Adding An Authorized User To a Credit Card?

Posted by CreditCardGuru

man on phone holding credit cardQ: Do you think it’s a good idea to add an authorized user to my credit card account?

A: Thanks for your question Lynn. Most credit cards (almost all) will allow the account holder to add on authorized users. For those that choose to add a user, they usually add only one. However there are some credit cards that let you add multiple users if you so choose. But whether it’s one or five, is this a smart move? It won’t be if they mis-manage it… because you’ll be held responsible for their misconduct!Let’s take a closer look…

Why Add An Authorized User?
Perhaps you are a parent who wants your son or daughter to have a card. Maybe you run a small business and would like one of your employees to have their own credit card for convenience. But most often, it seems to be that the new card is issued to their spouse – whether that be a husband or wife, boyfriend or girlfriend.

The Pros

  • Adding a user is a convenient way to give someone access to your line of credit for purchases
  • The places the authorized user spent money will be listed on your monthly statement
  • It can be a way to help build credit for the authorized user, if their Social Security number is provided. In September 2007, FICO took away this “piggyback” privilege, but they reverted back in July 2008 and decided to count authorized users once again (and as of 2012 it continues to be that way).

The Cons

  • If there’s one piece of advice you get from this post, it is that adding an authorized user to a credit card is almost always a bad idea when it comes to boyfriends/girlfriends. I can’t even begin to tell you how many horror stories I’ve heard. They thought because they were together for years it would be okay to do. Lo and behold, the relationship would go sour and the authorized user would rake up excessive amounts in charges. Unfortunately, the main cardholder would have no recourse since the other person was authorized to do that. So essentially, you are handing someone a blank check when you do this.
  • Parents like the idea that they can see where their kids are spending money, but the truth of the matter is that kids are crafty these days. They will buy a pack of smokes or bottle of booze at the grocery store so it looks like a food purchase. I’ve even heard of them going to a grocery or drugstore to buy a gift card (they usually offer them for dozens of different places). So the idea that the parent knows what their kid is buying is really an illusion.
  • Authorized users also have a tendency to spend moreĀ  than if they were responsible for the charges, since it’s OPM (other people’s money).

Conclusion
Just make sure you think long and hard before adding an authorized user to a credit card.

Want to avoid trouble? Consider these 3 alternatives:

  • If the goal is to re-build bad credit then your best option available is a credit card with a security deposit. Almost anyone can qualify, no matter how horrific their credit is!
  • If you want your kid who’s under 18 to have the benefits of a credit card, then check out the AmEx prepaid Pass Card (it’s for parents to get their kids)
  • If you are 18+ and don’t care about building credit but just want the convenience of plastic, take a look at the regular AmEx Prepaid Card for adults.


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31 comments... read them below or add your own

  1. wm alexander July 12, 2014 at 2:18PM

    Question/dilemma – I have been permitted to use a credit card by both parents. My Dad is the primary account holder My Mother is an authorized user.
    My Dad passed away in Dec 2013. My Mother thought she was a joint holder. She did not report my Dad’s passing automatically because she believed she was a joint holder and assumed responsibility in due course. I have continued to use her credit card, managing it, making monthly payments etc and the account has been held in good standing up to it’s closure by the card issuer. Recently we decided I should be designated an ‘authorized user’. We called the issuer only to learn at that point that my Mother wasn’t joint holder but an authorized user and didn’t therefore have the authority to make me AU. At this commo with card issuer it was learned that My Dad passed away in Dec of 13. The issuer promptly advised us that they were closing the account promptly due to the circumstances. This was a completely benign, good faith and honest handling of this by Mother and I and are prepared to honor responsibility for the account. We have received no correspondence from them but expect a demand for payment. So, What can we expect to happen?

  2. Candice July 8, 2014 at 4:45AM

    Hi there, my ex boyfriend had me as a authorized user on his platinum credit card, he was the main holder of the account and card, the credit card I received had my name on it.
    Now I am getting called by the lawyers to say R20 000 must be paid.
    Can this be right or do they need to contact his paperwork and see that he gave authorization for me to use his account?
    Pleas help me as this has been going on for 8 years.

  3. Sue June 5, 2014 at 11:05PM

    If you add an authorized user does their name appear anywhere on the monthly statement?

  4. Louie April 16, 2014 at 1:17PM

    My boyfriend opened a credit card account without my knowledge. It was a joint account. He has paid all the payments so far, & has taken responsiable for the account with me and the credit card company. What can I do now about this account and him?

