Can You Overdraft a Credit Card?

In most cases, it isn’t possible to overdraft a credit card, or spend above your credit limit. If you opt in to over-the-limit charges, it may be possible to exceed your limit. However, “overdraft” usually refers to overdrawing a bank account, not a credit card.

It’s more likely that your purchase will be denied rather than your account “overdrawn.” If the charge does go over the limit, you might get hit with additional fees, and your credit could suffer as a result.

What Does It Mean to Overdraft a Credit Card?

Each time you use your credit card, your balance increases, which is part of how credit cards work. If you aren’t making payments against that balance, it will move closer and closer to your credit limit. Eventually, your balance could get high enough that you run up against that limit.

Usually, though, you won’t be able to go beyond your credit card spending limit. Instead, your card will be declined if you attempt to make a purchase that would put you over the limit. This is the result of the CARD Act of 2009.

Since the CARD Act, you can’t go over your card’s limit unless you specifically opt in to allow overages. In that case, it may be possible to go beyond your credit card’s limit.

The average credit card limit is the U.S. is currently approximately $29,855.

Recommended: When Are Credit Card Payments Due?

What Happens If You Overdraft Your Credit Card

What happens when you try to overdraft your credit card depends on whether you have opted in to over-limit charges. If you haven’t, your card will likely be declined; otherwise, you could incur fees and a hit to your credit.

Declined Transactions

By default, most credit cards today should not allow you to go over your credit limit. Instead, your card will probably be declined.

For example, imagine you have a credit limit of $5,000 with a current balance of $4,800. If you try to spend $250, in most cases it will not result in a $5,050 balance on your card. Because your limit is $5,000, your card will probably be declined when you attempt to complete the transaction for the $250 purchase.

Over-Limit Fees

Since the CARD Act of 2009, you can’t be charged over-limit fees unless you opt in to them. In that case, you will be charged an over-the-limit fee that is usually up to $35. However, the fee is limited to the amount you exceed your limit. For example, if you go $15 over your credit limit, the over-limit fee can’t be more than $15.

The CARD Act also says that banks must disclose over-limit fees in your credit card contract. If for some reason you have opted into over-limit fees, you should be able to opt out of these fees at any time.

Impact on Credit Score

If you go over the limit for your credit card, your credit score might take a hit. While there’s no magic number for credit utilization, the rule of thumb is usually that you should limit your utilization to 30%. Many financial experts suggest keeping it closer to 10%.

Your utilization is your outstanding balances divided by your credit limit. Because your balance for the credit card in question is greater than the limit, your ratio would exceed 100%. That might negatively impact your credit score until you lower the ratio.

One thing to keep in mind is that credit utilization is calculated using all of your outstanding credit. In other words, if you have five different credit cards, your utilization takes all of their balances and credit limits into account. If you have many credit cards and most of them have no balances, going over the limit on one credit card won’t necessarily hurt your credit score significantly.

Either way, it’s best to avoid this situation due to the over-limit fees. This is also why it’s important to discuss spending habits with any authorized users on a credit card to avoid hitting your limit.

Recommended: Pros & Cons of Charge Cards

How to Avoid Overdrafting Your Credit Card

If you go over the limit on your credit card, there are several steps you can take to rectify the situation.

Make Additional Repayments

One of the most important credit card rules is that you should pay more than the minimum amount due each month. Indeed, paying more than you normally pay might be a good idea, especially if the credit card that’s over its limit is a significant part of your total credit picture.

Perhaps you have a minimum payment of $40, and you might normally pay that amount each month. In that case, consider upping your payment to $50 instead. Anything you can pay above the minimum will help you reduce your credit utilization; the more you can pay, the better.

This can also help you from falling into credit card debt, which can be a hard situation to get out of.

Request a Credit Limit Increase

Another way to reduce your credit utilization is to request a credit limit increase. For instance, if you have a total credit balance of $5,000 and a total credit limit of $10,000, your utilization is 50%. If you currently have a credit card you don’t use often with a limit of $3,000 and no balance, your utilization there is 0%. Your total credit utilization is therefore $5,000 out of $13,000, or 38.5%.

You could request an increase to that unused card’s limit to $5,000. In this case, your total credit limit becomes $15,000, and $5,000 out of the new combined $15,000 limit brings your utilization down to 30%. Hence, even if your balances stay the same, your credit utilization ratio will drop.

