Credit cards are great to have, but can be difficult to get. You must be 18 years old to qualify for your own card, and your borrowing options are largely determined by your credit score.
Luckily, many credit cards allow authorized users, so even people under 18 or those with limited credit histories can access a line of credit and start building their borrowing record.
Find out everything you need to know about being added as an authorized user to someone else’s credit card, or adding an authorized user to your own account.
Table of Contents
What is an authorized user on a credit card?
An authorized user on a credit card is someone who’s been added to that credit card account as a secondary user.
Authorized users can use the credit card to make purchases, and will become associated with the account holder’s credit history. In other words, the primary cardholder’s history on the credit card will be added to the authorized user’s credit report, which will affect their credit score (generally for the better, but this isn’t guaranteed).
When credit card owners add an authorized user, they’ll often do this for their:
- Spouse or partner
- Close friend
While these are common scenarios, you don’t need to have a particular relationship with someone to be an authorized user on their account or vice versa.
How does being an authorized user work?
An authorized user is given access to the primary cardholder’s (aka the credit card owner’s) line of credit. They’ll often receive their own physical credit card, which they can use to make purchases with that line of credit.
However, authorized users have less responsibility than the primary cardholder and less control over the account. For instance, they can’t close the card, and when they use it to buy things, the primary cardholder will be on the hook for the bill.
Only the primary cardholder can add an authorized user (which means another authorized user can’t do it). It can only be done with permission from the credit card issuer.
Fees and charges associated with being an authorized user
A credit card issuer may charge authorized user fees. These might include:
- A one-time authorized user fee
- A recurring authorized user fee (likely billed annually)
- A second card fee, to cover the cost of ordering an extra credit card for the authorized user
Whether or not authorized user fees are charged will depend on the credit card. Check the card’s terms and conditions or contact customer service if you’re not sure how much (if anything) adding an authorized user could cost.
How old does an authorized user need to be?
Legally, there’s no minimum age to be an authorized user. The minimum age requirement is determined by each individual credit card issuer.
Many banks and card issuers have no minimum age requirements at all and will let the primary cardholder decide who can and cannot be an authorized user.
Card issuers that do have a minimum age requirement usually set it between 13–16 years old.
Do authorized users get their own credit card?
As mentioned, most authorized users are allowed their own physical credit cards. Once again, this is at the discretion of the credit card issuer, but it’s common to offer extra cards to authorized users.
Some card issuers automatically send an extra card when an authorized user is added. In other cases, the primary card holder needs to go online or call customer service to request an additional card.
What responsibilities do authorized users have?
Authorized users don’t have many responsibilities with the credit card account. While they can make purchases using the card, they usually aren’t allowed to make payments on their own, and won’t receive a bill in the mail.
Authorized users also can’t make changes to the account. For example, they can’t:
- Request a credit limit increase
- Ask for a lower APR
- Negotiate credit card debt
- Add other users to the account
The role the authorized user plays in the credit card account should generally be determined by the primary cardholder. The primary cardholder and authorized user should discuss the following responsibilities:
- Does the authorized user pay a portion of the bill?
- Does the authorized user pay a portion of the credit card fees?
- Is the authorized user responsible for paying any interest that accrues from one month to the next?
- Will the authorized user get to share in the credit card’s rewards?
After you work out what an authorized user is responsible for paying (if anything), you’ll need to decide the best way to transfer those funds, as they probably won’t be allowed to make direct payments on the card (e.g., by signing into the card issuer’s website and transferring money from their bank).
Authorized user vs. joint credit card: what’s the difference?
Authorized users and joint credit card owners are not the same. Joint credit cards are owned equally by two people. Both cardholders have full control over, access to, and liability for the credit card account.
Authorized users, on the other hand, have limited responsibility for and control over the credit card. The account is managed entirely by the primary cardholder.
Joint credit cards are increasingly rare, as many card issuers prefer to have a single account holder. If you’re looking into ways to combine finances with another person, we recommend authorized users over joint accounts, as joint accounts also have more complicated terms and conditions.
How to become an authorized user on a credit card
There are two ways to become an authorized user: by asking a friend or family member, or by paying for a for-profit service.
Ask a friend or family member
The most common way to become an authorized user is to ask a friend or family member to add you to their credit card account.
When looking for the right person, make sure you find someone with good credit. Their credit will be linked to yours, and their activity on the credit card—most importantly, their payment history—will appear on your own credit report.
This means you need to choose someone you trust to borrow responsibly and who has a good credit score.
Once you’ve found the right person to add you as an authorized user and negotiated the terms of the arrangement, they have three ways to add you:
- Online: The cardholder can log in to their credit card management account and add a user.
- Over the phone: They can call the number on the back of their credit card and ask to add an authorized user.
