Tradelines, Part 2: Helping the People You Care About

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Recently I discussed selling tradelines as a way to generate extra income. If you are unfamiliar with tradelines, read my prior article first.

Today I want to expand on the idea of using your tradelines to improve the financial position of the people you care about. Selling tradelines is an easy way to earn money, but there are issues of concern. There is another way to benefit from your tradelines, no selling involved. The banks are less than enthusiastic if you sell tradelines, but what I will suggest below is far more acceptable to the banks and falls under their terms of use as I understand them.

A quick recap: Tradelines are bank accounts. In this case we are talking about your credit card accounts. You can add an authorized user (AU). Adding an AU to a credit card account in not unusual by any means; the credit card companies encourage the activity. Selling tradelines (adding an AU you don’t know so they can increase their credit score) is gaming the system in the opinion of the banks. The reason selling a tradeline to a complete stranger is frowned upon is that fraud can take place. You may be completely unaware of the fraud, but the banks have risk so they don’t like it. There is nothing in it for them except risk so they close accounts they suspect of selling tradelines.

Adding an AU to your account is not unusual. The credit card companies actually encourage the activity. You may be familiar with the emails they send you recommending you add AUs.

Friends and Family

Starting out is hard for young people as they cross the threshold of adulthood. One moment they have no legal authority to sign loans or make important financial decisions and the next day, on their 18th birthday, they are thrown into the mosh pit of life where they are expected to know all the rules and are responsible for every decision they make financially. Good thing the education system doesn’t prepare them for the fateful day. That might hurt bank profits and we all know how terrible it is for Wall Street when people actually understand a thing or two about finances. Witness the whining of actively managed funds and hedge funds complaining about index funds.

My youngest daughter is months away from the above mentioned mosh pit. My oldest daughter has enjoyed the benefits of adult responsibility for a few years now. From an early age I pounded financial information into their heads. Money wasn’t/isn’t a taboo subject in my household. Money discussions are common and decisions Mrs. Accountant and I make with finances are easily viewed by the younglings.

Life starts without a credit score. Normally I would say credit scores are worthless and not being able to borrow money is more blessing than curse. Unfortunately, credit scores are used to determine auto insurance rates and even can prevent you from finding a place to rent. Your credit score affects your finances even if you never borrowed a plug nickel in your life. A ‘good’ credit score is valuable as it can reduce your expenses without effort, i.e. lower auto insurance premiums.

Adding junior as an authorized user to your credit card can remedy the situation. For the same reason people want to buy tradelines, you want to add people you care about to your tradeline AU list. Have three kids in college? Add them to several of your credit cards. You decide if they actually get the card to use. You can also limit how much they spend or even have the credit card company never send a card in their name.

An important point to remember is to only add the kiddos on accounts you actually use (so it gets reported to the credit bureaus). One small purchase will cause most cards to report to the bureaus. For the kids to benefit, keep the balance low. Once the balance reaches above 15% or so of the credit limit the benefits are diminished. The best way to do this is to put a low level of spend on the card/s you have the kids on and pay it in full each month.

The large amount of unused credit your children now have from being your AU increases their credit score. This in turn lowers their auto and renter’s insurance rates. If they ever need a loan (auto, home, education) they will qualify for lower rates without the need of you co-signing the loan (hopefully).

For the same reasons you want to add the wife/husband or significant other. They do NOT have to use the card or even have access to it! Just by being on the list benefits them. I would caution against giving the kiddos free reign with your credit card or you might end up in the market for credit score improvement yourself.




The Good Boss

The same principles can be used by small business owners. Adding valued employees as AUs can be a powerful tax-free fringe benefit for employees. When an employee experiences a higher credit score she may end up paying less for insurance and may be able to refinance loans at a lower rate. It doesn’t cost the employer a penny while the employee experiences lower costs without additional taxes owed on the lower expense (unless it involves lower deductible mortgage interest).

A few things to consider for employers. Business credit cards usually don’t report on individual credit reports. However, many small business owners use personal credit cards and in my opinion should to avoid a nasty tax surprise connected to basis issues.

Adding employees to a credit card doesn’t mean the employee gets to walk around with said card. It is convenient for certain employees to have access to the tradeline while others will have modest to no access. As long as the balance is low compared to the credit limit and the card is paid in full monthly, the employee should experience a credit score lift.

Selling tradelines have one serious problem. Add more than two or three AUs outside your geographic area and the problems start. The banks sniff out the behavior and consider it a breach of their term of use and cancel the card.