Contact Your Provider

Sometimes, credit card issuers will increase your credit limit automatically, such as you if you’ve used your credit card responsibly over time. If not, you can call your card issuer and ask them to increase your credit limit. Usually, it’s best to do this after you’ve had the card for at least a few months.

When you make the request, the credit card issuer may review one or more of your credit reports. Keep in mind that this could result in a hard inquiry into your credit history; these checks cause a temporary dip in your credit score. The card issuer may also request proof of income, employment status, or monthly rent or mortgage payments.

Recommended: Tips for Using a Credit Card Responsibly

The Takeaway

It usually isn’t possible to overdraft a credit card. Your card is typically declined if you try to charge above your credit limit. You may be able to go over the credit limit, but only if you opt in to over-limit fees. If you do opt in, your credit could take a hit, and you might have to pay additional fees if you exceed your credit card’s limit.

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.


Do credit cards allow overdrafts?

Credit cards usually do not allow overdrafts. In fact, “overdraft” is usually a banking term that refers to your checking or savings account balance dropping below $0. With credit cards, it may be possible to go over the limit if you opt in to over-limit fees.

Can you overdraft with no money on your card?

With credit cards, your balance increases as you make purchases. Hence, in this scenario, it would only be possible to overdraft a credit card if a single purchase would put you over the limit. And even then, you must have opted in to over-limit charges; otherwise, the transaction will simply be declined.

Can you overdraft a credit card at an ATM?

In most cases, you won’t overdraft a credit card at an ATM. You might be able to overdraft when requesting a cash advance, but even then, it may not be possible unless you have opted in to overdraft protection.

How can you ask for a credit limit increase?

Sometimes, credit card companies will increase your limit automatically. If that doesn’t happen and you want an increase, you can call your credit card issuer directly and ask for an increase.

Photo credit: iStock/AsiaVision

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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What Is a Credit Card Sign-up Bonus?

What Is a Credit Card Sign-up Bonus and How Does It Work?

A credit card sign-up bonus, aka a credit card welcome bonus, can come in the form of cash back, discounts on purchases, or other rewards, such as airline miles that you can put toward travel. These bonuses are a way for card companies and branded partners — such as airlines and other merchants — to incentivize you to sign up for a new card.

Sign-up bonuses can be a great way to get extra value out of a credit card in its first year. Just beware that there may be strings attached. Here’s a closer look at how sign-up bonuses work, their pros and cons, and how to make the most of them.

How Do Sign-Up Bonuses Work?

Rewards are offered through a variety of credit cards, including co-branded cards and even prepaid credit cards. In order to receive your credit card sign-up bonus you must open a new account. Then, depending on the reward you’re being offered, you’ll usually have to meet one of three criteria:

•   First, and most simply, you may receive your bonus after your application is approved or after your first purchase.

•   If your new card is from a branded retailer, you may need to make a purchase with them before you can earn your sign-up bonus.

•   Finally, you may have to spend a certain amount of money over a set period to trigger the bonus. For example, you may have to spend $500 on purchase within the first three months of account opening.

Sign-up bonuses vary by card, as will the amount you’ll have to spend and the timeframe within which you have to do it. You may have to spend thousands of dollars in a short period of time to earn your bonus on some cards, while other cards may have no spending requirement.

Earning Sign-Up Bonuses

Spending requirements to earn a sign-up bonus on a credit card can be high, ranging into the thousands of dollars. The amount usually must be charged to your card within a set period of time, often the first three months after opening your account.

Make sure you can afford to meet these spending requirements before you decide on a particular card. Even if you technically can afford to meet the requirement, avoid the temptation to overspend on things you don’t need just to earn rewards.

Also, it may take a month or two for your bonus cash or points to appear in your account. If you’re planning to use them for something specific, say to buy a plane ticket to a friend’s wedding, be sure to take this timeframe into account.

Recommended: What is a Charge Card

Types of Credit Card Bonuses

There are different credit card rewards, depending on the card company and on branded partnerships. An airline is much more likely to offer points toward a flight, while a big box store is more likely to offer you an in-store discount. Here’s a look at some of the most common bonus types.

