What Is a Tradeline on a Credit Report?

Definition and Examples of a Tradeline on a Credit Report

Man reading through credit documents
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A "tradeline" is the credit industry's term for an account on a credit report. Credit card accounts, personal loans, and mortgages are all examples of a tradeline that would appear on a credit report. Tradelines play a key role in determining an individual's credit score.

Review the types of tradelines you may encounter in your financial life, how they impact your credit score, and how you can use them to your advantage.

What Is a Tradeline on a Credit Report?

A tradeline on a credit report is a credit account. Credit agencies build credit reports on individuals based on these tradelines. Each tradeline includes information reported by the creditor, including:

  • Creditor or lender's name
  • Partial account number
  • Type of account
  • Date the account was opened
  • Date of last activity
  • Current balance
  • Credit limit or loan amount
  • Amount of the last payment
  • Date the account was last updated
  • Payment history
  • Current account status

There are two kinds of tradelines: revolving and installment. A revolving tradeline is a line of credit or a credit card account—these accounts let the borrower use credit as needed (up to their credit limit) over an extended timeframe. An installment tradeline, such as a student loan, mortgage, or auto loan, is a loan for a set amount that is paid back in installments.

How Does a Tradeline on a Credit Report Work?

Your credit score, the three-digit number that measures your creditworthiness, is calculated using tradeline information from your credit report. If you've made your payments on time, kept your balances low, and otherwise been responsible with your credit obligations, then your tradelines will contain positive information, and you'll have a high credit score to show for your efforts.

Without a tradeline, you can't have a credit score. For the credit scoring calculation to work, your credit report must have at least one tradeline that's been open and active in the past six months.

The number of tradelines you have open at a time can affect your credit score. Having too many can make you look overextended and having too few shows you lack experience with credit.

Unfortunately, credit scoring companies haven't disclosed the specific number of tradelines you need to achieve excellent credit. To build the best credit score, you should ideally open and close accounts only as you need, keep your existing accounts in good standing, and keep your debt balances low.

While good credit comes with a number of benefits, it doesn't guarantee your applications will be approved. For example, you can have a credit card application denied if you've recently applied for multiple different lines of credit.

When Are Tradelines Removed?

Credit bureaus are allowed to report any information that's accurate, complete, and within the credit reporting time limit, and that includes any negative or delinquent accounts you may have.

Open tradelines with positive information will remain on your credit report indefinitely Closed tradelines with positive information will stay on your credit report for a time determined by each credit bureau's internal reporting guidelines. Closed tradelines with negative information like delinquencies or bankruptcies will fall off your credit report within seven to 10 years.

For example, Experian keeps positive closed tradelines on your credit history for up to 10 years, but negative closed accounts will be removed after seven years.

How Is Tradeline Information Collected?

Creditors and lenders you have accounts with provide tradeline information to the credit bureaus based on their agreement with the credit bureaus. This information is usually provided monthly, so your account information reflects the most recent information from each of your tradelines.

You can keep up with the information being reported about you by ordering your credit report. Federal law entitles you to one free credit report each year from each of the major credit bureaus. You can order it through the Annual Credit Report website.

Once you've obtained your credit report, review it thoroughly to ensure all the information reported about you is accurate. If you spot errors on your credit report, like tradelines that are outdated or aren't completely accurate, you can have them removed by writing to the credit bureau.

Tradelines you don't recognize could be a sign of identity theft. These fraudulent tradelines can be disputed with the credit bureaus.

Can You Buy New Tradelines for Your Credit Report?

Adding new tradelines to your credit report is one way to improve your credit score, allowing you to build a positive payment history. If you have no credit or bad credit, secured credit cards, store credit cards, and credit builder loans are the best options for getting new accounts.

If you've had trouble getting approved or you're looking for a shortcut, you may be tempted to purchase tradelines. There are companies that sell access to tradelines, charging hundreds of dollars to add your name to someone's existing tradeline, preferably one that's been open for several years and has no delinquencies.

Once you're added to the purchased tradeline (usually as an authorized user on someone's credit card) the account appears on your credit report long enough to boost your credit score. With an improved score, you can then apply for credit on your own.

Some credit card issuers also report the nature of your relationship to the primary account holder to the credit bureaus. Lenders may take this relationship into consideration when you're applying for credit.

Buying tradelines doesn't always work. Lenders and credit reporting agencies view this practice as deceptive, so they've reworked the scoring model to try to reduce the impact of bought tradelines. If you're still interested in buying a tradeline as a last resort, do your due diligence. Companies that sell tradelines may try to scam customers. The benefits of buying tradelines are temporary and unreliable.

Rather than going through a company and paying hundreds of dollars for a tradeline, you can ask a relative or friend to make you an authorized user on one of their accounts. This is more likely to have a positive effect on your credit score—and it won't cost you any money.

Key Takeaways

  • Tradelines on a credit report refer to credit accounts, such as credit cards, personal loans, and mortgages.
  • The two types of tradelines are revolving tradelines (like credit card accounts) and installment tradelines (like a mortgage).
  • A tradeline will include detailed information on the account from the creditor, such as balance, payment history, important dates, and more.
  • Tradelines play a major role in determining a person's credit score.

Article Sources

  1. Experian. "What Are Tradelines and How Do They Affect You?" Accessed July 9, 2020.

  2. myFICO. "How Do I Go About Building My Credit History?" Accessed July 9, 2020.

  3. myFICO. "How to Repair Your Credit and Improve Your FICO Scores." Accessed July 9, 2020.

  4. Experian. "What Can You Do When Denied for a Credit Card?" Accessed July 9, 2020.

  5. Experian. "Should Closed Accounts Be Removed From My Credit Report?" Accessed July 9, 2020.

  6. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. "Market Snapshot: Third-Party Debt Collections Tradeline Reporting," Page 2. Accessed July 9, 2020.

  7. Federal Trade Commission. "Free Credit Reports." Accessed July 9, 2020.

  8. Experian. "Why You Should Avoid Buying Tradelines." Accessed July 9, 2020.