Adding an Authorized User to Your Credit Card

Brendan Harkness

Brendan Harkness

Updated Jul 12, 2018

Looking to build your credit fast? Becoming an authorized user on a responsible person’s credit card can be a quick path to building credit without a credit check.

If you already have great credit established, adding a trustworthy authorized user to your card can help you earn more rewards more quickly, while helping someone else build his or her credit. But as you’ll see, mutual trust is key to an authorized user relationship.

Keep reading to learn more, or jump down to our instructions for adding authorized users for different card issuers.

What is an Authorized User?

When you’re approved for a credit card you become the primary cardholder. But you can add more official cardholders to your account, known as authorized users.

An authorized user (AU) is a secondary cardholder, with some of the rights and privileges of the primary cardholder. Authorized users will get copies of the original card, and can use it just like any other credit card.

Here’s a summary of everything you need to know about authorized users:

  • Legal liability: Only the primary cardholder is legally liable for paying the credit card debt. The authorized user has no legal requirement to pay.
  • Available for most cards: You can add authorized users to most credit and charge cards, but there are some that do not allow it.
  • No credit history required: Authorized users don’t need to have any established credit of their own, or even income. That means they’re good for building credit.
  • Card activity reported to credit bureaus: All card activity will appear on the authorized user’s credit reports, just like any other financial account.
  • Same line of credit: The primary cardholder and the authorized user share the same credit line.
  • Spending limits: Depending on the card issuer, you may be able to set spending limits for authorized users.
  • Cost: Authorized users are often free, or they come at a reduced annual fee. Some issuers limit the number of additional users you can have.
  • Better overall earning potential: Authorized users typically earn spending rewards at the same rates as the primary cardholder, so you can earn rewards more quickly. And their purchases will count towards signup bonuses.
  • Most basic benefits are shared: Many card benefits, like shopping and travel protections, apply to both primary and authorized users.
  • Some difference in premium benefits: Some valuable perks, like travel credits and airport lounge access, may only be available to the primary cardholder.

The crucial thing to understand about authorized user cards is the legal liability to pay. Imagine you add an authorized user to your account, and that person racks up a ton of charges but refuse to pay you for them.

You’ll have no legal recourse, you’ll just be stuck with the debt. That can be pretty bad for your credit utilization, and if you end up making any late payments that can be even worse.

Other than that, authorized user accounts are pretty great in a lot of ways. As long as you add trustworthy and responsible people, you shouldn’t have anything to worry about.

There are several cases in which adding an authorized user can be a smart move, either for you (the primary cardholder) or the other person. Parents may add their children, for example, to start teaching them about credit and building their credit history early on. We go over situations like that below.

Remember that the primary account holder and any AUs will share a single credit line. Any purchases made will reduce the total available credit for everyone involved.

You must have consent from the authorized user to add him or her to your credit account. Otherwise, the card issuer can close your account for violating the terms.

Authorized users are one type of joint account holder, while cosigners represent another type. When you cosign for a credit card with someone else you’ll each be equally liable for the debt, rather than one person having full liability.

How to Add an Authorized User

Adding an authorized user to your card is usually quick and easy. It might even seem too quick and easy, but that’s true for regular credit card applications too.

You can add additional users to your account at any time, for cards that allow it. Some credit card companies will let you add them as you initially apply for their cards.

We have a set of specific instructions for adding authorized users for each card issuer below.

To add an authorized user, just log in to your online account and find the appropriate link. It will probably say something like:

  • “Authorized Users”
  • “Add an Authorized User”
  • “Manage Authorized Users”
  • “Add Additional Users”
  • “Add Someone to Your Account”

Next, you’ll have to supply some basic information for the authorized user. You’ll usually need to provide:

  • Full name
  • Address
  • Date of birth
  • Social Security number (depending on issuer)
  • U.S. citizenship status (depending on issuer)
  • Relationship to primary cardholder (depending on issuer)

After inputting the information you can submit your request. The card issuer may approve it instantly, or it could take some time to verify the identity of the authorized user.

Soon after, either you or the authorized user will receive a new card in the mail. It will need to be activated just like any other card.

Once you add an AU you’ll be able to set spending limits for that account, if the issuer offers this feature. You’ll typically be able to monitor an authorized user’s activity, such as by filtering transactions to show which accounts made which purchases.

Some credit card companies may have certain requirements for authorized users, while others may not. American Express, for example, requires additional users to be at least 13, unlike most other issuers.

Adding an authorized user to an American Express card.

Adding an authorized user to an American Express card.