- In person: Lastly, they can also go to the bank or company that issued their card and ask to speak to a representative
Pay to be an authorized user
Another option for becoming an authorized user is to pay for it. There are special services (known as tradeline services) which will facilitate this. In exchange for a fee, they will pair you with someone with excellent credit who will add you as an authorized user to their account.
Be careful using these services, as they have notable downsides, including:
- High fees: Tradeline services can cost upwards of $4,000.
- Risk: You’ll need to offer sensitive personal information to these services.
- No guarantee: Tradeline services are often deceptive in advertising; they can’t actually guarantee if or how much your credit score will improve.
- Low returns: Tradeline services are usually used by people who want to improve their credit score by piggybacking credit. While being an authorized user can accomplish this, it can only raise your credit so much.
- Lenders frown upon it: As paying for a piggybacking service doesn’t accurately reflect your ability to borrow money responsibly, lenders discourage the practice.
If possible, ask a friend or family member to add you as an authorized user rather than paying for a tradeline service.
How does being an authorized user affect your credit?
Credit scores are determined by a number of factors. Three major credit scoring factors are:
- Payment history
- Credit utilization
- Length of credit history
Here’s how being an authorized user affects those areas of your credit score:
Your payment history is the record of whether or not you pay your bills on time. If you’re adding yourself to a credit card that’s regularly paid off on time, this will reflect well on your own payment history.
However, some credit scoring models weight shared payment history less heavily. You can still use your status as an authorized user as a stepping stone to qualify for your own card, but once you do, make sure to pay your bills regularly and on time to build a good payment history.
Your credit utilization is how much of your credit you’re currently using. It’s calculated by dividing your total outstanding balance on all of your cards by your total credit limit (the maximum amount you can spend across all of your cards).
When you become an authorized user, your total credit limit increases, as you’ve added a new card’s credit limit to your portfolio. If you and the primary cardholder keep your spending low on the credit card, your credit utilization rate will likely decrease, which is good for your credit score.
However, you can also risk increasing your credit utilization rate if you or the primary cardholder spend too much on the card. In fact, if the primary cardholder’s utilization rate on the card is higher than your own average rate, your credit score is likely to suffer.
Strive to keep your credit utilization below 30%, and under 10% if you possibly can.
Length of credit history
The length of your credit history, or credit age, is the average age of your credit accounts. The older your accounts are, the better you look to lenders.
Being added to an account that’s been open for a long time will raise your average credit age. However, being added to an account that’s relatively new may lower your average credit age.
New borrowers with insufficient borrowing histories can especially benefit from being an authorized user, as even a young credit card will likely raise your credit age. On the other hand, if you have credit accounts of your own, consider how long the card has been open before agreeing to be added as an authorized user.
FAQs about being an authorized user on a credit card
Below, we’ve answered some of the most common questions about being an authorized user:
Can authorized users make credit card payments?
No, authorized users cannot usually make credit card payments. While there are some credit card issuers that allow authorized users to access and manage the credit account, this is incredibly rare.
Most likely, the primary cardholder will be responsible for paying the credit card bill. To share payment responsibilities, authorized users and primary cardholders should work out a payment arrangement.
For example, the authorized user can Venmo or PayPal their monthly portion of the bill to the primary cardholder one or two weeks before the payment due date.
Can I remove myself as an authorized user?
Yes, an authorized user can remove themselves from a credit card account.
The easiest and fastest way to remove yourself as an authorized user is to call the credit card issuer and ask to be taken off the account.
Can an authorized user become the primary cardholder?
No, an authorized user cannot become the primary cardholder.
As credit cards are attached to a certain individual’s credit history and personal information, an account’s ownership cannot be transferred.
However, an authorized user can open their own credit card and transfer the balance from the shared credit card. Then the primary cardholder can close the shared account or remove the authorized user from it.
FAQs about adding an authorized user to your credit card
If you’re considering adding someone as an authorized user to your own credit card, we’ve answered some of the questions you might have:
How many authorized users can be on a credit card?
How many authorized users can be added on a credit card depends on the credit card itself and the card issuer.
While some cards only allow one authorized user, many allow 4 or more authorized users.
Keep in mind that adding authorized users can cost money in fees, raise your credit utilization rate, and lower your available credit.
Does adding an authorized user affect my credit?
No, adding an authorized user won’t affect your credit directly.
However, having one or more authorized users can indirectly impact your credit. For example, having multiple people charging purchases to your credit card can raise its balance, subsequently raising your credit utilization rate.
Keep track of what purchases have been made on the card so you don’t miss any surprise payments or get hit with a bigger bill than you’ve budgeted for.
Can I remove an authorized user?
Yes, you can remove an authorized user. Just like when you add an authorized user, you can remove one by going to your online account, calling the card issuer, or visiting the credit card’s issuing bank.