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About six months ago, my credit score abruptly jumped from the low 300s to the high 700s. The only two things that changed in my financial life were:

(1) I became listed as a joint trustee on my husband's revocable trust (and vice versa). The two trusts are of comparable size and each owns several sizeable accounts.

(2) I took out a second credit card and paid off a small (less than $100) balance, but only once.

Another puzzle is why my credit score was so low to begin with. I paid my credit card in full every month for decades -- it always had a four figure balance and sometimes a five figure balance, which were always well below the spending limit. (Mortgage paid off 20 years ago; no other loans of any kind, ever.) In contrast, my husband's credit rating was in the 800s. He had a second credit card for minor purchases, and was a co-holder on my card, which we used for major purchases. It seems to me that he got "credit" for what was principally my card, and I did not -- or is that paranoid?

This is just curiosity. It is unlikely that I will ever borrow money.

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If your credit was in the low 300s and you have had credit cards for years that you have paid in a timely fashion, then most likely there is a mistake on your credit report. Or was. The first thing I suggest is that you take a look at your credit reports and make sure there is nothing crazy on there. Even if you don't need a high score, it is smart to keep track of accounts in your name and records about you. If something is opened in your name fraudulently, in particular, then it can be quite a problem to get fixed, especially if you don't know about it for a long time.

You can check out your three credit reports by going to the government mandated annual credit report site. Alternatively, you can sign up for a free credit monitoring service at a place like quizzle or CreditKarma. The latter two will actually tell you what areas on your credit report are weak and what actions you can take to improve your credit.

My score was lower than expected and after using Credit Karma, I discovered that an old tax bill was on my record (even though the government was wrong and had admitted it and dismissed my case) and I had a random hospital bill that was probably an error in collections somewhere. I contested both, got them removed, and raised my score to 800. Luckily there was no fraud involved in my case.

Based on the information you have provided, I'd guess there was an old but very negative item on your credit--like some debts in collections, a government judgement, or even a bankruptcy. After some years the effect of those items goes down, and then rolls off your credit completely.

The trust is not relevant based on what you have described, but the credit card might be making a difference. The balance of your credit cards (even if you pay them off) and the unused capacity of your credit cards both factor into your score (balance is bad, capacity is good), and those can change often.

By the way, if you are both on a card, you will both get full "credit" for it as both of you had sole ownership of the card, even if he is only an authorized user or a co-signer. That's just the way it works.

  • Thanks. A mistake sounds plausible. If there was a negative item on my credit, it was a mistake. I have never had the items you listed, or anything remotely like them. – ab2 Nov 4 '18 at 4:03
  • CreditKarma offers free access to Equifax and TransUnion reports, while FreeCreditScore.com offers free access to Experian reports (the site is actually run by Experian directly). Just be careful of offers to convert your account to premium (paid). – Ben Voigt Nov 4 '18 at 4:21
  • WRT the last sentence of the answer, it varies by issuer. Some issuers report on authorized users, many do not. – Ben Voigt Nov 4 '18 at 4:22
  • @BenVoigt That's news to me. Thanks for your comments. I agree with your points about creditkarma, quizzle, and freecreditreport as well. Though annualcreditreport is different. – farnsy Nov 4 '18 at 4:27
  • oops, didn't specify, but the advantage of CreditKarma and Experian FreeCreditScore.com are that they provide you with ongoing access to your report (update every two weeks or month). Advantage of AnnualCreditReport.gov is that it gives you an official report identifier you can use for disputes. But only once per year. So save that until the ongoing access shows a problem. – Ben Voigt Nov 4 '18 at 4:30

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