Do Credit Cards Have Routing Numbers?

The 16-digit number on your credit card might remind you of the routing number you see on your checks or bank statements. But they aren’t the same.

In fact, there’s no such thing as a credit card routing number, even if it was issued by a bank or credit union. The series of digits you see on the front or back of your card is your credit card number, and it provides important information about the credit card issuer, the card’s payment network, and you (the card holder).

Read on to learn more about the differences between a routing number and a credit card number and why credit cards don’t need routing numbers.

What Are Routing Numbers?

A routing number is a nine-digit number used to identify a specific bank, credit union, or other type of financial institution in the United States. The American Bankers Association created routing numbers in 1910 to aid in processing checks. Routing numbers are still used today to help keep banking transactions secure, whether you’re making a direct deposit, an automatic bill payment, a wire or P2P transfer, or a phone payment.

Every bank has its own routing number — and some have more than one — that works kind of like a payment address. The routing number ensures the money from a financial transaction is correctly “routed” from one financial institution to another. Once the funds get to the proper financial institution, the money can then be moved into the designated bank account.

Recommended: Routing Number vs. Account Number

Where Can I Find My Routing Number?

If you still use paper checks, and keep your checkbook handy, that’s probably the easiest place to look for your bank’s routing number. You should be able to find the routing number in the lower left corner of your checks.

The first nine digits are the bank’s routing number. After a gap, the next 10 digits are your account number. After another gap, the last few digits represent the number of the check you’re currently using.

You can also find your routing number by logging into your bank or savings account online. (If you have more than one account at a particular bank, your account numbers will be different, but the routing number for those accounts will likely be the same.) Or you can call your bank’s customer service line and ask for help getting the correct routing number.

If the checkbook or other bank paperwork you have is old, you may want to go online to confirm that the routing number you’re using is still current. Routing numbers can sometimes change, such as when two financial institutions merge, for example, or go through an acquisition. You should receive advance notice if that happens, but you may want to look just to be sure you’re using the most up to date routing number.

Why Don’t Credit Cards Have Routing Numbers?

A routing number is used to move funds between two bank accounts — from your employer’s account to your checking or savings account, for example, or from your checking account to the electric company.

When you use your credit card, you aren’t depositing or transferring money. You’re borrowing money, and processing that transaction works differently. That’s why there’s no routing number on a credit card. Instead, the credit card issuer uses your credit card number to track your transactions and make sure they end up on your bill. The number also can help card processors identify the financial institution that will settle the payment when the card is used.

What Do the Numbers on a Credit Card Represent?

It’s important to note that your credit card number is not the same as your account number. Your credit card number includes your account number, but it has a few more digits. And each of those digits has a purpose.

Every credit card number is unique: If you apply for a credit card and you’re approved, the card you receive will have its own number. But most cards use a similar, formatted sequence that can be used to identify the card issuer, the payment network, and the account holder:

•   The first number in this sequence typically represents the card’s payment network. Most credit cards start with a 3 (American Express), 4 (Visa), 5 (Mastercard), or 6 (Discover), as those are the major payment networks.

•   The next five digits complete the card’s Bank Identification Number (BIN), or Issuer Identification Number (IIN), and can tell you about the card’s “issuer.” (The credit card issuer is the financial institution that gave you the card and manages your account.)

•   The remaining digits — except, usually, the last digit — represent the cardholder and the account the card is connected to.

•   And finally, there’s the “checksum” or “check digit,” which is used by card issuers and payment networks to catch errors and help protect against unauthorized card use.

Though this format may differ a bit from one card to the next — some card numbers may have 15 digits instead of 16, for example — all card issuers must follow a set of standards created by the International Organization of Standardization (ISO) and enforced by the American Network of Standards Institute (ANSI). This allows consumers to use their card or card number no matter where they are in the world.

Does a Debit Card Have a Routing Number?

Although a debit card is typically tied to at least one bank account, it does not have a routing number. Each debit card has a unique 16-digit card number that identifies the card issuer, the card network, and the bank customer and accounts to which it’s connected.

