What Does Adding an Authorized User Mean?

Before adding or becoming an authorized user on a credit card account, learn what it means and how it might affect your credit

If you’re considering becoming an authorized user or adding one to your account, you might have a few questions about how it works and how it could affect your credit.

As with most things involving credit, the answers can depend on a number of factors. This article will break down some of those factors and offer things to consider about authorized users to help you decide.

What Is an Authorized User on a Credit Card Account? 

When it comes to credit, an authorized user is a person a cardholder has granted access to use their account. And the level of access an authorized user has to the account can vary based on what each credit card company allows.

It differs in a few ways from having a joint account or a co-signer. And here’s the biggest reason: An authorized user is allowed to make charges on the card—and might get their own card. But an authorized user isn’t the person required to make payments every month. That responsibility falls to the account holder.

Who Can Be an Authorized User?

Becoming an authorized user depends on two things: the account holder and their credit card company. 

First, card issuers set their own policies. So they may have rules about who can be added or how old authorized users must be. From there, a lot of it is up to the cardholder.

As long as they’re willing, there are many reasons a cardholder might add an authorized user. One is to try to help another person build credit. Parents might do it to teach their children about credit. Or someone could add their partner to help simplify their finances as a couple.

Whatever the relationship, trust is key. Once an authorized user is given access to an account, they typically can use their card—with or without permission—until access is revoked. So it might be a good idea to talk about budgeting and spending beforehand.

How Many Authorized Users Can Be on a Credit Card Account?

The number of authorized users that can be on a credit card account depends on the issuer and their policy. Credit card issuers set their own policies, so the answer may differ from issuer to issuer.

How Can Being an Authorized User Affect Your Credit?

First, it’s important to know that credit card companies aren’t required to report authorized users’ activity to the three major credit bureaus. And if information doesn’t appear in a credit report, it may not affect an authorized user’s credit or credit score at all.

But if the card issuer reports information, seeing positive effects on the authorized user’s credit starts with both the account holder and the authorized user using the credit card responsibly. That means doing things like making sure monthly payments are on time and keeping balances low.

Plus, as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) notes, “Credit scores are based on experience over time.” So if a cardholder has good credit and uses their card responsibly, simply adding an authorized user could help that person start a credit history.

Can an Authorized User Hurt the Account Owner’s Credit? 

There are also some potential disadvantages. If the authorized user doesn’t use the account responsibly, it can hurt the account holder’s credit. 

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. And that could affect the original cardholder’s credit utilization ratio.

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.

How to Add and Remove Authorized Users 

Each card issuer may have a different process for adding and removing authorized users to a credit card account. So it’s best to find out what your credit card company says. 

To add an authorized user to your Capital One card, you'll need some information about the user like their Social Security number and date of birth to get them set up. There’s no additional cost to add a user to your account.

Removing an authorized user is just as easy.

What’s the Difference Between Authorized Users, Co-Signers and Joint Accounts? 

So what about account co-signers and joint accounts? Here are some more details about how they work:

  • Co-signer: A co-signer vouches for someone who’s applying for their own credit card. The co-signer is telling the credit card company that if the cardholder can’t pay, they will. Typically, 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. And not all issuers allow co-signers.
  • Joint accounts: A joint credit card works like a traditional credit card, except the account is shared. Cardholders get their own cards linked to the account. And both cardholders are responsible for paying the balance every month—no matter who made the original purchases.

Keep in mind that some credit card issuers may provide different levels of access for authorized users. And in some cases, the account holder may be able to make the authorized user a manager of the account, which could mean increased account access. 

Monitor Your Credit for Free With CreditWise From Capital One

According to the CFPB, many different factors can affect your credit. If you want to start tracking and monitoring your credit, CreditWise from Capital One can help. 

It’s free to use, even if you don't have a Capital One account. And using CreditWise won’t hurt your credit score. You can also get free copies of your credit reports from each of the three major credit bureaus by visiting AnnualCreditReport.com

Learn more about Capital One’s response to COVID-19 and resources available to customers. For information about COVID-19, head over to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Government and private relief efforts vary by location and may have changed since this article was published. Consult a financial adviser or the relevant government agencies and private lenders for the most current information.

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

Your CreditWise score is calculated using the TransUnion® VantageScore® 3.0 model, which is one of many credit scoring models. It may not be the same model your lender uses, but it is one accurate measure of your credit health. The availability of the CreditWise tool depends on our ability to obtain your credit history from TransUnion. Some monitoring and alerts may not be available to you if the information you enter at enrollment does not match the information in your credit file at (or you do not have a file at) one or more consumer reporting agencies.

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