Cash Back and Bonus Points

Perhaps the two most common sign-up bonuses are getting cash back with a credit card or rewards points that you can use toward booking a hotel room or buying an airline ticket. For example, you might earn 50,000 points after spending $4,000, or you might receive a cash credit after you make your first purchase.

You may receive the bonus all at once, or there may be a tiered system in place with different eligibility requirements you’ll need to meet to earn the full reward.

Purchase Discounts

Another common sign-up bonus is a discount on a current or future purchase. For example, a retailer might offer you 20% off your next purchase when you sign up for their in-store credit card. These cards are often co-branded with a major credit card issuer, and they may be offered by brick-and-mortar stores or online retailers.

Your reward may come in the form of an immediate discount when you’re approved for the card. You could also receive a coupon or discount code. Or you might get a credit when you make your first purchase with the retailer.

Additional Spending Rewards

In addition to rewarding you for spending in the months shortly after opening your account, your credit card company may offer rewards for spending throughout the first year.

Waived Annual Fee

Rewards cards can be a little bit tricky with their various requirements, and there can be credit card costs involved. Often, rewards cards charge an annual fee that helps to offset the cost of the rewards they provide. As part of the sign-up bonus, some rewards cards will waive the card’s annual fee for the first year.

Pros and Cons of Sign-up Bonus Credit Cards

When determining whether or not you want to open a credit card with a sign-up bonus, it’s important to consider both the pros and cons:



Sign-up bonuses may include cash back, rewards points, or discounts on purchases made with co-branded partners. You may be limited in how you can use your bonus. For example, you may be able to use airline points online only at certain airlines.
Annual fees may be waived for the first year. Cards may have steep annual fees and high interest rates to help credit card companies offset the cost of rewards.
The right card can allow you to reap benefits from purchases you’d make anyway. There may be high spending requirements you must meet before you can claim your bonus.
Using your credit card responsibly can help you build credit. If you can’t pay off your credit card bill each month, you may miss payments, which can damage your credit.

Making the Most Out of Your Credit Card Bonus

Before choosing a credit card with a sign-up bonus, consider these ways that you can take advantage of credit card bonuses.

Recommended: How to Avoid Interest On a Credit Card

Pick the Most Suitable Card

Reward cards often offer flashy bonuses that are real attention-grabbers — but make sure the card you choose has a bonus you’ll actually use. For example, sign up for a card with an airline you fly often or a retailer you frequent. Or, make sure that you’ll receive cash back rewards on purchases that you already make or will need to make in the future. It doesn’t make sense to sign up for a card that gives you a bonus you won’t actually use.

You also may want to consider applying for cards with a high spending requirement in the first three months when you’re planning to make a series of big purchases anyway. That way, you won’t be buying anything that you don’t need already, and you’ll be rewarded for the purchases you were going to make. For example, maybe your car is scheduled for major maintenance or repairs, or perhaps you’re planning a wedding and will put some of the costs on your credit card.

It’s always worth considering how signing up for a new card will affect your credit. Applying for a new card will trigger what’s known as a “hard inquiry,” which can bring down your credit score temporarily. The damage to your credit may not be worth it, especially if you’re unlikely to use the bonus, you won’t really need the credit card later, or you’re planning to seek out other loans in the near future.

Look for Special Offers

From time to time, credit cards may offer special sign-up bonuses that are much bigger than usual. Keep an eye out for these, and make sure that you hit the application deadlines. These are usually limited-time offers, so be sure the offer is still valid before you sign up.

Ensure You’re Eligible for the Bonus

In some cases, you may not be eligible to sign up for a credit card and receive its bonus. For example, if you’ve had a specific card and canceled it in the past, you likely won’t be able to sign up for that card again and receive the bonus.

Before you apply, make sure you read the terms and conditions to understand your eligibility and to see if there’s any reason you might not receive your bonus if you sign up. Also, know that if you’ve recently opened several new credit cards, you may be declined automatically for a new bonus card.

Make Sure You Can Pay Down Your Debt

Before signing up for a bonus card, it’s crucial that you understand your ability to pay your bills on time. Bonus rewards cards often carry extremely high interest rates, meaning that any balance you carry from month to month can end up costing you a lot of money, quickly outweighing the rewards you earned initially.