You read that right. While each credit card you own is linked to one specific credit account, your debit card may be linked to multiple accounts (checking, savings, etc.) if they’re at one financial institution.

How does the bank decide which account you want to use for each transaction? If you use your debit card to make a purchase, the money will be pulled from the account you’ve designated as your primary checking account. And if you’re using your debit card at an ATM, you should be able to see a list of all the accounts connected to that particular card, and you can make a deposit to or withdrawal from the account of your choice.

Your debit card will not be linked to your credit card account, however, even if it’s through the same financial institution. And even if your debit card has a payment network logo or hologram in the corner, you cannot use it as a credit card. The money will be withdrawn from your bank account, either right away or after a short delay.

Credit Cards vs Debit Cards

It can be useful to have both a credit card and a debit card on hand to help manage your finances. Though they look a lot alike, there are key differences:

Credit Cards

Debit Cards

Funds are borrowed from the bank. Funds come directly from your own bank account.
You’ll pay interest if you carry a balance. No interest is charged.
A credit card can help you build credit. A debit card won’t help you build your credit.
A credit card can hurt your credit if you overspend. A debit card can help you stay disciplined and avoid carrying debt.
You have access to cash when you need it. You have access to cash when you need it.
Your card may offer rewards and discounts. Most debit cards don’t offer rewards.
Each card is connected to a specific account. One debit card can be linked to multiple bank accounts.

Recommended: Can You Use a Credit Card Like a Debit Card?

The Takeaway

Do credit cards have routing numbers? No. Though the routing number on your checks and the number on your credit card may look similar, they serve different functions.

A routing number helps ensure a payment comes from or goes to a specific financial institution, but it doesn’t contain information about the checking, savings, or business account the transaction is tied to. An account number is needed to make that happen. A credit card number, on the other hand, contains information about the card issuer, the payment network, and the card holder. It can help identify the financial institution that will settle the payment when the card is used, and it identifies the card holder who will ultimately be responsible for those charges.

Understanding the difference between these numbers — and knowing where to locate them when necessary — can help speed up your financial transactions and make them go smoother.

Whether you're looking to build credit, apply for a new credit card, or save money with the cards you have, it's important to understand the options that are best for you. Learn more about credit cards by exploring this credit card guide.

FAQ

What is a routing number?

A routing number is a nine-digit number that identifies your bank or credit union in a financial transaction.

Does a credit card have a routing number?

Credit cards don’t have routing numbers. Instead, credit cards have a 16-digit credit card number that identifies the card issuer, the payment network, and the card holder.

Where can I find my routing number?

The easiest way to find your bank’s routing number is to look at your paper checks or a bank statement. The first nine digits in the lower left corner are the routing number. You also can log onto your account online or call your bank’s customer service number to get the correct routing number.


Photo credit: iStock/RgStudio

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.

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Is It Better to Cancel Unused Credit Cards or Keep Them?

Depending on how many and what kind of credit cards you have, you could be thinking about closing unused credit cards. After all, if you’re not using them, you might think it’s better to simplify your life and your finances. However, there are some good reasons to keep your credit card accounts open, even if you’re not actively using the card.

There are a few ways that credit cards affect your credit score, and closing an unused credit card might actually lower your credit score. So before you cancel an unused credit card, make sure you understand how that can impact your credit score. That will allow you to make an informed decision that is best for your specific financial situation.

Here, you’ll learn:

•   Should I cancel unused credit cards?

•   Do unused credit cards hurt your credit score?

•   When is it better to cancel a credit card?

How Do Unused Credit Cards Affect Your Credit Score?

There are a few factors that make up your credit score. Two of the components of your credit score are your utilization ratio (how much of your available credit you’re using) and your average age of accounts. Closing an unused credit card can impact both of these:

Increase Available Credit

Your credit card utilization is defined as the amount of your available credit that you are currently using. So if you have a card with a $10,000 limit and you have an average balance of $1,000, your utilization is 10% ($1,000 divided by $10,000). A low utilization is a positive indicator for your credit score. So closing any credit card account will lower the total amount of available credit you have. This will raise your utilization percentage and possibly lower your credit score.

