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What are Trade Lines?

By R. Anacan
Updated Feb 16, 2024
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When a borrower opens a line of credit, such as a credit card, car loan, or a home mortgage, these accounts are called trade lines. The number, history and status of these credit lines comprise a large part of a person's credit score. The higher a person's credit score, the greater the likelihood of obtaining credit and of qualifying for more favorable interest rates and terms.

Credit bureaus such as Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax look at the amount of open trade lines, the payment history on the accounts, how long the account has been open, and how long since the last activity on an account to determine an individual's credit score. To build positive credit history, a person generally should strive to have approximately three to five active accounts that are "seasoned," meaning they have been open for around two years, have positive payment histories, and are current and in good standing.

Lines of credit that are in the name of the primary account user are called primary trade lines. For example, if Borrower A opens a credit card in his name, he is considered the primary account user. If Borrower A added Borrower B onto the credit card account as an authorized user, Borrower B would be considered a secondary account user and this would be considered a secondary trade line for him. Authorized users on accounts are generally not responsible for re-paying any debt incurred on the account as the primary and/or joint account holder would.

Due to the importance of these accounts in credit scoring, there are now businesses that sell access to positive ones to customers who are looking to improve their credit score. These businesses find and pay people with good credit who are willing to add other authorized users onto their seasoned and positive credit accounts. Customers looking to build their credit pay these businesses for the ability to be added as secondary authorized users on these established accounts, a practice often known as "piggybacking."

In theory, the positive history of these trade lines help increase the credit score of the borrower with negative credit history, since these accounts are reflected on both the credit history of the primary holder and on the secondary holder as well. This was generally done with parents adding their children as secondary users on their accounts to help their children build credit. The practice of selling seasoned lines, while legal, is considered controversial and can be a risky endeavor.

In response to this growing practice, Fair Isaac and Company (FICO), the company that created the credit scoring model most commonly used in the United States, announced new guidelines that would reduce the impact of this sort of illegitimate "piggybacking" on credit scoring. A competing scoring model to FICO known as VantageScore does not consider authorized user accounts in its scoring evaluation method.

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Discussion Comments
By ncp — On Mar 01, 2015

When using tradelines you really have to know what and how it affects the credit. Most people who allow you to piggyback will only give you 1 month as an authorized user. so you have to act quickly after the billing cycle of their billing statement hit. The tradeline will show up on your credit after their billing cycle. and your score should rise a couple of points, depending how old the account is and the credit limit of that account, but sometimes it will not show on all three bureaus at the same time. You also have to have a legitimate tradeline source.

By anon262172 — On Apr 18, 2012

I did about three months worth of research before I purchased authorized user tradelines (or "seasoned tradelines"). It's really interesting that the comments here hit on every topic I came across. What's more interesting is most of the comments are wrong and some of them are right. I will explain.

1) CPNs: They're a total scam and they are being investigated left and right by the government.

2) There is absolutely no difference between seasoned tradelines five years ago and today; the fico 08 myth is a myth. (Superior Tradelines explains it well. They also have credit reports showing score increases on their blog).

3) Credit bureaus have no say, because they do what the law says, not the other way around. Right now, the law has been the same since 1974 (EOCA and Fed Res Reg B).

4) Scams: How easy is it to not get scammed? Use your gut, first of all. But, then actually look into the company. Yeah, I bought from Superior Tradelines and they are bonded. This means they literally can't take your money and close their doors. Otherwise, you can just file a claim against their bond and their state sends you a check and goes after them. you don't even have to trust them. They can't fool around like unbonded companies.

5) Primary lines: I cited the law that provide for authorized users above. I challenge someone to provide a law that permits someone to add primary lines.

By anon231165 — On Nov 23, 2011

I was scammed twice on tradelines and lost a lot of money. I found one company called Reinstar credit solutions. They actually delivered for me. They were not shady, they had an 800 number that I could call and kept me informed. I don't know if they are even still around but if they are I'd recommend them. The rest stole my money. --Tony

By anon211249 — On Sep 02, 2011

Cpn numbers went out in the 60's and piggy backing won't work any longer. I used this company for my business trade lines Bcs Members Network who had them reported to dun and bradstreet then, as he said they would then make their way out to experian in about 90 days because experian bought out dun and bradstreet. The information was from years ago when they first started their database.

By anon114467 — On Sep 28, 2010

Beware, there is a change in the law regarding debt settlement companies. I work with an attorney and many people have paid a substantial monthly fee to supposedly build up their funds so that the debt settlement company can pay off their credit card. However, many consumers lost their money and the debt settlement companies didn't even try to settle their debt leaving them several thousand dollars in worse debt after working with these debt relief companies. Prepare for a bumpy ride.

By anon64692 — On Feb 08, 2010

Authorized users are only good to show history now. it won't affect your score at all. Moe

By anon61202 — On Jan 18, 2010

i used a guy from company called the Zackoah group from chicago. a few times and was satisfied. --Mark

By anon56516 — On Dec 15, 2009

i agree, but the credit bureaus are discounting authorized users and piggybacking now.

Tradelines are only good if it is a primary Tradeline.

By anon50917 — On Nov 02, 2009

how can i obtain a cpn number with tradeline, not through third party cheap.

By anon26777 — On Feb 18, 2009

This is very informative and well done - very thorough. I am getting ready to refinance and it is something I want to be very knowledgeable on. TY

-Ann

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