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What Does It Mean to Be an Authorized User on a Credit Card?

Authorized Credit Card Users - An Overview
Kelly Boyer Sagert
Kelly Boyer SagertUpdated February 8, 2022
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Editor’s note: Lantern by SoFi seeks to provide content that is objective, independent and accurate. Writers are separate from our business operation and do not receive direct compensation from advertisers or partners. Read more about our Editorial Guidelines and How We Make Money.
When you’re an authorized user on a credit card, you can join another person’s credit card account and then use the credit card as if it were your own to make purchases, if they choose to give you that permission. However, it’s the primary account holder's responsibility to make account payments.Being an authorized user can be a great way to start building credit, but it’s not without risks for either party involved. Read on to learn what you should consider before becoming an authorized user on a credit card account.

What Is a Credit Card Authorized User?

“Authorized user,” one of the credit card terms you may hear used when discussing options for your account, refers to a person added to a particular credit card account by the request of or through the permission of the primary cardholder. The main borrower can add whomever they would like as their authorized user, given that it fits within the credit card issuer’s guidelines. This could be, for example, the primary cardholder’s spouse or partner, child or friend.The authorized user is not responsible for making payments on any charges made to the card. This is different from a joint credit card, where both cardholders have payment responsibilities. If you’re not sure how to choose a credit card arrangement, also bear in mind that being a joint account holder does require a credit check, whereas being added as an authorized user generally does not.

What Can Authorized Users Do?

Once the primary cardholder adds someone as an authorized user and gives them permission to use the card, the user can make purchases with the credit card. This can give you access to top credit cards that you otherwise might not be eligible for on your own.If you’re wondering how to become an authorized user on a credit card, you’ll need to approach a card holder to discuss the possibilities. You’ll need permission from that person in order to become an authorized user.

How Can Being Added as an Authorized User Help Someone?

When someone needs assistance with building or improving their credit scores, it can help to become an authorized user on a credit card where the primary cardholder has good to excellent credit. Credit scores of the authorized user can improve even if they don’t actually use the card, and even if they don’t have their own card for the account. After an authorized user gets a credit boost, they may then decide to consider applying for their own card, perhaps moving onto one of the top fair credit cards on the market.

How Many Authorized Users Can Be on a Credit Card?

Credit card issuers can set their own policies, so the answer to how many authorized users are permitted on an account can differ. Check with your credit card issuer to find the answer for your account. If you’re interested in adding your child, as one example, be sure to ask about the minimum age for authorized users on credit cards.

Can Authorized Users Affect My Credit Score?

When you add an authorized user, there isn’t a direct affect on your credit scores. Indirectly, however, an authorized user can have an impact. For instance, if the authorized user gets their own card for your account and spends to the point that your credit card balance goes over 30% of your credit limit, this pushes you above the recommended credit utilization rate, which might cause a temporary credit score dip. Utilization rate is one of many factors taken into account when calculating credit score, but it is one of the more influential ones, affecting up to 30% of one’s score.Another way that having an authorized user can affect your credit score is if they fail to hold up their end of the agreement when it comes to making payments. As the main account holder, you’re the one who is responsible for making payments. So, even if you make an agreement with your authorized user that they’ll pay for any charges they put on the card, if they don’t — and a payment is late or missed — it will affect your credit score. Your payment history is the most important factor in calculating your credit scores, and even just one late payment can hurt your credit.

What Should You Consider Before Adding Authorized Users?

Before adding someone to your account as an authorized user, consider your goals for doing so. For example, if you plan to add a teenaged child, you may be using this as a way to teach financial responsibility and give them some independence. If that’s the reason, make sure that they understand the ground rules and are ready for this move. You can show them how to read a credit card statement and otherwise have conversations with them about money management.Alternatively, you may want to help someone build or repair their credit history. Or, some cards provide benefits to authorized users and you may want to share them since that person’s credit score may not offer them access to the top cards for bonus rewards.Once you’re clear on your goals, you can decide whether adding an authorized user to your credit card makes sense. As already mentioned, you — as the primary cardholder — are responsible for any charges, whether you made them or your authorized user did. This has the potential to lead to credit-related challenges as described above. Plus, many cards allow authorized users to have access to your entire credit limit, which you may not want.Also keep in mind that there may be a charge — sometimes $75 or more — for adding an authorized user to your credit card. Plus, if you end up having credit challenges, this can have a negative impact on the authorized user.Bear in mind that the person you were considering adding likely still has options even if you decide it’s not the right move to add them as an authorized user. They may, for instance, be able to consider a top secured credit card.

How Can I Add or Remove Someone as an Authorized User?

After weighing the pros and cons, you may decide that adding an authorized user to your credit card makes sense. Or maybe you’ve already done that and it hasn’t worked out as planned. Here’s how you can either add or remove an authorized user from your account.

How to Add Someone as an Authorized User

Each credit card issuer will have its own processes, so contact them to find the specifics for how to add someone as an authorized user. In general, however, if the person you would like to add meets the issuer’s requirements, then they should be given the ability to use your credit card account. Remember that you can add an authorized user without giving them a credit card or account access if your goal is simply to help them build or boost their own credit.

How to Remove Someone as an Authorized User

If you’d like to remove an authorized user, contact your credit card issuer and simply request the change. Once this happens, this person can no longer use your credit card account (if, in fact, they previously could). If the former authorized user had a credit card, you can ask your issuer for a new account number and card.

Compare Credit Card Options From Lantern

An authorized user on your credit card account can be given the right to use your account, or they can be added simply to help boost their credit scores. They are not responsible for making payments, though, and so it’s important to weigh the pros and cons before deciding how to proceed.If you’re looking for a credit card, Lantern by SoFi makes it easy to compare credit card options. You can fill out one simple application to receive offers from multiple lenders in the network, including options that may help  your credit score so that you don’t need to be an authorized user on someone else’s account.
Photo credit: iStock/Ridofranz
The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.Disclaimer: Many factors affect your credit scores and the interest rates you may receive. SoFi is not a Credit Repair Organization as defined under federal or state law, including the Credit Repair Organizations Act. SoFi does not provide “credit repair” services or advice or assistance regarding “rebuilding” or “improving” your credit record, credit history, or credit rating. For details, see the FTC’s website on credit (https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/topics/credit-and-loans)SOLC112195

About the Author

Kelly Boyer Sagert

Kelly Boyer Sagert

Kelly Boyer Sagert is an Emmy Award-nominated writer with decades of professional writing experience. As she was getting her writing career off the ground, she spent several years working at a savings and loan institution, working in the following departments: savings, loans, IRAs, and auditing. She has published thousands of pieces online and in print.
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