  5. Mrs. Wife the Saver April 12, 2014 at 4:41PM

    Will adding spouse as “authorized” user provoke old collection companies to collect due to his recent “credit”? My husband has old debt prior to us getting married. I would like to add him BUT concerned about implications of the “collections” in turn seeking payments from essentially me!

    Thank you!

  6. I need help March 3, 2014 at 12:01PM

    My husband got a secure card and added me to it as a co user it has my name and Ssi so I can sign too as we’ll would that help me build credit

  7. Rachel February 2, 2014 at 2:27PM

    I am an authorized user on my husband’s account. I was issued a card with my name on it and the number on it is different from my husband’s card. It also asked for my SSN when we authorized me as a user. So because they have my SSN, this will affect my credit?

  8. Nancy L January 29, 2014 at 2:19PM

    I put my son as an authorized user on my credit card four years ago when he started college. He just graduated and I would like to remove him as an authorized user. He wants to apply for his own credit card. Will removing him from the card help or hurt his credit score?

    • adrian February 7, 2014 at 11:40PM

      Any reason for wanting to remove him? His entire credit history is built on the card you added him as an AU to. If you remove him from it it will still show on his credit reports for 10 years, however the credit limit will go away lowering his available credit amount. For his sake I would not remove him until he has successfully obtained his own credit cards.

  9. Rafael January 8, 2014 at 10:39PM

    I was piggybacking on my mom’s credit card she had good credit but now she stopped making payments on her credit card. Now it shows on my credit report that I own the credit card company money, When I am not even the primary holder of the card what should I do? thank you

    • Stephanie January 10, 2014 at 9:55PM

      You can call the individual credit cards and have your name removed. They same thing happened to my husband and once they remove your name your credit report should no longer have those accounts on them. It takes about a month to notice the removal. You will need her information . But it should be just fine.

  10. kathy December 31, 2013 at 8:25AM

    I have a question I hope you can help with. My husband passed away last year with one credit card open with a balance. Am I legally allowed to use his card as Mrs? I have been making the normal monthly payments but never advised the credit card company of his death. Thanks for any insight.

