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Protect Yourself and Your Credit When Choosing a Co-signer

Written by Equifax Experts on May 24, 2012 in Credit  |   8 comments

If you have a limited credit history or a thin credit file, you might find it difficult to get a loan or take out credit. Even if you’ve never had a late payment, lenders may be more wary about taking you on as a client…

credit report loanIf you have a limited credit history or a thin credit file, you might find it difficult to get a loan or take out credit. Even if you’ve never had a late payment, lenders may be more wary about taking you on as a client if you have a shorter credit history.

One way you can reduce your risk to a lender is to have a co-signer. A co-signer is another person, usually a family member or a friend, who signs onto the loan with you.

Being a co-signer is a big responsibility. If you can’t make your payments, the co-signer becomes responsible for the loan and the bank can legally come after him or her for the money. You need to make sure that both you and the co-signer understand all the terms, responsibilities, and liabilities of the loan before entering into any agreement.

Be aware: When you take out a loan with a co-signer, both of your credit scores are on the line. If you make regular, on-time payments, it will reflect positively on your credit score and you might be able to move forward in your financial life without a co-signer. If you miss payments or are chronically late, however, that will show in your co-signer’s credit history. If you think you might not be able to make a payment, let your co-signer know and give him or her a chance to make the payment for you.

Be sure your co-signer is someone with whom you are willing to be honest with about your credit history and problems. Know that this person may ask to see your credit report to determine just how risky a proposition it is to co-sign for you.

Before choosing a co-signer, ask yourself if this friend or family member is going to be a good lender. Will he or she harp on you constantly about paying your bills? Will you be trusted to make the payments?

To protect both yourself and your co-signer, consider hiring an attorney to draft a simple partnership agreement that spells out what will happen if payments aren’t made on time and what rights and responsibilities each party has in the transaction.

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The information contained in this blog post is designed to generally educate and inform visitors to the Equifax Finance Blog. The blog posts do not give, and should not be assumed to provide, personalized tax, investment, real estate, legal, retirement, credit, personal financial, or other professional advice. Before making any financial decision, you should always consult with the appropriate professionals who can explain your options, rights, and legal responsibilities, and advise you on any tax, legal, credit, or business implications that may result from those decisions. The views and opinions expressed by the authors of blog posts are their own views and may not be the views or opinions of Equifax, Inc. and/or its affiliates.


  1. Nicky says:

    How do I go about lifting a freeze that has been placed on my account due to a fraud protection plan I have through pre-paid legal services?

  2. Anonymous says:

    I’ve over paid on all of my utilities and have credit balances. I still pay each month. Will paying after the due date affect my score even though nothing is due and I have hundreds of dollars in overpayments?.

    • EFX Moderator, EM says:

      If nothing is due, it should be reflected as such on your credit report. Paying in full is positively reflected on your credit report. If you’re curious how your utility provider will report your over-payments on your credit file, you can call and ask them. Here is more information on how your credit score is calculated. I hope this helps and thanks for posting.

  3. Damian says:

    I co-signed for a family member for a car loan. They were 30 days late in Oct 2011. I had them refinance and close the loan by April of 2012, almost a year ago. Yet, this late payment, according to the credit Identity Monitor service I pay for, still says this is a factor that lowers my credit score to 736. Since the loan is closed, the notion of lenders being concerned about my ability to pay is not applicable. Yet, this is still held against me when 100% of everything else has been paid on time for over 7 years! Will a letter for my credit file stating this was not my loan help me?

    My wife and I run a business whereas I will have a credit card with high balances for a month or two. She travels often domestically, Asian and Europe. She also has to purchase products in Europe. The balance might be $10,000 to $15,000 for one trip. This balance is paid off within one or two months. Yet this is another negative for me. At what point is a pattern recognized so that this is not a negative to the credit reporting agencies?

    How do the agencies know what our debt to income ratio is? My wife and I make between 250-280k a year, with two mortgages (one is income property), one car payment, no children, and revolving credit cards with high balances paid off regularly. We are by know means in debt beyond our means, everything is paid on time, yet I can’t get a score higher than 780 and it is really starting to aggravate me. What can I do?

    Thanks for your advice; it need not be as long as my post! 🙂

    • EFX Moderator, EM says:

      It was nice of you to help a family member by co-signing for a loan. Co-signing a loan is a big question and should be carefully considered. You could add a personal statement on your credit report explaining the negative mark, but it’s important to realize that by co-signing, it is also your loan and you are responsible for it.

      Your credit score reflects your credit report as it is at that moment. The closer you are to your credit limit, the more risky you may seem to credit lenders. For the most part, you can be seen as a safer risk if your balance is 30% or less of your credit limit. If that’s not possible during these overseas trips, would you be able to make larger weekly payments to get the balance down? Since you don’t know when your lenders are updating your report, it’s hard to know if a high balance or paid-off balance is what is being reported.

      Here are some tips on how reducing your credit card balances may help your credit score: http://blog.equifax.com/credit/debt-reduction-why-paying-down-your-credit-card-debt-helps-your-credit-score/

      I hope this helps.

  4. Daniell says:

    My credit has been great, but because I was late on cc payments for two months, my score has dropped will not increase after paying on time for. O months. How long will it take formy score to recover from the late payments

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