Consider, too, that carrying a high credit card balance can have a negative impact on your credit score. Ideally, you should keep your credit card utilization ratio — calculated by dividing your total credit card balance by your total loan limit — below 30%. If you can, aim to keep your ratio at 10% to give you the best shot at maintaining a high credit score.

You’ll also want to be sure that if you pick up a rewards card, you’ll still be able to make on-time payments on all of your other obligations, as this is another crucial component of a healthy credit score.

Recommended: When Are Credit Card Payments Due

Redeeming Your Bonus Reward Points

Depending on your card, you may have a variety of options to redeem your rewards. For example, if you sign up for a card with a co-branded retailer, you may receive a coupon or rebate for a purchase at the store. Meanwhile, airline or hotel points may need to be redeemed by booking flights on certain airlines or rooms at certain hotel chains.
Cash back rewards could be received as a credit card refund by having your rewards applied to your credit card balance, transferred to a bank account, mailed to you as a check, or converted into rewards points.

Check your card’s terms and conditions to find out rules for redeeming your points so you can start to put them to use.

The Takeaway

Sign-up bonuses can offer credit card users a lot of value. However, it’s important that you do your research before jumping on an offer. Make sure the bonus is actually something you’ll use and that you have the means to meet eligibility requirements without damaging your overall financial health and credit score. Read all terms and conditions carefully before you sign up.

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.


When do you get a credit card sign-up bonus?

When you sign up for a bonus rewards card, you’ll receive your bonus when you meet the card’s eligibility requirements. This could mean simply making a purchase, or you may need to spend a certain amount over a set period of time. The card could also require you to spend money with a particular merchant.

Are sign-up bonuses taxable on credit cards?

The bonus rewards that you receive are not taxable. They’re considered a rebate as opposed to taxable income. That simplifies things come tax time, when you will not have to claim your bonus as income.

Can you open multiple cards to get more sign-up bonuses?

Technically, you can open multiple cards to receive more signing bonuses, but there are limitations. You won’t be able to open the same card multiple times, though you may be able to open a number of different cards. However, you eventually may get automatically declined if a card company sees that you’ve opened several recent accounts. Opening several accounts also may not be a good idea, as hard inquiries when you apply for credit have a negative impact on your credit score.

Photo credit: iStock/nuchao

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.

Tax Information: This article provides general background information only and is not intended to serve as legal or tax advice or as a substitute for legal counsel. You should consult your own attorney and/or tax advisor if you have a question requiring legal or tax advice.


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Tips for Handling Incorrect or Fraudulent Credit Card Charges

Tips for Handling Incorrect or Fraudulent Credit Card Charges

It’s never a good feeling to look at your credit card statement and wonder, “What is this charge on my credit card?” When it comes to fraudulent credit card charges, your bank has often got your back. They have methods for spotting activity that isn’t normal, and they’ll usually alert you when a charge seems suspicious.

That said, your bank might not catch everything, and there may be a charge that’s valid but the amount is incorrect. So it’s important that you, too, keep an eye on your credit card statement to catch these errors and report anything that’s amiss immediately.

Here’s what to watch out for and tips for handling a dispute.

What Are Fraudulent Credit Card Charges?

Credit card fraud can happen if someone steals your card or the information on your card, or hacks into your account. Someone could do so by stealing your physical card, skimming your card information at a credit card terminal, through phishing scams via text or email, or by stealing your mail. Fraudsters then use the information they’ve stolen to make unauthorized purchases on your credit card.

Most cards offer zero liability on fraudulent charges, meaning you won’t be responsible for covering charges you didn’t authorize. This is an important feature of how credit cards work. However, it’s important that you catch fraudulent charges early so you can report them quickly and minimize your liability.

Recommended: Tips for Using a Credit Card Responsibly

Detecting Unauthorized Credit Card Charges Early

The key to spotting unauthorized charges on your credit card is remaining vigilant and always checking your credit card statement each month. When you receive your statement, follow these steps:

•   Review statements immediately. Avoid letting a few months of credit card statements accumulate before checking them. Whether you look them over online or via hard copy, do so ASAP so you can catch errors and head off fraud as quickly as possible. Going through your statements regularly will also offer a clearer understanding of how credit card payments work.

•   Check every purchase. Fraudsters know that small unauthorized credit card charges are less likely to get flagged. Go down the list of purchases you’ve made on your card over the last month and make sure you recognize the merchant and can match the sale with an item or service you bought.

