What is an Authorized User on a Credit Card?

Being an authorized user on a credit card means that you are authorized to use another person’s credit card in your own name. You get your own “copy” of the card but have none of the obligations of the primary account holder.

Who should become an Authorized User?

Anyone with no credit history or young credit history can benefit from becoming an authorized user. Parents commonly add children as authorized users to help them build their otherwise wholly independent credit history.

If your credit score is sub-par you can also benefit from becoming an authorized user. The primary account holder’s activity will boost your score as well, provided they are using their card responsibly.

The Good

Providing the primary account holder follows good credit practices, the authorized user can receive quite a significant credit score boost in a short time after being added to the card. Payment History, Credit Utilization, and Length of Credit History combined account for 80 percent of your FICO credit score. Being added as an authorized user to an established credit account means you will share the benefits of the primary account holder’s on time payments, low utilization, and old age of account.

The Bad

The authorized user can spend whatever balance they like on the card and has no obligation to pay any amount. However, most card issuers will let you set a limit on the authorized user card. With or without a limit, all responsibility for use of the card falls on the primary account holder regardless of who it was used by. Additionally the authorized user only benefits when the primary account holder uses the card responsibly. A late payment impacts everyone named on the card, so make sure the primary account holder has good credit history before being added to their card.

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