Key takeaways

  • Becoming an authorized user on someone else's credit card can be a good way to build or rebuild your credit.
  • As an authorized user, you'll be able to make purchases against the primary cardholder's line of credit and — assuming all requirements are met — the card's activity will be added to your credit history.
  • If the primary cardholder has a long history with the card and a track record of on-time payments, this can improve your own credit history and payment record.
  • However, getting set up as an authorized user — or adding an authorized user to an account — comes with a lot of responsibility.
  • 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.

One of the best ways to quickly boost your credit score is to become an authorized user on someone else’s credit card. This is a solid method for building credit, whether you’re looking to establish a credit history, rebuild your credit or raise your score — but it also comes with a number of pros and cons you’ll want to be aware of.

Here’s more about how you can improve your credit as an authorized user.

What is an authorized user?

An authorized user is someone who has permission to use another person’s credit account.

As an authorized user, you’ll receive your own credit card that is connected to the primary cardholder’s line of credit. Any purchases you make on your authorized user card will be added to the primary cardholder’s credit card balance, and the primary cardholder will be responsible for making on-time payments against that balance.

Becoming an authorized user can help borrowers with poor credit or a short credit history start building a positive credit history. It can also be a convenient way for families and members of the same household to streamline spending and payments.

Who can be an authorized user?

Legally, anyone can be an authorized user on a credit card, as long as the primary cardholder approves the addition of the authorized user and the authorized user meets the card issuer’s requirements.

That said, authorized users tend to have close, trusted relationships with primary cardholders and often include spouses, parents, children, other relatives, employees and especially good friends. That’s because primary cardholders are responsible for any charges made by authorized users to their accounts — whether or not they personally agree with or approve of the transactions.

Regarding card issuer requirements, different credit card companies have different minimum age standards controlling who can be added as an authorized user to an account.

Credit card issuers policies on authorized users

Credit card issuer Does the issuer report authorized user activity to the credit bureaus? Minimum age for authorized users
American Express Yes, if the user is 18+ years old (and the account is not delinquent) 13 years old
Bank of America Yes None
Barclays Yes 13 years old
Capital One Yes None
Chase Yes None
Citibank Yes None
Credit One Yes, if the authorized user is the primary cardholder’s spouse 15 years old
Discover Yes 15 years old
U.S. Bank Yes, if the user is 16+ years old (and the account is not delinquent) 13 years old
USAA Yes None
Wells Fargo Yes, if the user is 18+ years old None

Pros and cons of being an authorized user

As an authorized user, you can use your connected credit card to make purchases, but the card also has the potential to help boost your credit score if card payments are recorded on your credit report.

If building credit is important to you, make sure to check whether or not the card issuer reports data to the three credit bureaus for authorized users before signing up. Not all credit issuers do — if you sign up with one that doesn’t, your authorized user account might not become a part of your credit history. However, in most cases, your authorized user account will show up on your report and affect your score.

Here are some of the main benefits of becoming an authorized user:

  • May improve your credit score. You may be able to boost your credit score through a history of on-time payments and responsible borrowing on your authorized user card.
  • Convenient for families. Adding a partner or spouse, parent or child as an authorized user can give them access to your line of credit and streamline family expenses.
  • Can give teens a strong financial start. Many parents add their older children as authorized users to their credit cards to help boost their early credit histories and start them off with high credit scores.
  • Boosted rewards potential. With multiple people spending on the same credit account, you can potentially earn more credit card rewards.
  • Free to add. There’s usually no additional charge to add an authorized user to an account.

How significant the impact of becoming an authorized user is on your credit depends on your current score and the primary cardholder’s borrowing behavior. For instance, if you have several late or missed payments on your credit report, being added as an authorized user to a card where the primary cardholder makes on-time payments each month could boost your score. Similarly, being added as an authorized user could help you to decrease your credit utilization and improve the age and mix of your accounts.

However, there are some things that an authorized user can’t do. Authorized users can’t make changes to accounts, such as requesting credit limit increases or adding other authorized users. And when it comes to spending power, primary cardholders can typically set a limit on the amount of money authorized users are allowed to spend — if this limit is set especially low, handling major purchases can be difficult.

Here are some of the cons of adding an authorized user:

  • The primary cardholder’s credit could be impacted. If an authorized user racks up a high balance, that could hurt the primary cardholder’s credit utilization ratio, which makes up 30 percent of a FICO credit score.
  • The authorized user’s credit could be impacted. Likewise, the primary cardholder’s behavior also reflects on an authorized user. Poor payment habits and unwise spending by the account holder could have a negative impact on an authorized user’s credit.
  • The primary cardholder is responsible for the balance. Whatever the authorized user spends, the cardholder is responsible for paying back.
  • Less control over spending. With two people using the same account to make purchases, balances can add up fast.

How to add an authorized user

The process of adding an authorized user depends on the specific credit card. In some cases, the primary cardholder may be able to add an authorized user online or through their bank’s mobile app.

In other cases, they may have to give the bank a call. It’s also possible to add an authorized user when you open a new credit card account. You’ll generally need to provide information like the authorized user’s name, date of birth and Social Security number.

How to remove an authorized user

You can usually remove an authorized user online or over the phone. Once you complete the process, it’s a good idea to send your credit card issuer a certified letter confirming the agreement to remove the authorized user from your account. You should also collect the credit card from the authorized user to ensure they can no longer make charges against your credit account.

Keep in mind that removing an authorized user from your credit card account may impact the authorized user’s credit score. For example, if your parent added you to their credit card account as an authorized user as a teen and it’s your oldest line of credit, closing the account could temporarily drop your credit score. This is because credit history length makes up 15 percent of your FICO credit score. If being added as an authorized user helped to improve a user’s credit score, being removed could have the opposite effect.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

  • An authorized user is someone who has been given permission to use another person’s credit card. Authorized users can make purchases on the account as normal, but typically can’t carry out other actions, such as requesting credit limit increases or adding other authorized users.
  • As long as you’ve been added as an authorized user to a card that reports to the three credit bureaus — and you meet the card issuer’s requirements for reporting user activity to the bureaus — your credit will be affected. The effect may be positive or negative, depending on your activity and the primary cardholder’s behavior.
  • The amount of time it takes to see your activity as an authorized user appear on your credit report can vary. In some cases, it may take 30 days or fewer, based on when the card issuer reports to the credit bureaus. If you do not yet have a credit file, it may take up to six months for your activity to show.