Recommended: How to Read a Credit Report

Increase Credit History Length

Another factor that makes up your credit score is the average age of your accounts. Having credit accounts that have been open for a long time is generally considered more positive for your credit score than having only recent accounts. So if you close an unused credit card, especially one that you’ve had open for a long time, it can lower your average age of accounts and possibly also hurt your credit score. The account may stay on your report for a while, but when it eventually drops off, your score could decrease.

Recommended: 10 Advantages of Credit Cards

Are There Risks to Keeping Unused Credit Cards?

So while it can make sense to keep your unused credit cards open, there are a few risks of keeping unused credit cards. If you no longer are monitoring your account, there is a higher risk that someone might commit credit card fraud with your account. So you’ll want to make sure that you are regularly looking at your accounts, and maybe even make an occasional purchase on each credit card that you have.

When Is It Better to Cancel a Credit Card?

There are also some situations where it’s better to just cancel a credit card. One reason to cancel a credit card is if it comes with an annual fee.

•   If you’re not using a credit card and not getting any value from its benefits, it usually won’t make sense to pay the annual fee, especially when there are so many credit cards that offer good rewards with no annual fee.

•   Another situation where it might make sense to cancel a credit card is if you’re having trouble controlling your spending. If having a credit card is causing you to go into debt or spend more than you earn, it might make sense to do a bit of a financial reset.

Using a debit card or moving to paying with cash might help you get to a better spot, financially speaking.

Can You Cancel a Credit Card Without Hurting Your Credit Score?

If you’re thinking about canceling a credit card without impacting your credit score, there are a few things that you can do to help mitigate the hit to your credit score.

•   One thing is to make sure to pay down any balance on the card before you close it.

•   Another possible option is to call your credit card company and see if you can move some of your available credit to another credit card. That might help keep your credit utilization ratio high.

The Takeaway

If you have a credit card hidden away in your sock drawer that you no longer use, you might wonder, “Should I close unused credit cards?” You might be tempted to just cancel the card so you don’t have to think about it anymore. However, there may be some reasons where it can make more sense to keep the card open, even if you never or rarely use it. Keeping it open may help build your credit score, and if you close a card you’ve had for a long time, it can impact your credit score.

Whether you're looking to build credit, apply for a new credit card, or save money with the cards you have, it's important to understand the options that are best for you. Learn more about credit cards by exploring this credit card guide.

FAQ

Do unused credit cards close automatically?

An unused credit card generally won’t be closed automatically, at least at first. However, most credit card companies do reserve the right to close your account for any reason, including if you don’t use your credit card. So if you want to keep a credit card account open, it may make sense to occasionally make a purchase or two.

Does canceling an unused credit card hurt your credit?

Canceling an unused credit card can lower the total amount of your available credit. This may lower your credit utilization ratio, which is one of the major factors that make up your credit score. Make sure that you understand any possible impacts to your credit score before you cancel an unused credit card.

Is it bad to have an unused credit card?

No, in most cases it is not bad to have an unused credit card. In some cases, it can even help to keep your credit card accounts open, even if you’re not actively using the card. This is because having an open account increases your available credit and it may raise your average age of accounts. Both of these are factors that go into calculating your credit score.


Photo credit: iStock/FreshSplash

Disclaimer: Many factors affect your credit scores and the interest rates you may receive. SoFi is not a Credit Repair Organization as defined under federal or state law, including the Credit Repair Organizations Act. SoFi does not provide “credit repair” services or advice or assistance regarding “rebuilding” or “improving” your credit record, credit history, or credit rating. For details, see the FTC’s website .

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

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Top 10 Fun Things to Do When Visiting Chicago

America’s coasts tend to steal the limelight from the rest of the country, with travelers setting their sights on New York and Los Angeles. But those cities can be pricey. And perhaps you’re looking for a trip not featured on every third Instagram account.

