Can Family Payments Be Added to My Credit History?

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Dear Experian,

If I make cellphone bill and loan payments to my father every month, does that qualify to go on my credit report?

- SLH

Dear SLH,

Individuals cannot self-report loan payment history to the credit reporting agencies. So if you make payments to a family member for a loan that is in their name only, it won't appear on your credit report. However, if your father has cosigned with you on an account that is reported to Experian by the lender, it will appear on both your credit report and his. For the loan to appear on your report, your name has to be listed on the account as well.

The same applies to the cellphone bill. While on-time cellphone payments are not typically reported to the credit reporting companies, consumers can sign up to have those payments and other monthly utility payments added to their Experian credit report with Experian Boost®ø. However, the cellphone account and financial account you use to make the payments would need to be in your name in order for the history to appear on your report.

How Can I Start Building My Credit?

When you're starting out, trying to obtain an account in your name for the first time can seem difficult. While some lenders may be reluctant to extend credit or services to someone who hasn't yet established a credit history, there are some steps you can take to begin demonstrating that you are able to manage your debts responsibly:

  • Ask your father or other family member to cosign. Rather than having your father take out a loan on your behalf that is in his name only, ask him to cosign for a loan where you will each be equally responsible for the debt. Because a cosigned loan will appear on both your credit reports, be extra careful to make every payment on time. Missing a payment or defaulting on a loan will negatively impact your cosigner's credit as well as yours.
  • Ask a trusted family member to add you to their credit card as an authorized user. Not all lenders report their authorized-user accounts to Experian, so it's important to ask the lender whether they report the accounts to the credit bureaus before adding your name to the account. As an authorized user, you won't be legally responsible for making payments on the account. However, using the account to make small charges and then repaying the primary account holder for those charges will help you practice using revolving credit wisely. And, having the account appear on your credit report can help you begin to build history in your name.
  • Apply for a secured credit card account. With a secured card, the lender requires you to put down a deposit in exchange for a credit card account with a nominal credit limit. Because any charges you make are "secured" by the deposit you gave to the lender, these cards are easier to qualify for when you have no credit. In time, with good payment habits, your lender may be willing to convert the account to a traditional credit card account.
  • Open a cellphone, utility or streaming service account in your name. Once you have one or more of these accounts in your name, you can sign up for Experian Boost and have those payments added to your credit report. Experian Boost works by connecting to your bank account(s) to find qualifying on-time bill payments and, with your permission, adding those payments to your credit file. You will receive a free credit score both before and after those payments are added so that you can see how your score has changed.

Thanks for asking.

Jennifer White, Consumer Education Specialist

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