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Credit card authorized users: 2021 guide
Build your credit with the right credit card provider.
Main cardholders can assign secondary cardholders to their account, which are known as authorized users. Depending on the card provider, their reporting policies and the main cardholder’s activity, authorized users can see an impact on their credit score.
Adding and removing authorized users is easy, often done via the main cardholder’s online credit card account. However, some card providers may not report authorized user activity to the credit bureaus if the authorized user is under a certain age or if the authorized user doesn’t live at the same address.
Does an authorized user build credit?
Yes. But only if the primary cardholder keeps the credit utilization rate low and always pays the full balance on time. This is a common credit-building strategy, especially if you’re looking to help your kids or family members build credit.
However, if the primary cardholder misses payments or only pays the minimum balance, you won’t see your credit improve. It could actually hurt your credit.
How much and how fast will the authorized user credit score improve?
If the authorized user has no prior credit history, it may take up to six months for the credit score to appear. But again, for this to work, the card provider must report authorized users to credit bureaus and the main cardholder should always pay their balance on time.
For example, here’s what one Reddit user experienced when they added their sibling as an authorized user to their credit card.
How to add or remove an authorized user
You can easily add and remove authorized users from your credit card account. Here’s how:
- Log in to your online credit card account
- Find the user settings
- Fill out the form to add new authorized users
- Wait for approval
You can remove authorized users the same way you add them, or you can do so by calling the number on the back of your credit card.
Which credit card companies report authorized users?
|Credit card provider||Reporting to credit bureaus|
|American Express||Yes, if the authorized user is at least 18|
|Bank of America||Yes|
|Barclaycard US||Yes, if the authorized user is at least 16|
|Discover||Yes, if the authorized user is at least 15|
|US Bank||Yes, if the authorized user is at least 16|
|Wells Fargo||Yes, if the authorized user is at least 18|
How does becoming an authorized user affect my credit?
The authorized user will see their credit score improve when the main cardholder pays the credit card balance on time and the card provider reports authorized users to credit bureaus.
If the main cardholder fails to pay off the credit card balance on time or keeps piling up debt, and the card provider reports that to the credit bureaus — the authorized user will see a drop in their credit score. Luckily, some card providers like American Express report only positive card activity to protect authorized users.
How does having an authorized user affect my credit?
The main risk in having an authorized user to your account is if you don’t set spending limits and the authorized user spends more than you can pay off. Unless you can pay off your balance on time and lower your debt, you will take a hit on your account.
But if you keep paying your balance on time and keeping your utilization ratio below 30%, you will see a positive impact on your credit score, regardless of if you have an authorized user on your account or not.
Why an authorized user’s activity may not be reported
There are some cases when the primary cardholder’s activity won’t be reported to the authorized user’s credit report. Here are a few reasons why that might happen:
- Card issuer doesn’t report authorized users. Some card issuers won’t report your credit activity to credit bureaus, so make sure you avoid them if you’re looking to build your credit.
- Age restriction. If the authorized user is younger than the minimum requirement, card activity isn’t reported.
- Not the same address. Some authorized users report that their activity wasn’t reported because they had a different address than the primary cardholder. This isn’t the case with every credit card issuer, so ask about its policies.
- Social Security number missing. The authorized user needs to provide their SSN. Otherwise, your card activity may not reach the credit bureaus.
- Credit bureaus. Not all credit card issuers report your card activity to all credit bureaus — sometimes only one or two.
How old do you have to be to be an authorized user on a credit card?
Some credit card providers don’t have a minimum age requirement for authorized users. But others, such as American Express, require the authorized user to be at least 13 years old. Learn more about authorized user options for teens.
Alternative credit-building options
Secured credit cards and student credit cards are also excellent ways to build credit. In this case, you the cardholder is fully responsible for the credit card use and can build credit without depending on anyone else.
Compare cards to build your credit
It’s possible to build your credit as an authorized user. However, if the primary cardholder doesn’t pay their balance, your credit will be negatively affected. If you want to build your credit independently, consider one of these cards that are designed to help you build your credit.
You’ll find most major credit card issuers report authorized users to credit bureaus. But to be on the safe side, reach out to customer service and ask about how it reports and the info it needs from you.
Frequently asked questions
- Can I still build credit if I don’t use my authorized user credit card?
Some users have reported that they rarely used their authorized user credit card and still managed to improve their credit score. But it depends if the primary cardholder uses their card responsibly.
- I have a credit card from the card issuers listed above but it hasn’t reported me as an authorized user. Why?
It could be an error. Reach out to the card issuer’s customer service.
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