For me, Chicago checks all the boxes. Nestled against Lake Michigan, Chicago feels like a coastal city even if that isn’t technically true. Plus, you could visit every weekend for a year and not run out of things to do. Here are the must-sees and must-dos for your first visit to Chicago and beyond.

Best Times to Go to Chicago

The best time to visit Chicago is in the summer, as that is when most of the city’s biggest events happen. That includes the Chicago Air and Water Show (Aug 19-20, 2023), the Taste of Chicago (Sept 8-10, 2023; see below), and the Lollapalooza music festival (Aug 3-6, 2023; Lollapalooza.com). Visiting in summer means you’ll also be able to spend time at Chicago’s numerous beaches and catch a Cubs game at Wrigley Field or the White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field.

Another great time to visit Chicago is in the winter. If you don’t often see snow, downtown Chicago will be especially beautiful at this time. You can shop at the Christkindlmarket or go ice skating in Millennium Park. And the Chicago Auto Show takes place every February.

Recommended: The Best Time to Book Summer Travel

Bad Times to Go to Chicago

There are no bad times to visit Chicago, but the city isn’t as lively during the cold-weather months outside the holiday season. And when the weather is cold, but not quite cold enough for snow and ice, the city will be even less appealing because ice skating may not be an option.

Generally, January and February can be relatively uneventful in Chicago, especially if the Chicago Auto Show doesn’t interest you. If that is the case, you’re better off visiting either during the holiday season or when the weather is a little warmer.

Average Cost of a Chicago Vacation

The average cost of a Chicago vacation can vary significantly depending on the length of your stay and your accommodations. But suppose you plan to stay for one week in a nice hotel and fully immerse yourself in the culture during your trip. In this case, you can expect to spend about $1,260 for a single person and about $1,684 for a couple. It can be more expensive when traveling with a family.

Remember that these are only estimates, and you may be able to stay in Chicago for less. For example, a single person traveling on a budget could take a one-week vacation to Chicago for less than $1,000. Again, it depends on where you stay and how much you spend at local attractions, bars, and restaurants.

10 Fun Must-Dos in Chicago

Chicago is known for its music scene, great food, and world-class museums, among other things. There is so much to do in Chicago that choosing just 10 attractions isn’t easy. My picks let you experience the city for what it really is — gritty but determined and altogether incredible.

If you plan to do everything on this list, consider purchasing a Chicago CityPASS (CityPass.com/chicago). While these passes aren’t cheap ($134 adults; $104 children), they include entry to several of Chicago’s most popular attractions and will save you money overall. Also consider buying a weekly or monthly pass for CTA, Chicago’s mass transit system. Renting a car is another option, although it isn’t always the cheapest.

As far as where to stay, you can’t go wrong with areas like West Loop, South Loop, and River North. Or if you want to live more like a local, consider neighborhoods like Lake View, Logan Square, and Old Town. Of course, hotels can be expensive, so you’ll want to save money on accommodations whenever possible. From these areas, you can access most of the spots on this list via the CTA system.

1. Millennium Park

Have you even visited Chicago if you don’t see Millennium Park? The park features iconic art installations such as Cloud Gate (known colloquially as “The Bean”) and the Frank Gehry-designed Jay Pritzker Pavilion, an amphitheater that hosts live music. There’s also Crown Fountain, incorporating a water fountain and oversized LED screen projecting images of faces. Other highlights include Maggie Daley Park, where you’ll find an ice skating ribbon and an outdoor rock-climbing wall. 201 E. Randolph St.