  11. Helps Credit October 27, 2013 at 3:12AM

    I have EXCELLENT credit & have helped family I don’t speak too, just so they can stop asking me for money. I never told them I added them, until I asked them to apply for their own & they got approved for $10k. If they screw up now its their call. Also they’re lucky, because I’ve removed them off my accounts. Over 2 years later it shows $0 late payments & over dozens of on time payments. Is it, because it’s the same card number? They’re not an authorized user anymore, but it still shows that they are on their credit history. One card even bumped up in a credit increase & it bumped up their available credit. I don’t mind it, because they’re not using my card. It is helping ppl who have hurt me, more than a human can take, but I don’t get revenge on those I love. My brother is a convict with a better score and is able to get approved quicker than cops I know and we don’t speak so, I don’t even know if he knows the only credit cards on his report are mine that I’ve removed him from, but still show & his first one he added me too, which was a secured card I got him and I paid for & he kept the refund check, when it became a regular card and told me to keep the card. I kept the $300 card. I have my $100 a month spa services that are automatically charged and I pay it in full every month. So can he ever use my cards, he was once authorized to use? But I also never gave him the physical cards. I still have those too. I just started doing one for a friend who had no credit. He even had to write to Experian to make sure his SS# was right, because he had no credit. And he said to me jokingly, once I raise his credit…I won’t see him again. Which stung. His history shows 9 on time payments. I just removed him too, because I can’t get over him saying that to someone who is helping. His account shows $14,000 in credit cards. I have possession of the cards and he just applied for his first and got approved for $300 not secured and he mailed it to me with an apology letter and said he doesn’t want to use it on anything and no matter how high it gets I can have it. Clearly I don’t need anything from these ppl, but anything I spend is showing as a balance and when I pay it off it shows. All have been removed from 1 month to 2 years. These guys have never even worked and he has a score of 766. But a bad grade on # of accounts of course. So I’m wondering if going through the hassle of changing #’s would make a difference. I don’t care how good their credit gets. At the end you do someone bad, they’ll lose it all or spend it all in one day. I just wonder if they can use the acct by using their name/info banking institute. I like that Capital One sent him a card with a different #. Same acct. Tho. So it popped up on his report, but when I removed him…he wasn’t able to call in and find out balance info or anything. I check the account everyday, which is just an account added to check, because I’m an authorized user on my mom’s home depot card (which I just found out is ran by Citi) and a regular credit card. I removed myself last year. She’s old and I was her caregiver she can’t lift her arms. She switched caregivers, so I removed myself. They equal to $9,000. There’s no balance and she gave me her cards for me to have peace of mind. Well she went to home depot with her caregiver and she didn’t even need the card. She spend $500, which she did pay off in full, but they bumped up her credit $2,000 (and she doesn’t know). I want my name off them both, because she doesn’t really speak to me now that she doesn’t need me. She also doesn’t know much about credit, besides what I taught her and she said to go ahead and use them. I guess all these ppl didn’t realize I helped them to get them to stay away. So I wouldn’t be the one who uses it. This is the same lady who got a home loan under my name and changed her mind the same week and I still pay a mortgage every month and the house is vacant because I’m scared of sheisty renters. So her $9,000 is one years of taxes and I’ve pad for 5 years now. God is good and anything from them is from the devil. It would hurt me not help me. I just don’t trust her future caregivers. I check everyday, so I can personally confront the situation if it happens, but so far so good, but why don’t cards come off credit reports and wouldn’t that help them use a card, they’re no longer authorized to use. Overall. It has helped them all establish credit, so I don’t know why ppl say it doesn’t. They went from automatically getting denied to getting approved straight out of prison. The only difference is for instance if a banker tells me to apply. They tell me 100% I’m going to get it. I don’t know if I can ever be denied without messing anything up. With them their # of accounts doesn’t just let them get a card just to add to the collection for a rainy day. So they’ll get $10k in 2 years…where as I’ll get that whenever I ask. It sure does help and one even got an apt. My brother even got a paypal credit card, when applied for paypal. He applied for Macy’s & they congratulated him, because it’s a Macys/Amex, cause of his score. They might have an amazing score, but it’s history that helps. So I’ve had leased cars I paid off 503 on time payments. 0 late payments. So at 26 years old I know my credit score wasn’t 766, but I did get approved for a million dollar home loan, with no cosigner…which is when my mom screwed me. Thank God I only let her use half of that right? =/ so they’re all older than 26, but they wouldn’t be able to get a home loan, but by the time I die they might be able too. Cause they’re stuck on my accounts. So it does help. I want to do it for my kids so bad, but I can just imagine their dad in a brand new car by the time my funeral comes around and he’ll probably pay with my kids credit cause he doesn’t know I have life insurance. So I can’t add my kids till I find a guardian for them, because he’ll have a field day if I pass away, but its a good way of helping someone. Just don’t give them the card or don’t tell them you’re doing it. If you don’t have their info, than don’t do it all, cause they gave me their info years ago, just to have it.

  12. NA September 13, 2013 at 3:41PM

    I am authorized user on my cousin’s credit card. Now there is more than $ 2000 due on that card and he is not making any payments. Would this affect my credit score ??

    I have never used that card though.

  13. Carolyn July 8, 2013 at 11:06AM

    My mother has trouble signing since her stroke and is considering putting me (daughter) as an authorized signer for convenience. She will still be keeping the card. My question is if I’m put on her card this way and she and dad run up the card and anything happens will I be liable legally to pay off the card?

  14. JJreal March 6, 2013 at 1:42PM

    My daughter moved out to go to a out of town college. I gave her my Sunoco gas card and said only to use it for emergencies only. Well, low and behold one day I tried to use the card it was denied. My daughter ran the card up to its limit of $2000.00(staying at a dorm room?)so my purchase did not go through. She was an authorized user only. My wife was paying the bills at the time and just paid the minimum every month so it was never late. I found out later my daughter filled up all her friends gas tanks at the college they handed her the cash and she spent it on what she wanted. I since removed her as an authorized user, paid off the card and learned a valuable lesson: Never ever have anyone on your accounts as an authorized user. I would rather just give a relative/friend cash as a loan or gift only. I feel some people don’t realize the full responsibility of maintaining an excellent credit card rating.

  15. Tina November 5, 2012 at 6:30PM

    My son is doing some work for someone that requires him to travel out of town, they put him on their card as a authorized user, using his SS number. Would he be held responsible for any debt to this card?

  16. Jack July 18, 2012 at 11:51PM

    I have a friend actually my partner in a business who want me to add him to my credit to improve his score , can I add him but don’t give him the credit cards to use for reducing the risk?

