Contact the credit card issuer to remove yourself from the joint account or cancel it. But first, you may want to check your other credit reports to make sure it’s not an error.
Dear Keeping Score,
I just ran my credit report and learned that I have a debt on a Discover credit card that my father opened in 1989 and put me on as a joint holder. I was 17 years old at the time and do not have possession of the card. I don’t even know the account number. What steps do I need to take to get this off my credit report? – Alexis
It’s not every day I hear from an adult in their 40s who has never checked their credit report. I hope that means time and credit have been good to you so far. Your story is a lesson in why it is so important to know what is in a credit report.
Information is power, after all. Just in case you don’t know this, you are entitled to free credit reports from each of the credit bureaus every year at AnnualCreditReport.com. I recommend that everyone check their reports at least annually to scan for errors or possible identity theft, if for no other reason.
As a dad myself, I can imagine that your father was simply trying to help you build a credit score back then. There certainly wouldn’t have been an advantage for him to add a 17-year-old with no credit history or score to his application for the card.
Your father may have had the best of intentions, but he and you would have been better served if he had just added you as an authorized user rather than as a joint holder or owner. All of the benefits of joint ownership can be had by making someone an authorized user. This is a common practice for anyone who wants to help a loved one get introduced to credit and build their credit score.
See related: How to get your name off a spouse’s credit card
Find out if this account is dragging down your credit score
I am curious to know if this account is reporting derogatory information that is bringing your score down. Even if you were only an authorized user, late payments or other derogatory information could certainly have a damaging effect on your own score depending on how the credit bureau handles authorized users.
Some only report positive information, while others report both positive and negative history. Any scoring impact (positive or negative) would be larger if there is not much in your credit file. However, since this account is 30 years old, something tells me that by the age of 47 you probably have a fairly extensive credit reporting history all on your own.
Since you apparently only found out about this account when you checked your credit report, I have to think the account must not be delinquent or in collections if you are really a joint account owner. Discover would likely have been looking to you for payment long before now if that were the case.
However, using more than 30% or so of the available credit on the account would likely have some negative impact on your score even if you are simply an authorized user.
See related: Think you’re a joint account holder? Think again
Check your credit reports from the other bureaus
As for your question, your ability to take something off your credit report is dependent on a few things: is the item yours or someone else’s, is it accurate and is it out of date?
From your description, it appears as if the item is accurate and not out of date, but it may or may not be someone else’s data that is being reported on your credit file. So what can you do about this now?
First, you should get your reports from the other credit bureaus to be sure that this account shows up on all of them. Mistakes do happen, especially in credit reporting. Be sure to check what type of account it is – either joint or authorized user.
Should one or more of the three bureaus show you on the account as an authorized user, you can contact Discover and ask them to remove you from the account. You should see it fall off your credit report soon after.
If you verify that it is truly a joint account, you can have Discover close the account. Before you do that, however, I suggest that you let your dad know what you intend to do. This account may be his only credit card, or he could get embarrassed by having the card refused by a store or restaurant once it is closed.
If he wants to keep the account open on his own, he may have to have it re-underwritten and pay off any outstanding balance. Since he has all the account information, it would be easiest if you both made the call to Discover together.
How closing the account will affect your credit score
Closing the account should not have a major negative effect on his or your credit. The positive history from the card will continue to be reported for 10 years after the account is closed. Negative information is only reported for seven years.
There are some possible scoring pitfalls to be aware of. The first would be a possible ding to your score under the credit utilization category. This scoring factor looks at how much debt you are carrying compared to how much credit you have available.
Closing the account will lower the amount of credit you have available. Utilization or amounts owed counts for 30% of the FICO score and is classed as “extremely influential” by VantageScore.
Another possible point of impact could be reducing your credit mix if this is your only credit card. FICO ranks credit mix or diversity of credit use at 10% of your score while VantageScore classes credit mix as “highly influential.”
It’s time to take care of this now. Untidy loose ends have a habit of cropping up and biting you when you can least afford it!
Remember to keep track of your score!