Co-Signers vs. Authorized Users: What’s the Difference?

Learn more about the differences between co-signing and adding an authorized user

Unsure about the differences between the terms co-signer and authorized user? You’re not alone. But it’s not as complicated as you might think.

If you’re exploring potential advantages and disadvantages of these two options, you may be wondering whether one makes more sense for you or your loved ones. It can help to first have a clear understanding of the definitions of co-signer and authorized user.

What Is a Co-Signer on a Credit Card Account?

A co-signer vouches for someone who’s applying for a credit card by signing along with the person. The co-signer is telling the credit card company that if the cardholder can’t pay, the co-signer will. Co-signers don’t get a card of their own, don’t receive monthly statements and don’t have access to the credit card account.

Advantages of Being a Co-Signer

Wondering about the pros of co-signing? Becoming a co-signer is a great way to help someone improve their chances of being approved for a loan. You could also help the borrower secure a lower interest rate on a loan. For the co-signer, advantages don’t involve monetary perks. But helping a loved one build credit with their first credit card—or helping them get a loan for such things as their first home, college tuition or a car—can be a reward on its own.

Disadvantages of Being a Co-Signer

Helping a family member or a friend may be rewarding, but it’s still important to understand potential cons of co-signing. Before you agree to be a co-signer, consider examining your own finances to make sure that if the loan payment defaults to you, you can afford to pay it. If for some reason you can’t, your credit score could be impacted. Another potential disadvantage of co-signing? Taking on debt obligations as a co-signer could affect your ability to secure additional credit or loans of your own.

What Is an Authorized User on a Credit Card Account?

Adding an authorized user means giving another person access to an existing credit card account, allowing them to make purchases. An authorized user gets their own card but isn’t ultimately responsible for payments.

Adding an authorized user to your Capital One® card can help you earn more rewards and keep track of spending all on one account. There’s no additional cost to add a user to your account, and you’ll just need the user’s Social Security number and date of birth to get them set up. Once they’re added, they’ll receive a card to start using right away.

Advantages of Being an Authorized User

Like co-signing, giving a loved one access to your credit is another way to help. If you have good credit and use your card responsibly, simply adding an authorized user could help that person start a credit history. For authorized users, this advantage may make it easier to build or rebuild credit. And it can be a great way for them to learn how to manage a credit card. But remember that the primary cardholder is ultimately responsible for the account.

Disadvantages of Being an Authorized User

There are also some potential disadvantages with authorized users to be mindful of. Any negative actions, like missed payments, could affect both the primary cardholder and the authorized user. And because multiple people have access to the account, there’s the risk of miscommunication or overspending. 

Making sure you’re on the same page when it comes to responsible credit card use could help you avoid mistakes that reflect poorly on both parties’ scores. You could also see whether your card issuer will let you set spending limits for authorized users.

Other Frequently Asked Questions About Authorized Users and Co-Signers

There’s plenty to consider when examining the differences between authorized users and co-signers. Here are some commonly asked questions and answers to help you better understand the details.

Is an Authorized User Responsible for Missed Payments?

The primary account holder is responsible for paying monthly statements on time. Keep in mind that on-time payment history is a factor that impacts credit scores—and a primary account holder’s credit history could negatively impact authorized users. 

What Are Things to Consider Before Adding an Authorized User to My Account?

There are many things to consider before allowing another person to have access to your account. Once you add another user to your account, they can use your card—with or without your permission—until you revoke access. Before you add an authorized user, consider talking to them about spending limits and budgeting.

How Does Co-Signing Affect My Credit Score?

Co-signing could affect your score in a number of ways. A lot depends on your financial situation and the type of loan involved. You could see changes—good or bad—related to your credit utilization ratio. And if payments default to you and you can’t pay, that could negatively impact your credit score.

Want more information on credit scores? Explore the many factors that impact credit

We hope that you found this helpful. Our content is not intended to provide legal, investment, or financial advice or to indicate the Capital One product or service is available or right for you. For specific advice about your unique circumstances, consider talking with a qualified professional.

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