Becoming an authorized user on a credit account can affect your credit score either positively or negatively. To impact your score at all, credit card companies must report the authorized user’s account to the three major credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion). The amount of impact will depend on the credit scoring model and many other factors.
If you want to become an authorized user, do so with a cardholder with an older account and who has a record of on-time payments with that card as well a low credit utilization rate (CUR, the total balance divided by the credit limit). If you become an authorized user on an account that has high credit card debt compared to the credit limit or negative information like late payments, it may hurt your own credit score.
In this guide, we describe what authorized user means, how being one can impact your credit score, and how to gain authorized user status on another person’s credit card.
An authorized user is someone who has been given permission to use another account holder’s credit card to make purchases, just like the cardholder. However, unlike the cardholder, an authorized user is not legally responsible for making payments. Authorized users typically are family members of cardholders who use their authorized user status as a credit-building opportunity.
When you become an authorized user, the account goes on your credit report as long as the card issuer reports authorized users — some but not all will report a card’s account activity to the credit bureaus for an authorized user. Credit card issuers won’t pull your credit when you are added as an authorized user, and you bear no legal responsibility to make payments on the account even on purchases you make.
Although authorized users may receive their own credit card from the issuer, ultimately the primary cardholder will be responsible for paying all of the payments. The primary cardholder may simply add your name to the account, however, and not give you access to make purchases.
Credit card companies will report the user activity of the cardholder to the three major credit bureaus — however, they will not always report this activity to the authorized user’s credit file.
You may need to contact the credit provider yourself to find out if they report authorized users if you want the benefit of someone else’s good standing to impact your credit score. However, if the card issuer does not report authorized users, your score will not be affected at all even if the primary cardholder has excellent credit. So always verify this information by calling the number on the back of the primary cardholder’s card.
Card issuers have their own policies on how often they report to the credit bureaus, but typically they will provide an update once per month, or at least every 30 to 45 days. If the card issuer reports for authorized users, your own individual credit history determines how much of an impact your authorized user status will have on your credit score.
Even though you aren’t legally responsible for making payments as an authorized user, you should come to an agreement with the cardholder about repaying purchases you make on the card. If you run up a lot of debt the cardholder can’t pay off, you may put the cardholder at risk for late payments and damage your relationship.
You should also pay attention to how responsible the cardholder is. If you notice the account holder is less financially responsible than you were anticipating, such as missing payments or running up high balances, you might consider asking the cardholder to remove you from the account. Just be aware that differences in how a person handles credit can cause rifts in your relationship.
The different credit bureaus have their own way of viewing authorized users. For example, Experian does not include negative payment history on its credit reports for authorized users. Equifax, however, warns that negative payment history could affect both the account holder and the authorized user on its reports.
Different scoring models may weigh your authorized user status differently, but FICO® and VantageScore® typically include authorized user information into their credit score calculations. The different models don’t weigh the information as strongly as other credit accounts since you are not responsible for the payments.. However, FICO® 8 makes a clear distinction. According to Forbes Advisor, FICO® 8 in particular lessens the impact of your authorized user status on your credit report.
If you’d like to become an authorized user, consider the pros and cons first. The benefits include having access to a cardholder’s credit card and some help building credit if payments are made on time and debt is managed well. The downsides for authorized users is that negative payment history or a high credit utilization ratio (CUR) on the account will be reflected in their credit score, and for the cardholders the drawback is they will be responsible for charges they didn’t make and will have to share the credit limit with another person.
To become an authorized user, take the following steps:
Just because you are added as an authorized user doesn’t mean you will get your own credit card. Check with the credit card issuer to know its policy.
Keep in mind that there are rules for various types of authorized users:
In any case, no matter who the primary account holder may be, you will both be sharing a credit limit with that person, so you may need to set boundaries with each other of how much you can use and whether you need to pay for your purchases.
As of September 2022, these are the requirements to apply as an authorized user for the following banks. Primary cardholders can contact the customer service number on the back of their cards to request more information about authorized users.
|Minors allowed?||Age requirement||What is required?|
|American Express||Yes||13||Full name, date of birth and SSN|
|Capital One||Yes||None||Full name, phone number, date of birth and SSN|
|Chase||Yes||None||Full name, date of birth, contact information and SSN|
|Discover||Yes||15||Full name, address, date of birth and SSN|
|US Bank||Yes||None||Full name, address, date of birth and SSN|
|Wells Fargo||Yes||18||Full name, address, date of birth and SSN|
With a joint credit card, you both have equal access to the available credit and equal responsibility to pay the card balance. Unlike authorized users who are not responsible for payments or have any power over the credit account, a joint account holder is another primary user on the account. Both joint account holders apply for the account together and are both responsible for paying the balance. Another important distinction between an authorized user and a joint account: Both joint account holders must go through a credit check.
With a cosigner, both the primary cardholder and the cosigner are responsible for the debt, but cosigners have no access to the credit. You might use a cosigner to strengthen your application for credit since the cosigner shares responsibility for paying the credit card balance. The account will show on both the cardholder and cosigner’s credit reports, which means negative payment history can affect a cosigner’s good credit.
Whether you have a bad credit score or no credit score, it’s important to start building credit habits for yourself. Here are a few ways to do that:
Disclaimer: FICO is a registered trademark of Fair Isaac Corporation in the United States and other countries.
Ana Gonzalez-Ribeiro, MBA, AFC® is an Accredited Financial Counselor® and a Bilingual Personal Finance Writer and Educator dedicated to helping populations that need financial literacy and counseling. Her informative articles have been published in various news outlets and websites including Huffington Post, Fidelity, Fox Business News, MSN and Yahoo Finance. She also founded the personal financial and motivational site www.AcetheJourney.com and translated into Spanish the book, Financial Advice for Blue Collar America by Kathryn B. Hauer, CFP. Ana teaches Spanish or English personal finance courses on behalf of the W!SE (Working In Support of Education) program has taught workshops for nonprofits in NYC.
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