Editorial Policy

Why is a Card Showing up Twice on my Report?

Erica Sandberg

January 10, 2013

QDear Erica,

With all the mergers and acquisitions of credit card companies, how can I trace the history or a particular card? In looking at my credit report for the first time, it looks like I got hit twice from the same credit card. My credit report shows a Capital One Sony card account and an HSBC account. The account numbers are different, but certain details kind of tie them together. I searched everywhere, but I can't seem to find where I can get the history of a particular card. Now, as I am trying to rebuild my credit, it looks as if there are two negative accounts rather than one. Please help — Davi

ADear Davi,

It's bad enough attempting to read a credit report when you've never done so before, but trying to decipher one that has accounts that have been assumed by another bank (or, in some cases, collection agencies) can terribly confusing. Then again, you may be focusing on something that really isn't so important.Ask Erica

The fact is consumer credit reports were not developed for an individual's viewing pleasure. They're for companies, so they can learn about a person's past financial activity and current debt situation. With that information, they can make smart and objective business decisions.

So what are you seeing? Well, in May 2012, HSBC Holdings sold its U.S. credit card business to Capital One Financial Corp. for a sweet $2.5 billion. After that point, whatever you owed to HSBC was transferred to Capital One. Account numbers were changed. All activity on the original card — such as charges and payments — are still being reported to the three major credit reporting bureaus, TransUnion, Equifax and Experian, but because the old account is still in evidence, its making your report look like you have two accounts, rather than just one.

Still, it's your right to have your credit report reflect accurate data. The Fair Credit Reporting Act stipulates that duplicate information should not be on your credit file, as it can muck up the way it looks to the untrained eye. Most banks and lenders aren't confused by what you described — as frequent subscribers to credit reports, they are accustomed to reading and deciphering them. But a landlord or employer may be.

To clean up your file, visit one of the credit bureaus' websites (TransUnion, Experian or Equifax), and file a dispute. The bureau has 30 days to investigate the matter, and during that time, the items in question will not be computed into your credit scores. If the bureau you contact finds that the account is erroneously appearing twice, all three of the credit bureaus will remove the extraneous account. If you have no luck with the credit bureau dispute process, you can file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Now let's move on to the real issue: It sounds like you were having problems with the account in question, as you say it's showing a double negative. If you skipped a payment cycle (or more than one payment cycle), it's going to be in evidence for seven years. Or maybe you owe a great deal of money. That's the kind of damage that most needs your attention.

To know the history and modify the future of the account, contact Capital One. Let them know that you'd like to deal with whatever problem you have, whether that means resuming a steady payment pattern or paying off the balance entirely. Those actions will result in a higher credit score and a more attractive credit report. After that, pull your reports at least once a year for free at AnnualCreditReport.com so you can become familiar with reading them and can address errors quickly.