What is a 'Trade Line'

A trade line is a record of activity for any type of credit extended to a borrower and reported to a credit reporting agency. A trade line is established on a borrower’s credit report when a borrower is approved for credit. The trade line records all of the activity associated with an account. Comprehensively trade lines are used by credit reporting agencies to calculate a borrower’s credit score. Different credit reporting agencies give differing weights to the activities of trade lines when establishing a credit score for borrowers.


A trade line is an important record keeping mechanism that tracks the activity of a borrower on their credit report. Each credit account has its own trade line. Borrowers will have multiple trade lines on their credit report representing the individual borrowing accounts for which they have been approved.

Trade Line Reporting

Trade lines may contain a variety of different data points related to the creditor, the lender and the type of credit that is being provided. The trade line often contains the name of the creditor or lender, the account or other identifier for the type of credit being provided, the parties responsible for paying the loan and the payment status of the account. The trade line will also contain particular account milestones, such as the date the credit was extended, the credit limit, the payment history, all levels of delinquency if any missed payments have occurred, and the total amount owed as of the last report. If a consumer closes an account then that account will typically remain on their credit report as a trade line for three to five years.

One of the most important features of the trade line is the payment status. This indicates whether or not payments for the loan are being made on time, and how late the payments are if they are not being made on time. If the payments are being made on time, the payment status will indicate that the payments are being made according to the terms of the credit agreement. Late payments are usually grouped in a range of days according to how late they are. For example, 30 days late, 60 days late or 90 days late. The payment status may be set to “charge off” if the creditor deems it unlikely that the debt will be repaid, and the status may also indicate that the credit recipient has entered bankruptcy.

Comprehensively trade lines are used by credit reporting agencies to develop an individual’s credit score. Higher credit scores are given to individuals with more favorable trade line reporting. Factors considered when calculating the credit score include number of trade lines, types of trade lines, length of open accounts and payment history. In addition to reviewing a borrower’s credit score, a lender who pulls data from a credit reporting agency may also comprehensively analyze all of the trade line reporting on a credit report when considering a credit application in the underwriting process.

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