Recommended: How to Balance the Urge to Travel and the Need to Save

2. Willis Tower Skydeck

Formerly the tallest building in the world, Willis Tower stands 1,451 feet tall. Naturally, the Willis Tower Skydeck is the best way to view the city. Chances are, you’ve already seen photos of people visiting the Skydeck, with its clear-glass area simply called The Ledge. Adults $41, youth $33. TheSkydeck.com

3. Original Rainbow Cone

If you find yourself in Chicago during the searing summer months, you’ll need a way to cool down. Fortunately, Chicago has plenty of ways to do that, and one of the best is to visit the original Rainbow Cone in the Beverly neighborhood. The ice cream shop has been around for over 95 years and is famous for its original flavors: orange sherbet, pistachio, Palmer House, chocolate, and strawberry. 9233 S. Western Ave. RainbowCone.com

4. Art Institute of Chicago

Founded in 1879, the Art Institute is one of the oldest and largest art museums in the world. Featuring countless masterpieces, it has one of the best collections of Post-Impressionist paintings outside France. Look for classics like “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte” and Picasso’s “The Old Guitarist.” The Art Institute’s permanent collection features nearly 300,000 works of art. 111 S. Michigan Ave. Adults $32, seniors and students $26, children under 14 free. Artic.edu

5. Taste of Chicago

Chicagoans know that Taste of Chicago is a unique opportunity to try the city’s many flavors all in one place. Sure, the food tends to be overpriced, but there’s no other way to experience so many Chicago dishes in so little time. (And the cost of food is a great excuse to earn credit card rewards.) Years ago, I saw a Counting Crows concert at the Taste, which is completely free to attend. Of course, events vary each year, but it’s worth the investment if you’ll be in town while the Taste is happening. Sept 8-10, 2023, in Grant Park.

6. Celebrate the Irish Spirit

People from all over the world have made Chicago their home since the start of the Industrial Revolution, but the Irish are some of Chicago’s loudest and proudest. As a result, Chicago is home to countless Irish festivals and parades. The St. Patrick’s Day parade downtown (ChicagoStPatricksdayparade.org) and the South Side Irish Parade (SouthSideIrishParade.org), also in March, are two of the best ways to experience Chicago’s Irish culture. And if you’re in Chicago for the downtown parade, be sure to check out the dyeing of the Chicago River. 2024 dates TBD.

7. Museum of Science and Industry

If you nerd out over science stuff, you can’t miss the Museum of Science and Industry (MSI). Touted as the largest science center in the western hemisphere, MSI was founded in 1893. Its marquee exhibits include the German U-505 submarine captured during World War II (admission is $18 for adults on top of museum entry fee), a full-size replica coal mine, and the command module from Apollo 8. If you buy a membership to the museum ($95 per year for individuals), you get unlimited entry at no extra cost. 5700 S. DuSable Lake Shore Dr. Adults $25.95, children 3-11 $14.95. MSIChicago.org/

Recommended: Why You Should Try Solo Travel

8. Shedd Aquarium

The Shedd Aquarium opened in 1930, and for a time its 5 million-gallon capacity was the largest in the world. It is home to 32,000 animals today, including fish, marine mammals, birds, snakes, amphibians, and insects. Some of its most popular species are penguins, sharks, sea otters, and turtles. The CityPASS program includes unlimited entries to the Shedd. 1200 S. DuSable Lake Shore Drive. Adults $40, children $30. SheddAquarium.org

9. Vito & Nick’s Pizza

If you think Chicago is all about deep-dish pizza, think again. I grew up just blocks from Vito & Nick’s, which has been featured in countless articles and TV shows over the years. Despite being a hole in the wall, the pizzeria draws people far and wide for arguably the best thin-crust pizza in Chicago. Located in Chicago’s Scottsdale neighborhood (or Ashburn, depending on who you ask), Vito & Nick’s is an escape from downtown, but it’s worth the trip. 8433 S. Pulaski Rd. VitoandNicks.com

10. Schubas Tavern

Located in the heart of the Lake View neighborhood, Schubas Tavern is housed in an old Schlitz brewery. The venue has a wide selection of drinks and food, and features an even wider range of live music, from indie to jazz. Perhaps the best part about seeing a show here is the intimate setting, which gives you an up-close-and-personal look at some great artists. 3159 N. Southport Ave. LH-St.com

The Takeaway

Chicago is a one-of-a-kind city with some of the best food, entertainment, and architecture in the world. Although it can sometimes be overshadowed by cities like London and New York, you can have an equally good time in Chicago — and likely for less money. If you’re looking for fun for the whole family, you are sure to find it here.

