Key takeaways

  • Becoming an authorized user on someone else's credit card can be a helpful way to build credit or establish a credit history.
  • As an authorized user, you'll be able to make purchases with the credit card. But the primary cardholder is responsible for making repayments.
  • Because each user's behavior has the potential to affect the other's credit score, primary cardholders should only add authorized users they trust to be responsible with their credit.

Becoming an authorized user on someone else’s credit card is a way to practice responsible credit use while building your credit. You can establish a credit history and raise your credit score as an authorized user — as long as you understand the pros and cons.

Learn more about how you can improve your credit as an authorized user, or help a loved one by adding them as an authorized user to your credit card.

What is an authorized user?

An authorized user is someone who has permission to use another person’s credit card account. They can make purchases, but they’re not liable to pay off the balance.

Authorized users receive their own credit card that’s connected to the primary cardholder’s line of credit. Any purchases made with the card are added to the primary cardholder’s balance. The primary cardholder is still responsible for making on-time repayments to cover both their spending and the spending of their authorized users.

In addition to being unable to pay off the card account’s balance directly, an authorized user can’t do things like make changes to the account, request credit limit increases or add other authorized users.

Becoming an authorized user can help borrowers with poor or no credit build a positive credit history. It can also be a convenient way for families or household members to streamline spending.

How does being an authorized user build credit?

Being an authorized user can build your credit if the card is used responsibly, and the card issuer reports that responsible behavior to the major credit bureaus, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.

Keep in mind that being an authorized user can affect your credit for better or for worse, depending on things like on-time versus late payments and credit utilization. It helps if both the primary cardholder and the authorized user know the factors that make up a credit score, which include:

  • Payment history
  • Length of credit history
  • New credit
  • Credit mix
  • Amounts owed

If you and your primary cardholder make an effort to stay on top of these factors, particularly when it comes to payment history and amounts owed, you’ll have a strong start to building credit as an authorized user.

Who can be an authorized user?

Legally, anyone can be an authorized user on a credit card. The authorized user just has to meet the card issuer’s requirements and be added by the primary cardholder.

That said, an authorized user tends to have a close relationship with the primary cardholder. They might be a spouse, child, other relative or trusted friend. That’s because primary cardholders are responsible for any charges made by authorized users — whether or not they personally approve of the transactions.

What’s the minimum age to be an authorized user?

Each card issuer has their own policies for authorized users. Here are the minimum age limits for some of the major credit issuers:

Credit card issuer Does the issuer report the authorized user’s credit activity to the credit bureaus? Minimum age for authorized users
American Express Yes, if the user is 18+ years old 13 years old
Bank of America Yes None
Barclays Yes 13 years old
Capital One Yes None
Chase Yes, if the user is 18+ years old None
Discover Yes 15 years old
U.S. Bank Yes 13 years old
USAA Yes None
Wells Fargo Yes, if the user is 18+ years old 18 years old

Pros and cons of being an authorized user

Here are some of the main benefits and risks of becoming an authorized user on a credit card:


  • You can build your credit: As an authorized user, you can lean on another person’s good credit to build your own. On-time payments made by the primary cardholder will appear on your credit history and could boost your score over time. Just make sure to check whether or not the card issuer reports data to the three credit bureaus for authorized users. Becoming an authorized user could also help decrease your credit utilization and improve the age and mix of your accounts, which are credit-scoring factors.
  • You’d boost the rewards that can be earned on a family account: Combining forces with one rewards card will boost rewards earnings. This strategy can help families earn rewards to use together, such as cash back to offset a large purchase or travel points for a vacation.
  • You can get a strong financial start: Parents might add their older children as authorized users to help boost their credit histories and start them off with high credit scores. The primary cardholder can set a spending limit for the authorized user so the user can learn how to use a credit card responsibly before striking out on their own.


  • The primary cardholder has full control and responsibility over the account: The person who originally had the credit card is solely responsible for all purchases made. This is true even if the authorized user promises to pay off their charges but fails to do so. And if an authorized user racks up a high balance, it could hurt the primary cardholder’s credit utilization.
  • You risk allowing the primary cardholder to hurt your credit: The primary cardholder’s behavior also reflects on the authorized user. Late payments and other credit mishaps can harm both of your credit scores. If you decide to become an authorized user on someone else’s account, make sure they have a long history of responsible credit use.
  • You can’t earn your own rewards: If you become an authorized user on someone else’s credit card, the primary cardholder will get all the rewards. This may not be a big deal if you’re strategically pooling points with a partner or a spouse, but it can be a bummer if you want to earn your own rewards.

How to add an authorized user to your credit card

The process of adding an authorized user depends on the card issuer. In many cases, the primary cardholder may be able to add an authorized user online or through the issuer’s mobile app. In other cases, you may have to give the issuer a call.

You’ll generally need to provide information like the authorized user’s name, date of birth and Social Security Number.

How much does it cost to add an authorized user?

While most issuers allow you to add an authorized user for free, some high-end cards may charge a fee. For example, The Platinum Card® from American Express has a $695 annual fee and charges an additional $195 annually per authorized user, while the Chase Sapphire Reserve® has a $550 annual fee and charges an additional $75 annually per authorized user. On the other hand, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card charges a $95 annual fee but has no additional charge for authorized users.

If you have a credit card with no annual fee, there’s typically no charge for authorized users.

How to remove an authorized user

You can usually remove an authorized user online, by mobile app or over the phone. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau advises asking your issuer for a card with a new number. You could also send a certified letter to the issuer confirming the change.

Keep in mind that removing an authorized user may impact their credit score. For example, if access to your credit account is your teenager’s oldest line of credit, removing their access could temporarily drop their credit score. This is because credit history length makes up 15 percent of someone’s FICO credit score.

When should you remove yourself as an authorized user?

If you became an authorized user to help build your credit, it probably won’t impact your credit as much as being a primary cardholder will. So once you’ve gotten the hang of using a credit card responsibly, it might be a good idea to apply for a starter credit card. Keep in mind that you have to be at least 18 years old to apply.

If the primary cardholder on the account isn’t using the card responsibly — like making late payments or running a high balance — then it’s best to remove yourself as an authorized user. You don’t want their negative credit activity to impact your credit score. You can usually remove yourself online, by app or over the phone.

The bottom line

Becoming an authorized user on a credit card account can be a way to establish or rebuild credit, as well as share expenses and rewards with the primary cardholder. Just keep in mind that the card’s use can reflect on both parties’ credit reports, and the primary cardholder is ultimately responsible for paying off the card. So it’s important to establish trust, any spending limits and repayment expectations.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs) about authorized users

  • An authorized user is someone who has permission to use another person’s credit card. Authorized users can make purchases on the account and aren’t responsible for making payments. But they can’t do things like request credit limit increases or add other authorized users.
  • Yes, an authorized user’s credit can be affected as long as the credit card issuer reports authorized user activity to the major credit bureaus. Being an authorized user can have a positive or negative effect on your credit, depending on how the credit card is used. On-time payments and low credit utilization can help an authorized user build credit, but late or missed payments on the card can hurt their credit.
  • The time it takes to see your authorized user activity appear on your credit report can vary. Experian, one of the three major credit bureaus, says it can take a couple months for the account to show on your credit report. But if you don’t already have a credit file, it might take up to six months to get a credit score.