Buying Primary Tradelines: The Ultimate Guide
A primary tradeline is a credit account in the name of the main account holder. While some people claim that buying a primary tradeline is a way to boost your credit score, it's better to open an account on your own for free or consider using a legitimate service to purchase a tradeline as an authorized user, as buying a primary tradeline could expose you to serious legal and financial risk.
What Are Primary Tradelines?
A primary tradeline is simply a credit account you open under your own name. If you have a credit card, auto loan, or mortgage, you already have a primary tradeline.
As the owner of a primary tradeline, you are responsible for making payments on time and keeping your account in good standing. When you have a primary tradeline for a long time, it's considered "seasoned," which can help boost your credit score.
In many cases, the owner of a primary tradeline can add an authorized user to their account. For example, your credit card company may allow you to add a spouse or other individual to your account so they can use the card to make purchases.
When you add an authorized user to a tradeline, the account activity will typically show up on the authorized user's credit report. If your account is seasoned with no negative payment history, this can be a great way for an authorized user to improve their credit score.
Adding an authorized user to a tradeline is a legitimate and legal way to help someone else boost their credit. If you don't know anyone with a seasoned tradeline, you can also buy a tradeline from a reputable tradeline company, as there are no federal or state laws that prohibit the buying and selling of authorized user tradelines.
However, things get murky when it comes to buying and selling primary tradelines. In many cases, the companies that purport to sell "legitimate" primary tradelines create these accounts fraudulently, and buying them could come with serious consequences.
Are Primary Tradelines Legal?
It's perfectly legal to open a credit account in your own name, and this is something people do all the time when they take out a mortgage, open a new credit card, or get a car loan. However, potential problems arise when you attempt to buy a primary tradeline that doesn't belong to you.
In any discussion about buying tradelines, it's important to distinguish between "authorized user" tradelines and "primary" tradelines.
When you buy a tradeline as an authorized user, you are paying to be added to a primary account holder's tradeline — a practice that is perfectly legal and has the potential to give your credit score a temporary boost. You might see this referred to as "piggybacking" on someone else's good credit.
While you can ask a friend, spouse, or relative to add you to their tradeline as an authorized user, not everyone has access to someone with good credit. In this case, you can buy access through a tradeline company.
However, reputable tradeline companies don't sell "primary" tradelines. When you work with a legitimate tradeline company, you pay to be added as an authorized user to a primary tradeline, which is different from buying the primary tradeline outright.
Generally, the more seasoned the tradeline, the more expensive this access will be. In addition, the access is temporary, so you shouldn't count on a tradeline helping your credit score over the long term.
Also keep in mind that buying access to a tradeline as an authorized user doesn't give you access to the credit itself. In other words, you won't be able to make purchases while you're an authorized user, as your benefits are limited to having the credit history appear on your credit report.
If you can buy access to a primary tradeline as an authorized user, you might be wondering if you can simply buy a primary tradeline. The answer is maybe, but in most cases it's better to steer clear of this as a way to improve your credit score.
A primary tradeline should be a legitimate credit account in your name. While it's legal for someone you know to open a primary tradeline, add you as an authorized user, and then assign the account solely to you, this isn't really the same thing as buying a primary tradeline.
The companies that sell primary tradelines often create them fraudulently, and buying one could expose you to legal liability. Because the risk isn't worth the potential reward, it's better to open a primary tradeline on your own for free or buy a tradeline as an authorized user.
How Much Do Primary Tradelines Cost?
The cost of a primary tradeline depends on how you acquire it. You can get a primary tradeline for free by opening a credit card, financing a car, or taking out a mortgage.
If you buy a tradeline as an authorized user, the cost will vary depending on several factors, such as the age of the account, the credit limit, and the account's balance.
The best tradelines are seasoned, which means the account has a long and positive payment history. While you might see tradelines for as low as $100 or so, the best accounts can run as high as $5,000 and beyond.
What Is the Difference Between Authorized User Tradelines and Primary Tradelines?
Authorized user tradelines are typically what the industry refers to simply as "tradelines" when it comes to buying a tradeline. This is a legal practice that can provide a temporary boost to your credit score if you need to qualify for a better mortgage rate or otherwise improve your score in the short term.