•   Keep receipts. Hang on to receipts from credit card purchases so you can match them up to the items in your statement. This can also help if you’re unsure of how to identify a credit card transaction.

Fraudulent Credit Card Charges vs Billing Errors

Fraudulent charges are a result of theft. However, sometimes you may be charged for something that was due to a billing error. For example, perhaps you were charged twice for an item, or you were charged for goods or services that you never received.

Other billing errors could include:

•   Unauthorized charges, for which federal law limits your liability to $50

•   Charges that list the wrong date or amount

•   Errors in math

•   Charges for goods or services that you didn’t accept or weren’t delivered as agreed

•   Failure to post payments or credits, such as after you’ve returned an item.

You can correct these errors using procedures laid out by the Fair Credit Billing Act (FCBA). If a charge is found to be made in error, your credit card company will carry out a credit card chargeback, reversing the charges.

Reporting Unauthorized Credit Card Charges

Procedures for reporting fraud and billing errors are slightly different.

If you suspect fraud, you’ll take the following steps:

•   Contact your card issuer immediately. Tell them you suspect that you’ve been a victim of fraud. Your issuer can then investigate the charge.

•   Ask for your accounts to be suspended or closed, and ask to be issued a new card. Change passwords and personal identification numbers (PINs) on your accounts.

•   File an identity theft report with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). You can do so at .

•   Contact the three credit reporting bureaus, Equifax®, Experian®, and TransUnion®. Confirm your identity with them and check your credit reports for any other fraudulent activities. Consider having a fraud alert connected to your accounts.

If you’re disputing a billing error, first call your credit card company and alert them to the error. The credit card company will investigate. If they find there was an error, your account will be corrected, and you will not pay credit card purchase interest charges on the amount for which you were billed.

In addition, send your credit card company written notification of an error. Use FBCA procedures to dispute the credit card charges, including the following steps:

•   Contact the creditor at the address they provide for billing inquiries. This address may be different from the one to which you send payments. Include your name, address, and account number, as well as a description of the billing error you’ve spotted. You may be able to proceed online or by phone as well as through the mail. The FTC provides a sample letter that you can use as part of the process.

•   Include copies of receipts and other supporting documents.

•   Be sure to mail your letter within 60 days of the first bill you received that contained the error.

•   Send the letter by certified mail and ask for a receipt so you can be sure your creditor received it.

•   Keep a copy of the dispute letter.

How to Read Your Credit Card Statement

It’s important to get familiar with how to read your credit card statement. The Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009 (CARD Act) requires that each of your credit card statements includes certain pieces of information.

•   First, there should be a section that includes your account information. This is where you’ll find your name, account number, and the date of the billing cycle.

•   Next, the account summary is an overview of transaction information on your card. This section will include the payment due date, any payments or credits that have been applied to the account, any fees that have been charged to you, and the total amount of your account balance.

•   Following this summary is a detailed account of the purchases you’ve made over the billing period. Each line item will include the vendor name, the date the purchase was made, the category (such as “groceries”), and the amount that was charged to your card. Go through this section carefully as you look for fraudulent charges or charges in error. This is how to find who charged your credit card.

•   Your statement will include other sections that detail payment information, interest or credit card finance charges, rewards, and account fine print.

Credit Card Security and Fraud Protection

When you apply for a credit card, carefully look at the security measures the card issuer has in place. Credit cards, such as the credit card offered by SoFi, can have a variety of measures to keep your information safe and protected from fraud.

Fraud protection limits your responsibility and liability for fraudulent charges. Many banks offer $0 liability. The FCBA limits liability to $50 for card-present fraudulent charges, and $0 if the card is not present, such as for online charges made with stolen credit card information.

Recommended: Does Applying For a Credit Card Hurt Your Credit Score?

The Takeaway

Fraudulent charges or billing errors can be an unfortunate part of having a credit card. Your bank may catch them, but it’s also important to be proactive and keep an eye out for fraud and errors on your credit card statement. Bringing them to the attention of your credit card company will help you get the issue sorted faster and head off potential future fraud.

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.


How do I file a fraudulent charge claim with my credit card company?