SoFi Travel is a new service offered exclusively to SoFi members. Earn 2x rewards when booking with your SoFi Mastercard or debit card. Then apply those rewards to your next trip when you book through our travel portal. SoFi makes planning a getaway fast, easy, and convenient — perfect for people on the move.


SoFi, your one-stop shop for travel.

FAQ

What are the most popular things to do in Chicago with kids?

The most popular things to do in Chicago include trips to Millennium Park, the Shedd Aquarium, and the Skydeck at the Willis Tower.

What are the best outdoor activities in Chicago?

The best outdoor activities in Chicago include visiting Millennium Park, Navy Pier, and North Avenue Beach.

What are 5 things that Chicago is known for?

It’s tough to narrow it down to five, but we’ll go with the Magnificent Mile, Second City, Millennium Park, Chicago Riverwalk, and Skydeck Chicago.


Photo credit: iStock/tunart

**Terms, and conditions apply: The SoFi Travel Portal is operated by Expedia. To learn more about Expedia, click https://www.expediagroup.com/home/default.aspx.

When you use your SoFi Credit Card to make a purchase on the SoFi Travel Portal, you will earn a number of SoFi Member Rewards points equal to 3% of the total amount you spend on the SoFi Travel Portal. Members can save up to 10% or more on eligible bookings.


Eligibility: You must be a SoFi registered user.
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You must pay using your SoFi Credit Card.

SoFi Member Rewards: All terms applicable to the use of SoFi Member Rewards apply. To learn more please see: https://www.sofi.com/rewards/ and Terms applicable to Member Rewards.


Additional Terms: Changes to your bookings will affect the Rewards balance for the purchase. Any canceled bookings or fraud will cause Rewards to be rescinded. Rewards can be delayed by up to 7 business days after a transaction posts on Members’ SoFi Credit Card ledger. SoFi reserves the right to withhold Rewards points for suspected fraud, misuse, or suspicious activities.
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Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.

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Differences Between Credit Card Cosigner and Authorized User

If you are just starting out in life or your credit is less than you’d like, you may have trouble being approved for an unsecured credit card on your own. Fortunately, there are a few options that you can consider to still have access to credit. Two of those options are applying for a credit card with a cosigner and becoming an authorized user on someone else’s account.

While these two options are similar in some ways, they also come with some key differences. It’s important to understand these important differences if you’re considering either choice. That way, you can choose the option that is best for your specific financial situation.

Read on to learn:

•   What is a credit card cosigner vs. authorized user?

•   What are the pros and cons of being a credit card cosigner?

•   What are the pros and cons of being a credit card authorized user?

•   Is being a cosigner or an authorized user right for you?

What Is a Credit Card Cosigner?

If you are unable to be approved for a credit card on your own, you may be able to apply for a credit card with a cosigner. Similar to a cosigner on a mortgage or a personal loan, a cosigner guarantees they will pay any balance on the card if the primary applicant does not. However, unlike with a joint credit card, a cosigner may not receive a physical card or be able to access the account information.

Also, it is worth noting that recently many credit cards have changed policies and no longer allow you to apply with a cosigner. In other words, it may be hard to find a card that will let you pursue this path.

Pros and Cons of a Cosigner

Here are the pros of a cosigner:

•   A cosigner can be a good option if you’re unable to be approved for a card on your own. Having a cosigner with good credit may allow you to be approved and start to build credit under your own name with the big three credit bureaus.

However, as noted above, there’s a big con to this arrangement:

•   Most major banks do not allow credit card cosigners. Instead, it may be a better option to apply for a secured credit card or become an authorized user.

What Is a Credit Card Authorized User?

An authorized user on a credit card is someone who has the ability to make purchases on the account, without any obligation to make payments. This might be a spouse, child, or other trusted friend or family member. You can add an authorized user to your account, but just keep in mind that you as the primary account holder will be responsible for any purchases that they make.