A primary tradeline is a credit account you open in your own name. Unlike authorized user tradelines, buying a primary tradeline is generally frowned upon, as the companies that offer these are usually involved in scams and fraud that can land you in hot legal water.
Pros and Cons of Primary Tradelines
We don't recommend buying a primary tradeline, as the cons vastly outweigh any benefits you might reap from taking the risk. However, authorized user tradelines can offer some benefits.
Qualify for credit - Buying a tradeline as an authorized user can give your credit score a temporary boost that can help you qualify for credit accounts like a credit card or loan.
Get a better interest rate - If you're looking to open a large credit account like a mortgage, buying a tradeline can improve your credit score, which can help you qualify for a more favorable interest rate that can save you thousands over the life of your mortgage.
Further your career - Some employers run a credit check before they make a hiring decision, so buying a tradeline might be a good strategy for improving your chances of landing a job in a competitive market.
Get an apartment - Landlords want to know if a potential tenant is responsible, so they'll often look at your credit score before agreeing to give you a lease. If your credit history is thin, buying a tradeline might make your credit score look more seasoned.
Temporary - A tradeline won't stay on your credit report forever, so the benefits are temporary. Generally, you can expect the tradeline to stay on your credit report between two and six months, although some might appear longer.
No access to credit - Buying a tradeline as an authorized user doesn't give you access to any credit. You can't use the account to make purchases.
Some creditors frown on tradelines - Creditors are well aware that people buy tradelines as an authorized user, and not all of them approve. If your credit report shows that you're an authorized user on a very seasoned account that doesn't match the rest of your report, the creditor might suspect you've purchased access rather than building credit on your own.
Potential for fraud - Unfortunately, not all tradeline companies are reputable. Before you buy, make sure to thoroughly research a tradeline company.
Qualities of a Good Tradeline Company
If you're interested in buying a tradeline as an authorized user, there are several good companies that offer a combination of experience and value. Here is what to look for as you shop around.
Good customer service - A reputable tradeline company will have a dedicated customer service department staffed by knowledgeable employees who understand tradelines. These personnel should be ready and willing to answer any questions you have about the tradelines the company offers.If a tradeline company doesn't have any contact information listed for customer support, or you can't get a straight answer about what the company offers or how its tradelines work, you should consider looking for tradelines elsewhere.
Experience - The tradeline industry can be a beacon for scammers, so it's important to make sure any company you plan to buy from has experience in the industry. Look for a tradeline company that has been in business for several years.
Physical address and contact information - It's a red flag if a tradeline company has a website with little or no contact information. Reputable tradeline companies are up front about their services, their location, and their contact information.
Transparency - The best and most established tradeline companies actually list their available tradelines on their websites, so you can browse their offerings before you create an account. These companies have nothing to hide, and you can rest easy knowing they operate legitimately.
Where Can I Find Primary Tradelines?
There are a number of places to find primary tradelines, but in most cases you're better off opening a tradeline on your own for free or buying a tradeline as an authorized user. A primary tradeline should be a legitimate credit account in your own name, which is something no company can sell without risking fraud.
In some cases, a tradeline company will claim it can sell a primary tradeline owned by an individual who has allowed the account to default. If the account is seriously delinquent, it may have been turned over to a collection agency, and the original account owner may no longer have control over the account.
However, an account in default comes with a negative payment history, which will likely hurt your credit score instead of help. In some cases, an account in default may be seasoned enough to overcome this problem, but it's still a bad idea to buy an account with a negative history.
Some tradeline companies also offer closed accounts, claiming a new owner can buy the account and become the primary owner. However, it's nearly impossible to find out if the company acquired the account through lawful means, which is why it's best to stay away from this type of transaction.
If your credit score isn't good enough to qualify for a credit card or other type of credit account, you can try purchasing an item from a business that offers lines of credit. If you go this route, make sure the company reports your payment history to the three major credit bureaus so you get credit for your on-time payments.
However, there are drawbacks to this strategy. These types of credit accounts tend to come with steep fees, and you're usually restricted to using the line of credit at the business that issued your account.
Like any other new primary tradeline, an annual fee account won't have any age to it, which means it won't be seasoned enough to make much of an impact on your credit score. On the other hand, this can be a good place to start if you lack other options and have some time to work on improving your score.
