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Whether you’re merging finances with a partner, caring for older parents or trying to help your teen start building credit, adding an authorized user to your credit card account is financially convenient and fairly straightforward. Authorized users receive their own card for your account, usually with the same account number but with their own name.
An authorized user on your credit card can make purchases at stores without raising any eyebrows or getting special permission. And if you have a rewards credit card — bonus! Their purchases also rack up points. Keep in mind, though, that authorized users are typically not held accountable for debt on the credit card — that responsibility ultimately falls to the primary cardholder.
How to add an authorized user to a credit card
Adding an authorized user to a credit card is easy. Simply go online, call the number on the back of your card or visit a branch. If you’re not adding an authorized user in-person, you’ll need to answer a few security questions to prove it’s your account. Not surprisingly, the credit card account holder must take this step — you can’t add yourself as an authorized user to someone else’s credit card.
In order to add an authorized user, you’ll need to provide that person’s name, date of birth, and Social Security number, as well as an address for them to receive a card.
Pros of adding an authorized user to your credit card
- Convenience: Someone who regularly needs to borrow your card will now have their own. You also won’t have to deal with transferring money to a trusted friend or family member if you add them as an authorized user.
- No missed rewards: If you have a rewards or cash back card, you won’t miss out on rewards if you ask your partner to stop after work and pick up milk. Any eligible rewards earned by an authorized user will be pooled with the main cardholder.
- Improves credit score: An authorized user can build their credit. Depending on how your card issuer reports information on authorized users, on-time payments and credit utilization may be reflected on their credit report.
Cons of adding an authorized user to your credit card
- Easier to overspend. Having two or more people with access to an account means you must track spending carefully to avoid going over the available credit limit. Exceeding your limit can lead to declined purchases or over-limit fees, even utilizing more than 30 percent of your available credit can damage your credit score.
- You’re financially responsible. If your authorized user spends too much, you’ll be the one on the hook to pay it off. By adding them as an authorized user, you’ve given them permission to make charges on your behalf and are therefore responsible for paying them off.
- Impacts credit score. Any negative credit behaviors, like late payment or maxing out cards, may show up on the authorized user’s credit report.
Whom you can add as an authorized user
A person doesn’t have to be related to you to become an authorized user on your credit card account. You can add anyone you feel you can trust or share expenses with. For instance, roommates may want to add each other as authorized users if they regularly make household purchases.
If you’re considering adding your child to your account, check with your credit card company for minimum age requirements for authorized users. Some credit cards require an authorized user to be at least 15 years old, but most have no minimum age requirement.
Before you add an authorized user, think carefully about how the decision may affect the other person’s financial record. While it might sound like a good idea to start establishing your child’s credit history as early as possible, you should be certain that you are financially stable and able to make your credit card payments on time before putting your child’s credit score at stake, too.
How adding an authorized user affects the primary cardholder
When you add an authorized user, you’re giving someone else full access to your credit card account and the available funds. If the other person isn’t organized enough to communicate when they’ve used the card — or you aren’t used to letting someone else know when you’ve made purchases — it can create a hot mess of overspending.
The primary cardholder remains the one responsible for payments, so if the authorized user overspends and you can’t make the minimum payments, you could be the one facing debt collection calls.
Overall, having an authorized user can add a level of convenience to running a household or supporting a trusted friend or family member, but it requires communication between both parties and careful budget management.
How to remove an authorized user from an account
What if you added a significant other to your account and now you’ve broken up? Or your college student wasn’t quite as responsible with money as you expected (or hoped)? Fortunately, removing an authorized user from a credit card account is almost as easy as adding one. Simply go online, call the number on your card or visit the bank that issued your card. Then, request to have the authorized user removed from the account.
It’s a good idea to follow up with a certified letter. Also, make sure to retrieve the card from the former authorized user. If you can’t get the card back, notify your issuer and request a new card with a different account number. Otherwise, a deauthorized user may still be able to use the card, especially for online purchases with no signature or way to check ID. Some credit card companies will automatically issue a new card if you remove an authorized user from the account.