Dear Penny: I’ve Paid Off My Business Credit Card for 11 Years. What Gives?

A business owner goes over her finances on her laptop.
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Dear Penny,

I have had a business credit card for 11 years. It is the only credit card I have, and I pay it off every month. 

My question is, why don’t any of the credit bureaus recognize my usage of this card? None of them have any credit card listed for me. 

I spoke to one of them regarding this, and I was told they do not acknowledge the use of a business card. I am the only one listed on this account for the usage of this card and the only one responsible for the payment. 

I believe that with me being the only one using and paying for this card it should be recognized by the bureaus as any other legitimate credit card.

-B.

Dear B.,

I think your gripe here is more with your card issuer than it is with the credit bureaus.

It sounds as if the information you got from the credit bureau isn’t entirely correct. It’s not that the bureaus refuse to acknowledge the use of business cards. More likely, your credit card company isn’t sending them the information in the first place, and the bureaus can only report information if your creditors provide it to them.

When you have a personal credit card, your activity is reported to the consumer credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian and Transunion. So when you check your credit, you’re receiving a report from one of those three bureaus.

And when you applied for your business credit card, your bank probably checked your personal credit. You also most likely signed a personal guarantee that made you responsible for any debt incurred even if your business goes under. (I’m assuming here that this card is for a business you own rather than a card issued by an employer since you’re the one responsible for payments.)

But once you have a business credit card, things work a little differently. Most credit card issuers don’t report activity on a business card to the consumer credit bureaus. Or they only do so if your account becomes seriously delinquent.

Instead, most issuers report activity on a business card to the commercial credit bureaus. There are a lot of commercial credit bureaus — the largest three are Dun & Bradstreet, Equifax and Experian — and they create business credit reports and scores.

A business credit report contains a lot of the same types of information as a personal credit report. So that means that your business credit reports would probably document your history of responsible credit usage, which is good news if you’d want to obtain more credit or a loan for your business.

Still, I get your frustration. You’ve used your credit card responsibly for 11 years, yet your personal reports contain no evidence of that. But since you and I probably don’t have much sway with big banks or credit bureaus, let’s talk about what you can do.

If you want a credit card that reports payments to the consumer bureaus, you have two options: You could switch to a business credit card that actually does report activity to the consumer bureaus, or you could open a personal credit card.

I think Option B is the clear winner here.

Not only will you build a payment history that shows up on your personal credit reports, but personal credit cards have more protection for borrowers compared to business cards. Plus, it’s generally recommended that you keep your personal and business accounts separate.

Just maintain the same habits you’ve built with your business credit card, i.e., paying off the balance in full each month, when you use personal credit. In time, your consumer reports will have evidence of what a disciplined credit card user you are.

Robin Hartill is a senior editor at The Penny Hoarder and the voice behind Dear Penny. Send your questions about credit cards to [email protected]