An authorized user is someone who holds a credit card in his or her name but is not the primary cardholder of the account. An authorized user can make purchases with a credit card but has no obligation to make payments.
Payment of the account is the sole responsibility of the primary accountholder.
So should you add an authorized user to one of your credit card accounts? Only if you and the authorized user understand and respect the credit and financial obligations.
For example, a parent may wish to add a son or daughter who is under 21 as an authorized user to a credit card account. Both will share the card's credit line and the parent will be able to monitor the son or daughter's spending, but it's the parent, not the son or daughter, who is ultimately responsible for the bill.
When you give someone else access to your credit card account as an authorized user, it means both you and the authorized user may make purchases. This can impact the primary cardholder's credit utilization ratio, which accounts for 30 percent of a credit score.
For example, if an authorized user goes on a massive spending spree and charges more than a primary cardholder is able to pay back, even as a minimum monthly payment, the primary cardholder's payment history, the single largest factor in determining a credit score, can be negatively impacted. Payment history accounts for 35 percent of a credit score.
That's why it's so important that an authorized user act responsibly when making credit card charges. And why it is so important that the primary cardholder monitors the spending on the account carefully and pays the account as agreed.
If adding an authorized user to one of your credit cards isn't working out, you can remove the authorized user with a quick phone call to your credit card issuer.
For the authorized user, being added to someone else's credit card account is a credit-building plus, as long as the primary account holder pays the account as agreed.
The credit account will be listed in the authorized user's credit file. And this will help the authorized user to build and improve his or her credit score, as long as the primary account holder continues to make on-time payments to the account.
Whether you're the primary account holder, or an authorized user, on a credit card, it's important to keep an eye on your credit. By monitoring your credit scores, you can track your progress, and watch for negative changes that could indicate a problem with your credit. Credit.com's free Credit Report Card updates your credit scores monthly, and also gives you an overview of your credit profile so you can get a glimpse of where you stand.