Adding Authorized Users to a Business Card

Some business cards allow you to add authorized users, while others will not. All the rules that apply to authorized users of personal, consumer credit cards also apply to business cards.

However, most business cards also offer a different option: employee cards.

Employee card accounts are similar to authorized users. The main difference is that employee cards usually don’t show up on the credit reports of the employees who use them. But they might in some cases, depending on the particular agreement in place.

In most cases, employee cards won’t get the best benefits of high-end business cards, while authorized users might. You typically get additional account management tools to handle employee cards, like spending limits and expense tracking, that don’t come with most consumer credit cards.

You may want to add authorized users or employee cards to simplify bookkeeping, and get all your expenses in one account. This is also a good way to give your employees an easy payment option for business spending or travel, while taking advantage of protections and benefits. But remember that only the primary cardholder is legally responsible for paying the card balance.

Benefits of Adding or Being an Authorized User

Build Credit

You can designate someone as an authorized user to help him or her rebuild or establish a credit history. The card activity will appear on the authorized user’s credit reports.

The issuer will begin reporting card activity from the point at which the AU account is opened. Any previous card activity will not be included on the authorized user’s credit report. Only activity going forward will be reported.

Each card issuer has its own minimum age requirement for authorized users, and they vary quite a bit. Some have no requirement at all. And some issuers set a limit on the number of AUs you can have on a single account.

You can see all those details below, along with instructions for adding authorized users with every major card issuer.

If the card is used responsibly and the account is in good standing, credit scores will go up in general. But if negative activity is reported, like maxed out credit limits and late payments, it will bring credit scores down.

That’s why designating authorized users is risky, for both the primary and additional cardholders. If the AU charges more than expected, the primary cardholder will be on the line to pay. And if the primary cardholder is irresponsible with the account, that will hurt the authorized user’s credit, rather than helping.

So you should only add authorized users if you trust that they’ll pay for their charges. Or, if you’re planning to foot the bill anyway, you should trust that they’ll only spend up to a certain amount. Depending on the particular card, you may be able to set spending limits for AUs.

And, on the other hand, you should only become an authorized user on someone else’s credit account if you trust that he or she will be responsible. That basically means always paying on time and keeping the credit utilization fairly low, around 30% or less.

Q&A Video: Can I Build Credit as an Authorized User?

Trying to build up your credit? Check out our picks for the Best Credit Cards for Fair or Average Credit, and consider secured cards too. Or, take a look at credit builder loans, a totally different financial animal.

Account Management

Authorized users will have certain account management privileges, depending on the particular card issuer. You may be able to give or take away some permissions.

An authorized user typically can perform the following actions:

  • Charge to the account by making purchases with the credit card
  • Make payments to reduce the account balance
  • Obtain account information, sometimes with limitations
  • Report lost or stolen cards
  • Inquire about fees or initiate billing disputes
  • They may be able to accept offers from the card issuer, like a lower APR for purchases or balance transfers

Authorized users usually cannot perform the following actions:

However, some card issuers let you give AUs more privileges, like Amex and Citi.

American Express lets you designate an authorized user as an Account Manager, who can have either full or partial account access.

You can give Account Managers either full or limited access.

With American Express, you can give Account Managers either full or limited access.

And Citi simply lets you choose whether or not to give your AUs access to your online account.

Setting the access privileges for an authorized user on a Citi credit card.

Setting the access privileges for an authorized user on a Citi credit card.

Earn Rewards

Authorized users will earn spending rewards just like primary cardholders. But all the rewards go into a single reward bank, which is usually only accessible by the primary cardholder.

For example, take the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express® (Review). For no annual fee, it offers 3% cash back at U.S. grocery stores, and 2% cash back at U.S. gas stations and department stores.

If you designate an AU for this account, you’ll get a new card in the mail. That card will have the same exact rewards program, providing the same amount of cash back for these purchases.

You can designate many authorized users and collect a lot of rewards from their spending. This could be pretty profitable if they pay you back for what they charge.

However, signup bonuses are not repeated for authorized users. The Blue Cash Everyday has a signup bonus of $150 for spending $1,000 in the first 3 months, but that is only available once.

Any purchases an AU makes will contribute towards the spending requirement, so you can use this method to reach minimum spends more quickly.

Share Benefits

Authorized users will often have access to all of the card’s benefits, but sometimes only the primary cardholder will get certain perks. This latter case is more common for high-end travel credit cards.

If any given benefit is available an unlimited number of times, or up to a certain limit, it will probably be available for authorized users. But some benefits can only be used once, and this will be true no matter how many authorized users you designate. There are also cases where authorized users will get partial access to certain benefits.

In general, if you have to pay for an authorized user account, it will probably get some decent benefits.

