Feeling bewildered by SEARS/CBNA showing up on your credit report? There may be an easy explanation—or there could be something more sinister at play. To find out what SEARS/CBNA means on your credit report, learn more about what these letters represent and how they could impact your credit.
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What is SEARS/CBNA on my credit report?
SEARS/CBNA stands for Sears/Citibank, North America.
The department store chain Sears has partnered with the large financial company Citibank to offer their store cards since 2003. 1 Citibank issues the following types of financing for Sears: 2
- Sears Cards
- SearsCharge PLUS Cards
- Sears Home Improvement accounts
- Sears Shop Your Way Mastercard accounts
Citibank also issued The Great Indoors Gold MasterCard for The Great Indoors (a home renovation store affiliated with Sears) until the company shut down in 2012. 3 4
If you see SEARS/CBNA on your credit report, you probably applied for or already have a Sears card or credit account. You may also see this inquiry appear on your credit report as CBUSASEARS.
Citibank’s other affiliates
As one of the largest issuers of retail credit cards in the nation, Citibank partners with several major brands to provide co-branded and private-label credit cards. They also issue their own general purpose cards, often under the name Citicards CBNA.
If you see items on your credit report labeled Citibank North America (CBNA), it means you likely applied for or already have a line of credit with one of Citibank’s affiliates.
Is SEARS/CBNA a scam?
No, SEARS/CBNA isn’t a scam. Citibank and Sears are legitimate organizations. If they’re on your credit report, it probably indicates that you have an account with them or they checked your credit.
If you’re certain that there’s activity on your credit report under SEARS/CBNA that shouldn’t be there, it’s possible you’ve been the victim of identity theft.
We’ll discuss the reasons (both legitimate and fraudulent) that SEARS/CBNA might be on your credit report in more detail in the next section.
Why is SEARS/CBNA on my credit report?
SEARS/CBNA can appear on your credit report for a number of reasons, some negative and some harmless. It’s possible for it to show up even if you don’t have a Sears credit account.
Here are some reasons why SEARS/CBNA might be on your credit report:
1. Citibank checked your credit
You’ll see SEARS/CBNA on your credit report if Citibank ran a credit check to determine whether or not to extend credit to you. This type of credit check can appear as a hard inquiry or a soft inquiry.
- Hard inquiries: These generally appear on your credit report when you apply for new credit, such as credit cards, store cards, or installment loans. For example, if you applied for a Sears credit card, Citibank probably triggered a hard inquiry when reviewing your application.
- Soft inquiries: These show up on your credit report when someone checks your credit but you’re not actually in search of new credit. For example, if you received an unsolicited offer letter in the mail for a credit card issued by Citibank, then they may have triggered a soft inquiry during the prequalification process.
Thankfully, soft inquiries won’t affect your credit score. Hard inquiries usually lower your credit score by several points, but the effect won’t last more than a year, and the inquiry will fall off your credit report entirely after two years. Note that you usually can’t remove a hard inquiry early unless the bureau added it to your report by mistake.
2. You have a Sears credit account
SEARS/CBNA will appear on your credit report if you currently have or previously had a Sears credit account. Even if you closed your account, SEARS/CBNA can stay on your credit report for 7 years (if the account was delinquent due to missed payments) to 10 years (if the account was in good standing).
You might find your Sears credit account marked as closed even if you never took any active steps to close it. This can happen due to account inactivity—it’s common for lenders to close credit accounts if they haven’t been used for a while.
3. You’re an authorized user on someone else’s Sears credit account
SEARS/CBNA can show up on your credit report if someone else added you as an authorized user to their own Sears credit account.
You might have been named as an authorized user by your:
- Business partner
If someone designated you as an authorized user on their Sears credit account, their activities on the account could affect your credit score.
If the primary cardholder is a responsible person and a reliable borrower, being an authorized user on their account will probably improve your credit score by helping you build a positive payment history. On the other hand, you might notice a drop in your credit score if the primary cardholder neglects their payments or cancels their account with unpaid debt.
Similarly, your use of someone else’s credit will affect their credit score, so take care when acting as an authorized user.
4. You’re a victim of identity theft
If you see a SEARS/CBNA hard inquiry on your credit report but you’re sure you didn’t apply for a Sears credit account, it could be a sign of identity theft.
If you think that SEARS/CBNA is on your credit report because someone’s trying to fraudulently open accounts in your name, take these steps:
- Contact the company that made the hard inquiry (which will be Citibank, unless they hired another company to perform the inquiry for them). Tell them you didn’t authorize the inquiry. Ask them for details (i.e., when and under what circumstances their records show the inquiry was authorized).
- Report the identity theft to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Go to www.identitytheft.gov and answer the questions to generate an identity theft report and recovery plan.
- Contact any of the three main credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion) and have a fraud alert placed on your credit report. You only need to contact one of the bureaus; they’ll coordinate with the others, and your fraud alert will be acknowledged by all three.
You may also want to freeze your credit (or get a credit lock, which is very similar).
Carefully monitor your credit reports over the next few months for further signs of fraudulent activity.
How does SEARS/CBNA affect my credit score?
There are several ways that SEARS/CBNA can affect your credit score, depending on whether they triggered an inquiry or manage one of your accounts.
As mentioned, a single hard inquiry will have a small, short-term effect on your credit, usually lowering your FICO score by up to five points and your VantageScore credit score by 5–10 points.
This effect is usually cumulative, so too many hard inquiries can really hurt your score. However, a single inquiry isn’t something to worry about—your credit score ranges from 300 to 850, which means 5 points in either direction isn’t significant.
Open and closed accounts
If you have an open or closed SEARS/CBNA account on your credit report, then it’s contributing to your credit score by influencing the following factors:
If the account is open, then it’s also contributing to your credit utilization rate (also known as your debt-to-credit ratio).
To learn how your SEARS/CBNA account will affect your credit score, familiarize yourself with the factors that make up your FICO score and VantageScore.
How to remove SEARS/CBNA from my credit report
If you want to delete SEARS/CBNA from your credit report, then try one of the following approaches.
1. Send a dispute letter
If you see an item listed under SEARS/CBNA on your credit report that you suspect is a mistake, then you can dispute it by writing something known as a credit dispute letter.
You should send your letter to whoever you think the error originated with. You can send it to:
- Citibank: Send your letter directly to them if you believe they made the original mistake (e.g., they reported a credit check to the bureaus that you never actually authorized).
- The credit bureaus: Write to the credit bureaus if you believe the error originated witih them (e.g., they confused you with someone with a similar name or Social Security number).
Either way, it’s usually a good idea to send copies of the letter to both parties, the bureaus and your card issuer (Citibank). They may contact each other as they investigate the matter, and it’s important to make sure everybody has received the relevant information.
Once you’ve filed your credit dispute, the credit bureau will be required to investigate and correct any inaccurate information on your report, usually within 30–45 days.
2. Use a credit repair company
A credit repair company will act as a middleman between yourself and your card issuer (and the credit bureaus). They might be able to get a hard inquiry or another SEARS/CBNA item off your credit report by helping you gather evidence and handling all the required communication.
However, be wary of scammers. There are restrictions on the cost of credit repair—by law, credit repair companies are not allowed to charge you before they’ve helped you. If they ask for payment upfront, hire a different company.
Although hiring a credit repair company can save you some time and hassle in disputing items on your credit report, bear in mind that they can’t do anything for you that you can’t do yourself.
They also won’t necessarily be able to erase valid negative information or turn a bad credit score into a good credit score overnight. Think carefully before hiring a third-party company to get SEARS/CBNA off your credit report.