If you spot a fraudulent charge on your credit card statement, call your card company immediately and ask them to investigate. They can guide you through the process of disputing the charge.

How do I find out where a charge came from?

You can see where a charge was made in the detailed purchase information provided on your credit card statement.

How do I look up a charge from my credit card statement?

If you’re unsure about a charge on your credit card statement, call your credit card company, which may be able to do a credit card charge lookup by the merchant.

Photo credit: iStock/Pekic

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.

External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third-party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.


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Authorized User on a Credit Card: Everything You Need to Know

Understanding exactly what it means to be an authorized user on a credit card account is important for both the cardholder and the credit card authorized user. There are some rules and restrictions involved, but in general, becoming an authorized user on a solid cardholder account can help build an authorized user’s credit history and potentially boost their score. However, it is the primary cardholder who is responsible for the debt.

Here’s what you need to know on this topic, including the process of adding an authorized user to a credit card.

What Is an Authorized User?

An authorized user is someone that the primary cardholder — the individual who owns the credit card account and is responsible for charges to the card — has authorized to use their card. Some points to know:

•   Unlike a primary cardholder, an authorized user on a credit card is not subject to credit checks and other credit card issuer requirements in order to use the card. However, the individual — who is often a spouse, child, or other family member — must meet the card issuer’s age requirements.

•   The primary cardholder may have to pay a fee to add the authorized user. The number of authorized users allowed on each card varies depending on the credit card issuer.

•   An authorized user may get a card with their name and the primary cardholder’s account number on it that they can then use. Or, they can simply use the primary cardholder’s card to make purchases.

•   Authorized users may have access to the cardholder’s account information, such as their credit limit, available balance, and fees. They can make payments, report lost or stolen cards, and initiate billing disputes.

•   However, and this is important, any charges made by an authorized user are ultimately the responsibility of the primary cardholder. Authorized users also generally can’t close an account, add another authorized user, or change the card’s PIN, credit limit, or interest rate.

Recommended: Tips for Using a Credit Card Responsibly

Responsibilities of an Authorized User

Even though authorized users are allowed to make monthly payments, they’re not responsible for payments — no matter how much they may have spent on the card. Rather, the responsibility of making on-time monthly minimum payments always falls to the primary cardholder.

In many cases, primary cardholders will work out some type of payment system under which an authorized user can reimburse the primary cardholder for their share of the bill. With this system, the primary cardholder can keep track of credit card charges and more easily spot unusual or potentially fraudulent activity on the card as well as credit card chargebacks.

Additionally, a system can ensure payments are made on time and that any spending on the credit card is done responsibly.

In other cases, authorized users may make their payments directly to the credit card issuer. With this arrangement, however, the primary card holder still holds the ultimate responsibility of making the minimum monthly payment on time.

Recommended: When Are Credit Card Payments Due

Authorized User vs. Joint Credit Card

It’s easy to confuse authorized users with joint credit card holders. But there are some key differences between the two.

•   With a joint account, both cardholders are legally responsible for making payments. With an authorized user, only the primary cardholder is responsible for the debt.

•   Joint cardholders also must meet credit card issuer requirements, such as a minimum credit score, and go through the application process in order to get the card. This is not true for joint holders of a credit card.

•   Joint accounts are commonly used by partners who share their finances. Not all credit card issuers allow joint accounts though, and they are becoming less common. Authorized users, however, are more widely accepted.

Benefits of Having an Authorized User on Your Credit Card

There are compelling reasons why you may want to either become an authorized user or add an authorized user to your credit card account. Here are the benefits for both parties involved.

Benefits for the Authorized User

Becoming an authorized user can help someone to establish their credit and build their credit scores if the primary cardholder has a history of on-time payments and low credit utilization (in other words, not charging cards to the max). This can be especially helpful for teenagers and young adults who may not yet have had the opportunity to establish a credit record.

Most credit card issuers will report authorized user credit activity to the credit bureaus, thus building a credit history for the authorized user. The primary cardholder can check with their credit card issuer to see if authorized user’s activity is being reported and if the card issuer has all of the relevant information necessary to do the reporting.

If the issuer does report, all of the details of the card will be included in the authorized user’s credit history, including the credit limit, the amount of credit being used, and payment history.

By the same token, if the primary cardholder misses payments or makes late payments, this could negatively impact the authorized user’s credit score.

