Can You Remove Yourself From a Cosigned Account?

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Dear Experian,

I am a cosigner and the secondary user on a credit card. I am not the primary user. I want to get my name off of the credit card. I called the credit card company, and they will not remove me. Is there a way to remove my name? The primary user tried also, and they still won't do it.

- WKN

Dear WKN,

You didn't say why you cosigned for the credit card, but it's likely that the credit card provider required a cosigner for the other person because he or she did not qualify for the credit card on their own. Cosigning means you're agreeing to make the credit card payments if the person you cosigned with doesn't, even if you weren't the one using the card.

Contact the Lender to Discuss Your Options

The other person who signed the card almost certainly would have to meet the qualification terms for the account as an individual in order for the credit card issuer to consider removing you as a cosigner. The company probably is reluctant to change the contract because it is not comfortable with the ability of the other person to manage the credit card and make payments on time based on their previous credit history or lack thereof.

Your best option is to work with the other person to pay off any existing balance and close the account. The person would then need to apply for a new account on their own.

How Does Cosigning Impact My Credit?

People sometimes fail to understand the commitment of cosigning for a credit card, loan or even a cellphone or other service account. It is not something to be taken lightly. As a cosigner, you accept full and equal legal responsibility for the account in question, even if you didn't make the charges. The joint or cosigned account will appear on your credit history and theirs, along with any late payments.

Even if the payments are always made on time, a high credit card balance can increase your credit utilization rate, which can harm your credit scores. Credit utilization is the second most important factor in FICO® Scores , right after payment history. It is calculated by taking the total of all your credit card balances and dividing that number by the total of all your credit card limits. Lower utilization rates are better for your scores, and you should keep your utilization rate below 30% at a maximum. If possible, keeping your rate below 10% is best for your scores. Ideally, you should pay the balance in full each month. Carrying a balance is not a good strategy to help credit scores.

As a result, if you cosign for someone, you are in a sense putting your good credit history in their hands. Before you do, be absolutely certain that they will manage the account responsibly and always pay the bills on time.

If you worry they're about to fall short of their commitment, consider stepping in and doing what you can to prevent your creditworthiness from being affected. And remember, you can get credit monitoring for free through Experian to make sure your credit stays in tip-top shape.

Thanks for asking.

Jennifer White, Consumer Education Specialist

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