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Expert Q&A

Restoring credit after authorized user status goes bad

Summary

When the primary account holder stops paying the bill, all users associated with the account suffer

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Question

Dear Sally,
My mother had a credit card on which I was an authorized user. She used the card to pay for assisted living, but since has been put in a nursing home with limited income and was not paying her bill.

When I applied for a loan, I found out the hard way that this credit card was negatively impacting my credit report. I had myself removed as an authorized user. Will the negative reports stop going to the credit reporting agencies? Is there any way to remove the past negative reporting since it was not my bad debt to begin with? — Lynne

Answer

Dear Lynne,
Being an authorized user may seem like a great idea at first. You get to use the card, but you’re not responsible for the charges. If the card has a long history of responsible use, it may show as a positive factor in your credit score — even though you never had to make a payment.

The other side of being an authorized user, however, is that any negative information on the card may show up on your credit reports. It may not seem fair when you don’t get the bill and don’t even know when it’s paid. One credit card with past due amounts and other negative information can significantly damage your credit score and make it difficult for you to get a mortgage, credit card or other loan on competitive terms.

Fortunately, you can undo the damage and completely remove this card’s negative information from your credit reports.

You were smart to get yourself removed from the card. This situation should resolve itself eventually.

The bank doesn’t report the changes to the credit bureau instantly. They may report every month, or even every few months. If you’re not in a hurry, you just have to sit back and wait for the negative marks to go away.

It’s a good idea to keep checking your credit report to make sure the information from the account has been removed. The account should completely disappear from your reports, along with all past information. If it’s still showing a few months from now, contact the credit bureaus in writing and tell them you were an authorized user and are no longer on the account.

If you are in more of a rush — for example, if you are trying to get a home loan — you may need to speed things along. If you’re in the middle of the underwriting process, you may explain to your loan officer that you were only an authorized user on the account. The loan officer may request a rapid rescore now that you are off the account. Only a broker or lender can request a rapid rescore, and the broker or lender must pay the small fee for this service. However, you can have your credit history corrected and your score recalculated in days, instead of in weeks or months. In a case like yours, this could make the difference between getting the loan you need and being turned down.

See related: 6 questions to ask when adding an authorized user to your card, How to remove yourself as an authorized user

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