Benefits for the Primary Cardholder

Building credit for the authorized user can also benefit the primary cardholder who’s looking to help a child or other family member establish themselves financially. By helping the authorized user establish a good credit record, the authorized user will be more likely to qualify for their own credit card sooner and potentially secure lower interest rates and access to better rewards.

Plus, cardholders have the benefit of knowing that a child or other user has access to a credit card in an emergency or other situation where funds are immediately necessary.

Adding or Becoming an Authorized User on a Credit Card

Only a primary cardholder can add an authorized user to their card. To do so, you’ll generally go through the following steps:

1.    Notify your credit card issuer. Let your card issuer know that you would like to add an authorized user to your card. In most cases, you can do this over the phone or by filling out a form online.

2.    Have the necessary information on hand. You may need the name, Social Security number, date of birth, and contact information for the authorized user you intend to add to the card.

3.    Check what will get reported to the credit bureaus. It’s important to find out if the card company will report credit information about the authorized user to the credit reporting bureaus. This will help the authorized user to establish a credit history.

4.    Determine if you’ll get a card for the authorized user in their name. If so, this second credit card will get sent to you. From there, you can decide if you want to give the card to the authorized user or only have them use your card.

Recommended: What is the Average Credit Card Limit?

Removing an Authorized User on a Credit Card

A primary cardholder can remove an authorized user from their card at any time. Simply call or go online to request a change.

Keep in mind that the authorized user may see a change in their credit score if they are removed. This is because credit score calculations take into account both the age of credit accounts and the number of open accounts, both of which may decrease when an authorized user drops off the card of someone with a more established credit history.

What Are the Next Steps After Becoming an Authorized User?

As mentioned above, authorized users and primary cardholders will want to come up with a solid plan. Specifically, they’ll want to discuss how the card can be used, how much the authorized user can spend, and when and how the authorized user will make payments (either to the cardholder or directly to the card issuer).

Making payments on time is extremely important to help avoid late fees and credit score dings for both the primary cardholder and the authorized user.

How to Monitor Your Credit as an Authorized User

If you’re an authorized user eager to build credit, it can be helpful to monitor your credit report to make sure your activity is being accurately reported. You can retrieve a free copy of your credit report each year from all three credit bureaus — Experian®, TransUnion®, and Equifax® — through

It’s also important for both the authorized user and the primary cardholder to be cautious and mindful about how their activity can affect one another’s credit, which is something credit monitoring can help keep in check. Irresponsible credit usage by either party can have implications for the credit of both the primary cardholder and the authorized user.

Recommended: Does Applying For a Credit Card Hurt Your Credit Score

The Takeaway

Authorized users are typically added to an account held by a family member or other responsible adult. They have access to the card’s buying potential, it’s the primary cardholder who is responsible for the debt. It’s important for both parties to keep in mind that while their credit usage has the potential to build their credit, it can also cause damage if payments are late or credit is maxed out.

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.


How many authorized users can I add to a single card account?

Each credit card issuer has different rules concerning the number of authorized users permitted. You’ll find this information in the terms and conditions for your credit card. Some credit card issuers charge a fee for each authorized user added on your account.

Is credit activity reported to the credit bureau for an authorized user?

In most cases, credit card issuers report activity to the credit bureaus for an authorized user as well as the primary card holder. Building credit in this way can be a benefit of becoming an authorized user. Check with your credit card issuer to find out if authorized user credit activity is reported.

Does adding someone as an authorized user help their credit?

Building your credit record can be a big benefit of becoming an authorized user, especially if the primary cardholder has a good credit rating and continues to make on-time payments. In order to build your credit record, however, the credit card issuer needs to report your activity to the credit bureaus.

Photo credit: iStock/cokada

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.

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 .

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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Credit Card Rental Insurance: What Is It and How Does It Work?

Whether you’re renting a car to use while on vacation or because your usual vehicle is temporarily out of commission, you might have been asked if you’d like to purchase additional car rental protection. If you paid for your car rental reservation using a credit card, your card may already offer some form of rental protection. However, not all credit cards offer this benefit, and those that do provide varying car rental insurance benefits.

Learning the requirements and limits of your credit card’s car rental insurance coverage — if any at all — can help you make an informed decision when booking or picking up your car rental.