  17. Pam April 18, 2012 at 1:13PM

    I am trying to help my young adult son establish credit by piggy backing on my credit card. My credit is good, his is bad. I was thinking of adding his name and SS# to my credit card, and not give him the one that would be in his name. How long would it take for him to show this credit so he could apply for his own card? Also even though he would not be using my card while his name is on it, can his bad credit affect me in any way because his SS# is linked to my account?

    Also he is in default of a student loan, can the IRS or any one else come and take money/credit from the card where both our names are on?

    • Aces August 29, 2012 at 11:39AM

      The default part is what i want to know. My brother is adding me i need to know will they go after him if our names are attached. I was pretty sure this was just a filing tax together thing.

    • Huxley October 26, 2013 at 11:47AM

      The piggy back method is nearly a myth. The fact is that your FICO score is only a suggestion for creditors, and most actually use their own proprietary scoring systems that look at your trade lines directly. Authorized Buyer types are ignored because they tell nothing about the applicant’s own pay history. Remember that as of the CARD Act, creditors must consider an applicant’s ability to repay (ATR). Had he not had credit history, his stated annual income would have allowed him to establish, however with negative trade lines, his best interest is in trying to make a settlement on the defaulted loan, and look into a small limit credit card from a credit union where he can use it for day to day purchases instead of his debit card and pay it either down or completely every month so he has a good tradeline on his file.

  18. TSH March 20, 2012 at 8:21PM

    I would like to get this clear. If I do not provide the persons social when adding them as an authorized user, they are just getting a duplicate card with their name on it and it does not report/affect their credit? If I mess up then it will not affect their credit right?

  19. Chris March 14, 2012 at 10:39PM

    Is is possible to authorize someone to use my account, but for them to have a limit separate from my own normal credit-limit?

    I don’t mind (generally speaking) to take a bit of a risk to help her rebuild her credit. But I definitely don’t want to give her access to my full credit limit. My oldest card (and the one with the lowest interest rate) has a limit of $75,000. While I believe she has learned her lesson, I, needless to say, don’t want her tempted with my nearly 100-grand limit (that’s just asking for trouble). Is it was possible to give her $1,000 or so of my limit.

    If not, I suppose I could authorize her with one of my lower-limit cards I never use (though I never use them anymore because the interest rates are kind of high compared to my main card).

  20. Greg March 12, 2012 at 5:23AM

    How can you request a credit card company to use a SSN when piggy-backing? Mine only issued a secondary card with a different name on it. But that does nothing for me trying to help my son re-build his credit and credit score. What is my next step with the card issuing company to help my son? Should I tell them what I am trying to do?

  21. Kyle J February 14, 2012 at 7:38AM

    This is a great option for a spouse that has poor credit, but the other has excellent credit. If the person with excellent credit has multiple credit cards, make sure the authorized user is added to the oldest card. A percentage of your credit score goes to length of history.

  22. Telala September 28, 2011 at 7:48PM

    My credit is great, but the person I am thinking of adding, to help their credit score is bad, like 500 or so, will that make my score go down?

    • CreditCardGuru December 19, 2011 at 10:22PM

      Well if they mess up the account, yes. And given their score of 500 I would say the odds of them doing that are pretty good.

      • Lisa February 28, 2012 at 2:57PM

        We are trying to help my husband improve his credit scores. We were advised that a good way to do this was to add him as an authorized user to some of my accounts which I did.

        The sole purpose is just for him to benefit from my excellent credit standing. He won’t actually probably ever even use the cards. My question/confusion is I added him to 3 or 4 of my revolving accounts but none of them asked for his social security number. How can they report on his credit without having his social?

        I was assured by a couple companies that they didn’t need it, but one did say they were going to send me something to fill out. The whole point of me adding him is to help him build his credit, I explained this to all, and some said that it would not affect his credit score, in which I didn’t bother with adding him to those particular accounts but others said yes they could report it to his credit and do so solely by having his name and address.

        I thought a creditor had to have a person’s social in order to report on their credit, am I wrong? Thanks!

      • CreditCardGuru March 4, 2012 at 11:21PM

        You are correct- they need to be using his SSN. Sounds like they probably just issued you secondary cards under a different name.

  23. JLK November 26, 2010 at 7:57AM

    Do you recommend authorized users for college kids?

  24. Susan E. March 3, 2010 at 11:28PM

    Unless a person is the one responsible for making the payment themselves each month, they will never learn the meaning of responsibility. That’s why I’m against authorized users.

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