Inherited Credit: How to Increase Your FICO Scores in 30 Days


Inherit Good Credit from Family Members

Inherit Good Credit From Family Members who Provide your Birthday to the Creditor

MYTH – You can’t inherit or piggyback on another’s FICO scores.

FACTYes, you can inherit or piggyback a family member with good FICO scores. This is known as an authorized user (AU). You can also inherit credit scores from a family member with bad credit so be aware.

Effective no later than June 8, 2018, a credit reporting agency (CRA) will only report an AU if the birthday of the AU is provided to the CRA by the creditor.

Background: There was a time, recent and short lived that this credit activity was banned by FICO. It did not take long for their scientists to invent a new scoring formula based on Inherited Credit.  The reason this activity was banned was due to abuse. Greed driven individuals franchised their credit scores to strangers for predatory fees. This presented a problem for lenders.

With the FICO 08 model (introduced in 2009), inherited credit is now limited to family members related by blood or marriage. For example a mother or father could allow their children to piggyback on their good credit as the offspring establish their own credit. In the converse, a child may piggyback siblings, mom or dad to help them reestablish credit after a catastrophic credit event.

There is virtually no risk to the credit owner. As such you only list your relative as an AU, you can do this by phone. You do not grant the AU access to your credit cards – just your good credit. You will need your relative’s social security number, date of birth, present address, etc. Again, you are at no risk as you are only allowing your relative to use your credit not your credit cards.

Again for the credit owner, you are at no risk of your FICO Scores being damaged by allowing an Authorized User to piggyback on your good credit. You are not authorizing your relative to be a Joint Account holder on your credit; one is merely an Authorized User with no access to use the credit.

For the one inheriting credit, you need to know the relative you are asking to let you piggy back on their credit has very good credit. By this I mean they have at least a FICO Score of 720. Inherited credit is a double edged sword, if your relative does not have high scores, this method is of no benefit for you. If your sponsoring family member runs into a credit catastrophe, you will no longer wish to be an Authorized User on their accounts. It will take a month for the Authorized User status to be extinguished on your credit reports.

Finally, you should understand that method will do little good for getting approved for major credit as this will only help improve your credit scores, it will not improve, alter or age your credit history.

Image attribution

 Financially Speaking™ James Spray, RMLO, CNE, FICO Pro
CO LMO 100008715 | NMLS 257365 | August 2, 2010 | Updated February 17, 2018
Notice: The information on this blog is opinion and information. While I have made every effort to link accurate and complete information, I cannot guarantee it is correct. Please seek legal assistance to make certain your legal interpretation and decisions are correct. This information is not legal advice and is for guidance only. You may use this information. 

11 comments on “Inherited Credit: How to Increase Your FICO Scores in 30 Days

  1. James Spray says:

    Is Authorized User Liable for Deceased’s Card Balance? –
    The advise posted in this answer missed a key point. If the authorized user ever signed on a credit purchase or cash advance, the signator is obligated under that particular contrace.


  2. Maggie says:

    Hi James, Re : Piggybacking. Can I add my fiance as an authorized user on my credit card accounts, or do we have to be married? We have lived together for three years. I’d like to help him rebuild his credit after his catastrophic divorce; we’re planning to buy the house we’ve been living in. Thanks for a great, informative blog that no doubt helps many!


    • James Spray says:

      Hello Maggie –

      Per the integration of FICO 8 into the system beginning in 2009, it was the intent of the engineers to eliminate “renters” of credit scores. While I do not know of the criteria built into FICO 8 to eliminate the so called credit renters, my guess is that address would certainly have been one. So now that I’ve given it some though, yes, I think you could add your fiancée as an authorized user to help him rebuild his credit.

      Please be so kind as to update us in a month or so to let us know how this is working out for both of you.

      Best wishes for success!



  3. Ashley says:

    Hi James. I am in my third year of Chapter 13 bankruptcy and my friend added me to one of her new credit cards as an authorized user to try and build some credit while in Bankruptcy. Before this, I had a credit score of 600. When she added me, the credit limit on the card was $6,600 and she had a balance of about $1,000. My credit scores did not change at the time. Her balance then went up to about $2,000 (about a month later) and my credit score did not immediate change but I got a credit alert yesterday that my credit score had dropped by over 20 points. Is this the norm when a new account is added? Even with a balance, she has only used 37% of her credit so why does this have a negative impact? I have an email out to the credit bureau for an explanation, since there has been no other activity on my account. My questions now are (1) should I ask her to remove me as an authorized user and contact the bank and credit bureau to delete it from my account? (2) Will this bring my credit scores back up? I plan on moving to another town next year and renting a house and I was hoping that a fair credit score, even in bankruptcy, would help me with this. Please let me know what you advice. I still plan on getting a secured credit card later on this year through a credit union like you suggested but I am now concerned that will also drop my credit score. (3) Does your credit score matter while you are in Bankruptcy?



    • James Spray says:

      Hello Ashley –

      Read paragraph two of my blog. In order to inherit credit it’s only family members that can be of help. This explains why your score is not improving. I suspect the 20 point drop was from the aging of an account that dropped off or changed.

      By the sound of it, you have no credit of your own. This must change for you to build good credit. To build credit you first and foremost need to build your own credit. Read a few of my posts. Those of the most immediate help will be the one titled Credit Union Power along with Rebuilding Your Credit While In A Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Payment Plan.

      On acceptable use of inherited or piggyback credit, if a family member with good credit is willing to add you to their existing credit it will be of great help to boost your own credit, as above discussed.

      Best thoughts for success!


      • Ashley says:

        Thanks, James. Once again, I truly appreciate your prompt response! I will have them remove me from the card and hopefully have the information deleted. I will also continue to strictly adhere to the suggestions on your blog. Have a wonderful day!


      • James Spray says:

        Stacy, rather than concentrating on getting a deletion, I believe you will be far better served to concentrate on building your own credit. Once you are removed as an authorized user, I suspect the authorized user status with your friend’s account will become a non-issue.

        As always, my best wishes for your success.


  4. mahesh says:

    Hi James,
    I’m an international student doing masters in the USA. Actually, i’m having credit cards without SSN and I got approved from AMEX with a credit limit of 8000$. I paid my college fee with 5000$ after that I am paying monthly payments after a month I received a mail that my credit limit has been decreased. so will that affect my credit score?
    thank you


    • James Spray says:

      Yes, your credit scores will be adversely impacted. First, you need to understand that to have an amount of the credit limit greater than 30% in use has a negative impact on your credit scores. Given you had greater than 50% of the credit limit in use, is what caused the card issuer to reassess their risk. It’s likely the issuer limited your credit limit to that which you have in use. If this is the case, you have a 100% or greater utilization on this account. Until such time as it is paid to 30%, or better 20%, or less it will continue to drag your scores down.

      Credit cards are not designed to be student loans. I suggest you arrange an appointment with your college financial aid counselor. The sooner the better.



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