Most credit cards come with a variety of shopping and travel protections, all of which usually apply to authorized users. These include benefits like:

  • Purchase Protection: If an eligible item you buy is broken or stolen, you can be reimbursed up to a certain amount.
  • Extended Warranty: Adds an additional period of time to eligible manufacturer’s warranties.
  • Price Protection: When you buy something and find it being sold for less elsewhere, you may be reimbursed for the difference in price.
  • Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver: Covers your rented vehicles against collision damage and theft, as long as you decline the rental company’s own insurance.
  • Travel Accident Insurance: Coverage against accidental loss of life and limb when traveling by common carrier.
  • Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance: Get reimbursed if your trip is cut short or interrupted for an eligible reason.

Benefits that may or may not be available for authorized users include:

  • Annual travel credits: If a card offers an annual $300 travel credit, like the Chase Sapphire Reserve (Review), don’t expect the AU card to get an extra $300 credit in addition tot he primary card’s credit.
  • Repeating travel credits: Certain travel credits are unlimited, like $100 for every eligible hotel stay. Authorized users will usually get these credits.
  • Airport lounge access: Some cards with airport lounge access provide the same type of access for authorized users, while others offer limited or no access.
  • Global Entry or TSA Pre✓® application fee credit: Some cards with this application fee credit will also provide it for authorized users, like the The Platinum Card® from American Express (Review).
  • Hotel or airline member status: Most cards that grant a certain hotel or airline member status, like Hilton Honors Gold, will also provide it for authorized users.

If you’re not sure whether or not an AU will have access to a particular benefit, contact the card issuer’s customer support to ask.

Enhance Business Spending and Travel

If you have employees making business purchases and traveling, this is an opportunity to earn more rewards and make their lives a bit easier too.

Rather than reimbursing an employee for the purchases she makes, you can make her an authorized user on your business credit card. Or, if your card doesn’t allow authorized users, you can probably get her an employee card.

Now you’ll earn rewards for every purchase she makes with the card, providing a small discount for every expense. Certain items you buy may be covered by benefits like Purchase Protection and Extended Warranties when eligible. And you can track your business spending more easily because all the transactions will be collected within the same main account.

When it comes to travel, having a credit card can be a great asset. On the basic level, many business and travel cards come with protections like Baggage Delay Insurance, Trip Cancellation Insurance, and Auto Rental Collision Damage Waivers. These could help save quite a bit of money if something goes wrong, and they’re all the more useful if you have a lot of employees who travel often.

The higher-end travel cards offer better perks, like expedited processing at airports through Global Entry or TSA Pre✓, airport lounge access, and hotel member status. You can use these benefits to help your employees have smoother trips, and arrive in better shape when they reach their destinations. No doubt they’ll boost morale too!

When Should You Add or Become an Authorized User?

When you designate someone as an authorized user you’re indicating that you trust that person, at least to a certain extent. Likewise, when you become an authorized user you’re showing that you trust the primary cardholder to use the account properly.

In general, you should have a good relationship with anyone you share a credit card account with. And if you’re going to be the authorized user, you should be sure that the primary cardholder understands how credit cards work.

Remember that personal relationships can change quickly, but legal relationships tend to be more difficult to get out of. You can always remove someone as an authorized user or cancel your own authorized user account.

There are several cases in which it might be a good idea to designate an authorized user, or become one yourself.

You should only use one of these strategies if you’re committed to using credit cards responsibly. Otherwise, you and the authorized user will suffer with lower credit scores and all the negative consequences that result, like higher interest rates.

Adult Family Members

Maybe you’ve got the Hilton Honors Aspire Card, and you want to hook your husband up with some sweet hotel perks. You also want to be sure that you can spend $4,000 in the first 3 months, to get the signup bonus of 100,000 points.

Add your husband as an authorized user, and his spending with the card will contribute towards the $4,000 requirement. He’ll also earn points whenever he uses the card, which you can use for your next trip or vacation. Team up for the win!

Be aware that in some states, spouses share legal liability for most of each other’s debts, whether both parties are named on the account or not. These are known as “common property” rules.

Parent-Child

Want to give your kid a credit boost? Add him as an authorized user when he’s young, which will provide a big head start for establishing a credit history.

“Give my kid a credit card? Are you crazy?”

No, we aren’t suggesting you simply give your child a credit card and let him run wild. For young children, or anyone else for that matter, you don’t have to give them cards at all. You can just add them as authorized users and keep the extra card yourself, or cut it up. They’ll never have access to your line of credit, but the account will show up on their credit reports.

