Is an authorized-user account enough to generate a credit score?

You’ve heard getting added to someone’s credit card (that has a good history) will raise your own credit score. But is an authorized-user account enough to generate a score on its own? Or must you also have accounts in your own name? This question came up on our forums recently, and we reached out to FICO and VantageScore (the two most popular scoring algorithms) to get an answer.

The answer

Yes – an authorized user account alone is enough to generate a credit score for both FICO’s and VantageScore’s models.

A FICO spokesperson confirmed that, “Yes a FICO Score will be generated if the user’s only qualifying trade (credit account) that meets the minimum scoring criteria is an authorized user trade.”

A VantageScore spokesperson confirmed, “Yes, we will score them if they are an authorized user.”

Some caveats

Getting yourself added to someone’s card doesn’t necessarily mean you can sit back, assured of excellent credit. Consider the following issues:

If your only credit account is one you’ve been added to, you may still encounter some roadblocks, including:

  • It helps you only if the main accountholder is responsible with the account: If the main accountholder stops paying on time, lets the account go delinquent or maxes out the card, you and your score are along for the ride.
  • Credit-reporting issues: Some issuers may not report authorized-user accounts to the credit bureaus. That means they won’t show up on your credit reports and won’t be factored into your scores. Even the bureaus themselves differ in whether they report authorized-user accounts that become delinquent. However, most major issuers do report authorized-user data to the bureaus. And positive behavior is universally reported by all three major bureaus (Experian, Equifax and TransUnion).
  • You may bet a bigger boost by opening your own accounts: Authorized-user accounts don’t carry as much weight (in FICO’s algorithm) as accounts in your own name – see this article for more details.
  • The account you’re added to must meet minimum-scoring requirements: Credit-scoring models may require an account to be open for a certain length of time (or be recently active) before they factor it into your credit score. That means, if your only account is an authorized-user account, it needs to fit these requirements – otherwise you still may not have a score. We detail FICO’s requirements here. Basically, the account must be at least six months old and have been reported to the within the past 6 months (in other words, it’s not a dormant account that hasn’t been used in more than six months). VantageScore, meanwhile, takes a broader look for the data it incorporates (up to 24 months – or more, in some cases).

The bottom line

If you need to get a credit score quickly, getting added to someone else’s account can certainly help. But, for the best long-term outcome, use it as a stepping stone to getting your own cards. That way, your score will continue to grow and not be dependent on anyone else’s cards.

The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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