Joint Account Method
Another method of obtaining a primary tradeline is to have one person open the account, add an authorized user to the account, and then ask the creditor to remove the original account holder. However, many creditors frown on this, and they will simply close the account rather than permit a second account holder to take over if the primary account holder asks to be removed.
While the joint account method is a legal way of obtaining a primary tradeline, you'll typically need to do this with someone you know and trust. It's highly unlikely any legitimate tradeline company would be able to offer a primary tradeline you could join as a second account holder.
Seasoned Primary Tradelines
Unfortunately, you're unlikely to find any reputable company selling seasoned primary tradelines. Even if a company claims it has seasoned primary tradelines available for purchase, these accounts usually have a negative payment history that makes them more of a liability than a benefit to your credit.
If you want to temporarily improve your credit, you're better off buying a seasoned tradeline as an authorized user. In this case, the primary account holder still retains control of the account, and you pay to be added to the account as an authorized user.
The good news is there are many respectable companies that sell authorized user tradelines, and you can even find seasoned tradelines that can give your score the boost it needs to help you qualify for a home loan, mortgage, or credit card. Keep in
mind, however, that seasoned accounts are more expensive, so you should be prepared to pay a premium for them.
Primary Tradelines for CPNs
Some disreputable tradeline companies claim they can sell you a nine-digit "credit privacy number" or CPN as a way to conceal your credit score and qualify for credit. These companies encourage consumers to use the CPN rather than their social security number when they apply for credit, as a CPN isn't associated with an individual's credit history.
The problem with this approach is that federal law prohibits an individual from using a CPN instead of their social security number to obtain credit. No federal agency issues CPNs, and the Social Security Administration has stated CPNs are illegal and associated with fraud.
How to Add a Primary Tradeline to Your Credit Report
The easiest way to legally add a primary tradeline to your credit report is to open a credit account in your name. As a bonus, you can do this for free.
While there are plenty of companies out there claiming to sell primary tradelines, the majority of these are shady operations that don't deliver what they claim. Worse, you could end up breaking the law by purchasing a tradeline obtained through fraud or identity theft.
If you want to build your credit score with tradelines, you should open credit accounts in your name and then be diligent about paying your monthly bill on time every time. This is the way to start building a healthy credit score.
You can also buy a tradeline as an authorized user, which is a way to give your credit score a short-term boost. However, the tradeline will only stay on your credit report for a short time — typically between two and six months.
Tips for Avoiding Fraudulent Tradelines
For every legitimate company offering legal tradelines, there are a half dozen others out to scam people. If you're in the market for a tradeline, it's important to do your research and learn what to look for when it comes to reputable verus disreputable tradeline companies.
Ask what kind of tradeline the company offers - Reputable tradeline companies offer authorized user tradelines. A legitimate company won't offer to sell you primary tradelines, as it's almost impossible to do this in a way that doesn't break the law.
Read the tradeline company's reviews - Never buy a tradeline without checking out the company selling it. Look at reviews left by other consumers on third-party sites so you can see if others had a positive experience.
Understand what you're buying - Lack of knowledge can lead people to make serious financial mistakes. Before you buy a tradeline, take time to understand exactly what you're buying.When you buy an authorized user tradeline, you're essenting renting another person's good credit for a short period of time. This can help improve your credit score, but it doesn't last forever, so you'll need to start practicing good credit habits if you want to increase your score long term.
Work with a reputable tradeline company - Always buy from a vetted and trustworthy tradeline company. We've ranked our top three best tradeline companies for you, so you can see what each one has to offer.
Tradelines can be an effective tool for improving your credit score, but it's best to stick with authorized user tradelines, as it's nearly impossible for any reputable company to offer primary tradelines for sale. Fortunately, there are a number of reputable tradeline companies that offer a legal and valid way to buy an authorized user tradeline to help improve your credit score.
About the Author
Mike is a recognized credit expert and founder of Credit Takeoff. His credit advice has been featured in CNBC, Investopedia, CreditCards.com, Bankrate, Huffpost, The Simple Dollar, Reader's Digest, LendingTree, and Quickbooks. Read more.