Or, if your children are older and have demonstrated some financial responsibility, you can give them cards of their own to use. This can make all of your lives easier, as they can just use their cards without having to borrow yours. You can use this to teach them how credit works, and how to get excellent credit scores.

Depending on the card, you may also be able to set spending limits for authorized users, just in case. And remember that you can monitor the spending of authorized users by checking your account online, and sometimes on your mailed statements.

Of course, if you’re not a responsible credit card user, adding your child as an authorized user could be a great way to tank his credit scores before he even has a chance.

Employer-Employee

If your business has employees that spend money or travel for work, it could be wise to add them as authorized users. This will let you earn more rewards overall as they spend with the cards, and you’ll also provide them with some handy shopping and travel benefits.

Only add authorized users after a clear credit card policy is established and published. The policy should cover responsible use, allowed purchases, eligibility, liability, the expense tracking process, and any other particulars unique to the company.

The policy should be reviewed by legal counsel before being implemented. Monitor authorized user accounts periodically or weekly, and take advantage of the account management tools that are probably offered by the card issuer.

Immigrants

New to the U.S.? You may have a hard time building credit if you’re an immigrant who’s just beginning to open financial accounts.

But if you have some family members or a trusted friend with good credit, you can get a leg up by becoming an authorized user. Keep in mind that, for some card issuers, you may need to get a Social Security number before you can become an authorized user.

There are a few credit cards designed specifically for people who have recently moved to the U.S. If you’re an immigrant, check out the Deserve line of credit cards along with the CreditStacks Mastercard (Review). You should also consider secured credit cards.

Removing an Authorized User Account

It’s very easy to remove an authorized user, or to cancel your own authorized user account.

Simply call the credit card issuer and ask to have the AU account removed. Or you can usually make the request through your online account, by selecting the option to manage your authorized user accounts.

The removal will often take effect immediately, or within a few business days. The account should be marked as closed on your credit reports after they’re updated, shortly after the statement period ends. Like other closed credit card accounts it should stay on your credit reports for 10 years, although it will no longer be used in calculations of total credit utilization. Hopefully in that time you can improve your credit in other ways, before it drops off.

You may want to remove an authorized user if the person no longer seems trustworthy. It could be time to break the connection if you’re not sure whether or not you’ll get the money you’re owed. Or, if you’re the authorized user, perhaps you’re worried about the primary cardholder being irresponsible and making late payments.

In other situations, perhaps it’s just time to move on. Maybe your child is 18 and ready for his own credit card, or a relationship ended and it’s time to move on financially as well as personally.

Wrapping Up

Authorized users are pretty easy to understand. They basically just ride piggy-back on the primary account holder’s credit.

The important thing to remember is that only the primary cardholder is legally responsible for paying the credit card debt. The authorized user has no legal liability at all.

That’s why both the primary cardholder and the authorized user need to be focused on using credit cards responsibly. You don’t want a bad financial experience to ruin a healthy personal relationship. Be sure to keep the credit utilization low, and always make on-time payments.

You can add almost anyone as an authorized user, depending on the particular card issuer’s requirements. For the most part the card features will be shared with the AU. But be aware that some travel perks are only available once per account, or may have more limited terms for authorized users.

Becoming an authorized user is a great way to build up your credit, especially if you’ve had a hard time being approved for your own credit cards or financial products. And the account will accumulate rewards more quickly, because more people will be spending and earning cash back or points.

Authorized user accounts should always be a win-win, for the primary cardholder and the AU.

Want to learn more about how to improve your credit? Check out our Definitive Guide to Building Credit with Credit Cards.

How to Add Authorized Users with Specific Card Issuers

Each card issuer has its own terms for the minimum age of authorized users, as well as the maximum number of AUs you can have on a single account.

Card Issuer Minimum Age Maximum Number Information
American Express 13 99 FAQ and Instructions
Bank of America None 9 Must Log In
Barclays 13 25 FAQ and Instructions (search for “authorized user”)
Capital One None Depends on account Info and Instructions
Chase None No limit FAQ and Instructions
Citi None 10 Add an Authorized User (must log in)
Discover 15 5 FAQ and Instructions
HSBC None 4 Must Log In
USAA None 10 Community Discussion
U.S. Bank 15 7 Info and Instructions

The following instructions will guide you through adding authorized users with any of the major card issuers. Take note that, in some cases, the dashboard you see when you log in may be different than what’s shown below. But the basic steps will be the same.