A business owner is in a different situation. I would call the credit card company and tell them what you want to do. Tell them you have a certain number of employees you want to add as AUs to your account. You can set up how much access each employee has. For example: Let’s say you want an employee to hold the card for business use. You can set a lower limit for that employee in case they go rogue. You can also add AUs and request a card not be sent until necessary. The banks like this as it does fit the terms of use for most credit card companies.




More Uses

Adding an AU to your account is easy. The banks hate it when someone games the system selling tradelines, but tend to like it when you add AUs they consider legitimate. Family and employees are natural AUs for your account. Your credit is not harmed while they benefit.

The service can be extended to friends as well. If you have concerns, call your credit card company and ask them if it is acceptable to add a friend or extended family member to the account. The worst they can say is no.

Tradelines are recognized as a valuable resource. That is why there is demand to buy temporary tradelines. Selling tradelines requires the constant adding and subtracting of AUs, a real pain in the tail and an indication to the bank you are gaming the system. Selling tradelines could get you blacklisted, a serious occurrence, while adding friends, family and employees generally have the blessing of the credit card company.

Selling tradelines are generally limited, but, with the bank’s permission, you can add a serious number of AUs without incident.

I hope you find this personal finance/credit hack valuable. Use it responsibly and it will serve you well.

You can help the kids without putting yourself at risk by co-signing a loan. The kids can have lower borrowing and insurance costs, too.

Teach your children good money skills and you reduce the risk they’ll return home from a financial catastrophe to live in your basement. In the end, it’s about preserving your peace of mind.



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Keith Schroeder

9 Comments

  1. Frugal Professor on November 1, 2017 at 10:26 am

    I recently added my 5 kids (ages 3-10) to my 2% fidelity card that I’ve had for close to a decade. I was shocked when it went through. It costs me nothing but potentially helps them out later in life with lower borrowing rates. Seems win win to me.

  2. ArmyDoc on November 2, 2017 at 10:06 am

    Keith,
    What did you mean when you said “You can help the kids without putting yourself at risk by co-signing a loan.” ?
    I understand in the context of a tradeline with the kid not getting a card – but that sentence by itself is in its own paragraph seems like a separate dangerous thought for an unwary newbie reader…

    • Keith Schroeder on November 2, 2017 at 10:14 am

      ArmyDoc, if you co-sign a loan for your child and they default you are on the hook. If you help them get a better credit score by adding them as an AU you don’t have to co-sign, hence, your risk is reduced. Am I being clear? Co-signing a loan is a risk unrelated to tradelines, but if the kiddos have a better credit score due to your adding them to your tradeline you can reduce your risk of liability on a co-signed loan. Hope this helps.

  3. Dan Wick on November 7, 2017 at 1:37 pm

    After reading your original post #1, my wife and I discussed using the trade lines to assist our children and grandchildren in getting higher credit scores. Then I open post #2 and see that you are on the same track as us. I am a little wary of selling the trade lines, but sharing with family or friends makes perfect sense. Thank you for the great articles.

    • Keith Schroeder on November 7, 2017 at 1:48 pm

      Dan, many people have an issue with selling tradelines and I understand. I wanted to expand on the idea with this second post on the subject in a way most people will feel comfortable with. Glad I could help.

  4. Beth on November 8, 2017 at 5:04 am

    My parents unwittingly did that for me and I don’t think I ever realized how much it helped me until just now (I’m 35).
    My parents added me to their card when I started college as their way to provide me emergency funds since we were several states away from each other. They knew and were fortunate they could trust me. I was amazed that I got the prime rate on my car loan when I had just finished college with no c.c. history (or so I thought). I actually had to drop them (haha) when I got my first mortgage because it threw my DTI out of wack.
    Then, I helped out my husband, unwittingly. I added him to my card. He came to me with a low score because he didnt have a significant credit history. When we looked into refinancing the house, his score was better than mine (above 800)!
    Wow. Now it all makes sense.

    • Keith Schroeder on November 8, 2017 at 7:26 am

      Sometimes you trip and come out smelling like roses. Thanks for sharing, Beth.

  5. Sergeant FI on November 12, 2017 at 5:44 pm

    Is this the follow up to the original article? Are you just going to use it for family/friends or have you been successfully using the “site that shall not be named.”

    • Keith Schroeder on November 12, 2017 at 6:25 pm

      Sergeant, I added the company I use on the first post on tradelines.

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