Pros and Cons of Authorized User

Here’s the upside of an authorized user:

•   Adding an authorized user to your account can be a good way to earn additional credit card rewards. The reason why? You as the primary account holder will earn rewards for purchases made by any authorized users on your account.

•   It may be a way to help a trusted friend or family member improve their credit, as long as you both use the card responsibly.

Now, for the downside:

•   The biggest con to adding an authorized user to your credit card account is that you are legally responsible for any charges that they make. So if they spend way more than you were expecting, it could put you in an awkward personal and financial situation and possibly damage the relationship.

•   There is also usually a minimum age to be an authorized user, which is something else to keep in mind. If you’re trying to add a child or teen, you may have issues, depending on the card issuer’s policies.

Recommended: How to Get a Credit Card for the First Time

What Is the Difference Between a Cosigner and an Authorized User of a Credit Card?

Here’s a quick look at some of the differences between a credit card cosigner and a credit card authorized user.

Cosigner

Authorized User

Generally does not get their own physical card Gets their own physical card in their name
Often is not able to access the account Has access to the account
Many credit card companies do not allow credit card cosigners Most credit card companies allow authorized users
A cosigner is legally obligated to repay the debt if the primary borrower does not An authorized user is not legally responsible to pay for any purchases

Do Cosigners and Authorized Users Have Anything in Common?

There are some important differences between being an authorized user and getting a cosigner to apply for a credit card, as mentioned above. However, there is one major thing they have in common. Both of these are strategies for people whose credit may not allow them to be approved for a credit card on their own.

A joint credit card or a secured credit card are two other similar strategies.

Is a Cosigner or Authorized User Right for You?

Because very few major banks allow credit card cosigners, it’s likely that is not going to be an option for most people. Instead, becoming an authorized user may be a better strategy if you’re looking to improve your credit. If you become an authorized user on the account of someone who already has good credit and continues to use the card responsibly, it may help build your credit.

Recommended: Guide to Choosing a Credit Card

The Takeaway

Becoming an authorized user on someone else’s credit card account and getting a credit card cosigner are both strategies intended to help improve your credit. Because very few major banks currently allow credit card cosigners, becoming an authorized user may be a better strategy. When you become an authorized user on the account of someone who is using their card responsibly, it may help build and improve your credit score as well.

If you’re in the market for a new credit card, you might look at a rewards credit card like the SoFi Credit Card. With the SoFi Credit Card, you can earn cash back rewards, which you can then use for travel or to invest, save, or pay down eligible SoFi debt. You can also add an authorized user to your SoFi credit card as a possible way to earn additional rewards.

The SoFi Credit Card: A smarter way to spend.

FAQ

Does adding someone as an authorized user help their credit score?

It is possible that adding someone as an authorized user can help their credit score. Even though authorized users are not legally responsible for the purchases or debt on the account, the account is reported to the major credit bureaus and will appear on their credit report. So as long as the account is used responsibly, it can help both people’s credit score.

Is it better to be an authorized user on someone’s card or to have your own credit card?

If you’re just starting out or having trouble qualifying for a credit card in your own name, it can make sense to become an authorized user on someone else’s credit card account. When used responsibly, it can help improve your credit and possibly put you in a position where you can be approved for your own card. Once that happens, you may prefer to have your own credit card.

Do cosigned credit cards build credit?

When you apply for a credit card with a cosigner, you are responsible for making payments to the account as the primary cardholder. This means that generally your payment history and account balances will be reported to the major credit bureaus and used in determining your credit score. If you use your card responsibly, it can help build your credit.


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Disclaimer: Many factors affect your credit scores and the interest rates you may receive. SoFi is not a Credit Repair Organization as defined under federal or state law, including the Credit Repair Organizations Act. SoFi does not provide “credit repair” services or advice or assistance regarding “rebuilding” or “improving” your credit record, credit history, or credit rating. For details, see the FTC’s website .

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

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