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From the Experts at

Everything to Know About Authorized Users on Your Credit Card

by Lucy Lazarony

Everything to Know About Authorized Users On Your Credit Card

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.

How Adding an Authorized User Impacts Credit

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.

How Being an Authorized User Builds Credit

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.’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.

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  • Gerri Detweiler

    If the authorized user doesn’t use the card, it won’t affect the primary user at all. It’s only that single account that will appear on both of their credit reports. In other words, other individual accounts will not be mixed. Of course if the authorized user does use the card then the primary cardholder will be on the hook for any charges made.

    Accounts identified as “authorized user” may not carry quite the same weight as they would for the primary accountholder, but if the account has low balances when compare to the credit limit and is always paid on time. the overall effect for the authorized user’s credit should be positive.

    This article should help:
    Piggybacking to Boost FICO Scores: Does it Still Work?

  • Willow

    What happens if the authorized user doesn’t want to be an authorized user? The bank will delete the user, but will it disappear off the credit report? Or will there be a record on the credit report that the account existed but then was deleted?

    • Gerri Detweiler

      It may still show the past history. You will need to check your credit reports to find out. If there is negative information due to the authorized user account, I’d suggest you dispute it. Here’s how: A Step-By-Step Guide to Disputing Credit Report Mistakes

  • very very sad household

    what happens when the primary authorizes her husband and he gives the card to his son? without the primary’s knowledge and runs it to the limit?

    • Gerri Detweiler

      It is a sad situation. Technically it sounds like it is fraud since you didn’t authorize him to use the card. But are you willing or able to turn your stepson in for fraud? That’s the question only you and your spouse can answer. It’s not likely you can get out of paying the charges and avoid reporting him as the unauthorized user.

  • Smarter now

    While separating from my ex-husband, I was not allowed to remove him as an authorized user from two credit cards I held prior to marriage. And yes, he eventually run one to the limit. The other company let me reduce the credit limit to zero to prevent this.

  • Kim

    Hi There – My husband has a credit card that I am an authorized user on. The amount of debt is pretty high. He has been battleing cancer the past 2 years and now is being treated by hospice. We had originally planned to pay off the card with his life insurance. However, his company were he worked dropped his life insurance so now there is no life insurance (I have an attorney looking into it). Since I never completed the credit application and am not the primary card holder when he dies will I be reponsbilite to pay off the debt? BTW, I don’t have it. I will have to file bankruptcy if I am obligated to pay it.

    • Gerri Detweiler

      I am sorry to hear what you’re going through. In most cases the primary cardholder is liable for the debt, not the authorized user. If, however, you live in a community property state ( Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington, or Wisconsin.) then creditors may look to your community property to satisfy the debt. Or they can try to collect from the estate, if there is one. If not, they may not get paid. This article goes into more detail: Debt After Death: 10 Things You Need to Know

  • sophisticatedlydumb

    How much credit history or score will reflect in the authorized users FICO.

    • Credit Experts

      It’s a pretty minor amount. But it can help with “credit age” (how long the individual has had access to credit). The credit bureaus are well aware that authorized users have no responsibility for paying the bill, so it is not typically weighed heavily.

  • Amber

    Hello I’m new at this so just one question. I don’t have credit yet so my fiance is adding me as an authorized user on his credit card. Would it help me with my credit at all? And would u happen to know anything that could help me get credit?

    • Credit Experts

      Amber —
      Being an authorized user gives you many of the privileges of a credit card holder without responsibility for paying it off. Do you have a savings or checking account with a bank or credit union? If you already have a relationship with a financial institution, you may want to inquire about “credit builder” loans or secured credit cards (a secured card requires a deposit, which becomes your credit limit, and its use is reported to credit bureaus just as a regular card would be). You can learn more here: How to Build Credit the Smart Way

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  • Meet Our Expert

    lucy_lazarony GravatarLucy Lazarony is a freelance personal finance writer. Her articles have been featured on Bankrate, MoneyRates, MSN Money, and The National Endowment for Financial Education. Prior to freelancing, she worked as a staff writer for Bankrate for seven years. She earned a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Florida and spent a summer as an international intern at Richmond, The American International University in London. She lives in South Florida.
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