


Answer for the expert

Hey 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.

Good luck!


See related: Credit card authorized users, joint account holders differ

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