Q. Can my parents’ credit impact my score?

A. Technically, no. Or, at least, it’s not supposed to.


“Credit reports and therefore credit scores are maintained at the individual consumer level,” John Ulzheimer, president of consumer education for SmartCredit.com, says. “That means there is no joint credit score or joint credit report housed by the credit reporting agencies.” 

However, Ulzheimer points out, there is such a thing as a joint credit account (like a credit card linked to a parent’s account) and having one with your mom or dad could impact your score for better or worse. It works the same way as a joint account with a spouse would.

Opening up a joint account with your parents, which is fairly common now that restrictions set forth in the 2009 Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility, and Disclosure (CARD) Act have limited banks’ ability to issue credit to anyone under 21, can inaccurately date the length of your credit history on your credit report. 

If mom and dad opened an account with American Express before you were born, then added you to it when you turned 18, you can conceivably end up with a credit report that is older than you. While this can actually boost your Experian, Equifax or TransUnion score by a few points – since a longer credit history will positively impact your credit report – it’s not likely to affect the version of your credit score that lenders will see. (In case, you missed it, see MainStreet’s explanation of all the different types of credit scores and how they are calculated.) 

“Nobody uses that date, because it's wrong so often,” Ulzheimer says.

So, your parents’ credit can have a positive impact on your score, but will it make you look better to lenders? Probably not.

Want to know what can and cannot affect your credit score? E-mail your questions to editors@mainstreet.com!