American Express

By Phone

Online

  1. Log in to your account online
  2. Click the “Account Services” link
  3. Click the”Add Someone to Your Account” link
  4. Enter the authorized user’s information:
    1. Full name
    2. Social Security number (optional when applying, but must be provided within 60 days of card being issued)
    3. Date of birth (optional when applying, but must be provided within 60 days of card being issued)
Adding an authorized user for an Amex card.

Adding an authorized user for an Amex card.

Bank of America

By Phone

Online

  1. Log in to your account online
  2. Click the “Information & Services” tab
  3. Click the “Add an authorized user” link
  4. Enter the authorized user’s information:
    1. Full name
    2. Relationship to primary cardholder
    3. Country of residence
    4. Date of birth
    5. Social Security number (optional)
    6. Phone number (optional)
Adding an authorized user for a Bank of America card.

Adding an authorized user for a Bank of America card.

Barclays

By Phone

Online

  1. Log in to your account online
  2. Click the “Services” tab
  3. Click the “Authorized users” link
  4. Click the “Add an authorized user” link
  5. Enter the authorized user’s information:
    1. Full name
    2. Relationship to primary cardholder
    3. Date of birth
    4. U.S. citizenship status
    5. Address
Adding an authorized user for a Barclays card. (1)

Adding an authorized user for a Barclays card. (1)

Adding an authorized user for a Barclays card. (2)

Adding an authorized user for a Barclays card. (2)

Capital One

By Phone

Online

  1. Log in to your account online
  2. Click the “Services” tab
  3. Click the “Manage Authorized Users” link
  4. Enter the authorized user’s information:
    1. Full name
    2. Address
    3. Phone number
    4. Social Security number
We don’t have any screenshots for adding an authorized user to Capital One cards. If you have a Capital One card and would like to share, feel free to contact us!

Chase

By Phone

Online

  1. Log in to your account online
  2. Click the “Things you can do” menu
  3. Click the “Add an authorized user” link
  4. Enter the authorized user’s information:
    1. Full name
    2. Date of birth
    3. Address
Adding an authorized user for a Chase card.

Adding an authorized user for a Chase card.

Citi

By Phone

Online

  1. Log in to your account online
  2. Click the “Services” tab
  3. Click the “Credit Card Services” link
  4. Click the “Authorized Users” link
  5. Enter the authorized user’s information:
    1. Full name
    2. Date of birth
    3. Address
    4. Online account access privileges
Adding an authorized user for a Citi card. (1)

Adding an authorized user for a Citi card. (1)

Adding an authorized user for a Citi card. (2)

Adding an authorized user for a Citi card. (2)

Discover

By Phone

Online

  1. Log in to your account online
  2. Click the “Manage” tab
  3. Click the “Manage Authorized Users” link
  4. Click the “Add Authorized User” link
  5. Enter the authorized user’s information:
    1. Full name
    2. Address
    3. Date of birth
    4. Social Security number
  6. Select a card design
Adding an authorized user for a Discover card.

Adding an authorized user for a Discover card.

HSBC

By Phone

Online

  1. Log in to your account online
  2. Find a link to add an authorized user
  3. Enter the authorized user’s information
We don’t have any screenshots for adding an authorized user to HSBC cards. If you have an HSBC card and would like to share, feel free to contact us!

USAA

By Phone

Online

  1. Log in to your account online
  2. Scroll to the bottom of the page and click the “Request an additional card for someone else” link
  3. Enter the authorized user’s information
We don’t have any screenshots for adding an authorized user to USAA cards. If you have a USAA card and would like to share, feel free to contact us!

U.S. Bank

By Phone

Online

  1. There may or may not be a way to add authorized users online; if you have a U.S. Bank card, please let us know!

By Mail or Fax

  1. Download a PDF of the Authorized User Form
  2. Mail or fax the completed form to the address provided in the document
We don’t have any screenshots for adding an authorized user to U.S. Bank cards. If you have a U.S. Bank card and would like to share, feel free to contact us!
Was this helpful?

The Insider

Brendan Harkness
Review of the My Best Buy® Credit Card and the My Best Buy® Visa®
Brendan Harkness | Nov 15, 2018

The My Best Buy Credit Card and My Best Buy Visa are popular cards for the big electronics retailer. But are they a good deal? You might be surprised.

Read More
Susan Shain
What Is a Credit Card CVV Number? Where to Find Your Security Code
Susan Shain | Nov 14, 2018

Looking for your credit card CVV code? Here's exactly where to find it on different cards, plus why this security code is vital for online shoppers.

Read More
Susan Shain
How Credit Cards With Car Rental Insurance Could Save You Big Bucks
Susan Shain | Nov 10, 2018

Looking for credit cards with car rental insurance? This post explains the different options and terms — and selects four cards with the best coverage.

Read More