What Is Credit Card Rental Car Insurance?

Rental car insurance through a credit card is also called an “Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver.” It generally states that if a rental car that was purchased using the card sustains damage due to an automobile collision or theft, you can file a reimbursement claim through your credit card issuer.

This might include a range of damage, from a smashed window due to theft to a car accident involving another vehicle. An Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver typically covers damage-related costs of the vehicle itself, but it doesn’t cover stolen personal items resulting from the theft, like a laptop, or costs related to bodily injury.

Understanding Your Credit Card’s Coverage for Rentals

Not all credit card car rental insurance terms offer the same level of coverage. For example, some credit card rental car insurance only kicks in after your personal auto insurance coverage and with reimbursement limitations.

Credit card car insurance generally falls into one of two categories: primary or secondary coverage.

Primary Coverage

Certain issuers offer credit card rental car insurance as primary coverage. Primary coverage means that, in the event of damage or theft, you can file a claim directly through the card issuer for reimbursement. You’re not required to file a claim through other insurance sources, like your personal auto insurance company, before the primary credit card car rental insurance benefit applies.

Secondary Coverage

Unlike primary coverage, secondary coverage rental car insurance protection through a credit card offers supplemental reimbursement. With secondary coverage, you’ll first need to file a claim through your personal insurance coverage policy or other sources, such as supplemental insurance through the rental company.

What if you’ve reached your maximum reimbursement through other insurance sources, but you have a remaining reimbursable amount? In this scenario, your credit card rental car insurance benefit can then be used to claim the remaining amount.

Recommended: How Much Auto Insurance Do You Need?

How Does Credit Card Rental Insurance Work?

If you’re renting a car using a credit card that offers rental insurance benefits, you’ll need to follow certain steps to claim a reimbursement. Requirements might vary slightly between card issuers, but below are the general steps you can expect to follow:

1.    Use a credit card with rental insurance protection. The first question you’ll need to answer is, does my credit card cover rental car insurance? If it does, put the entire cost of the rental on your credit card. Keep that card on file with the rental company in case any eligible damage occurs.

2.    Opt out of the car rental company’s collision insurance coverage. If you purchase coverage through the rental company, that becomes the primary source of coverage instead of your credit card issuer.

3.    Pay for damages out-of-pocket. If an incident occurs involving the rental vehicle, your credit card will be charged. You’ll then file a reimbursement claim for the amount of any applicable repair costs through your credit card rental car insurance coverage. Some card issuers allow claim payments to go directly to the rental company, upon request.

4.    Maintain documentation. This includes police reports, if available, as well as rental receipts, damage charges from the car rental agency to your credit card, towing receipts, and any other documentation or proof of expenses as a result of the incident.

5.    Submit your claim ASAP. File an Auto Rental Collision Damage reimbursement claim as soon as possible, as it can take weeks to settle a claim. If your card issuer’s benefits administrator reaches out for additional information or documents, submit those details within their designated timeline to avoid issues or possible denial of your claim.

Questions to Ask Your Credit Card Issuer

In addition to learning what your own car insurance covers, it’s important to know your credit card’s rules around its Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver benefit. If you’re unclear about how your card can protect you while using a rental car, contact your issuer’s customer support number. Here are some important questions to ask:

•   Does the rental car insurance benefit offer primary or secondary coverage? The answer to this question can help you choose the best payment option to use for your next rental car. It will also give you a sense of what to expect if you need to file a claim.

•   What is included and not included in the coverage? In addition to reimbursements for damage, you’ll want to know if the card’s rental car insurance covers loss-of-use charges from the rental company, for example. Be clear on what isn’t eligible for reimbursement, too.

•   What are the coverage timelines? Depending on your credit card issuer, the number of days when your rental coverage is in effect might be limited.

•   Are there any countries in which the coverage is ineligible? Rental car insurance coverage might not be offered if the incident occurred in certain countries.

•   What do I need to do to ensure I’m covered? Ask what you can do on your end to ensure your rental car is covered by the credit card’s insurance benefit. This may include putting the entire purchase on the card, declining supplemental rental insurance coverage from the rental company, or other requirements stipulated by your insurer.

•   What’s the process for filing a claim? Knowing how to swiftly file a claim after an incident can offer some peace of mind during an already stressful situation.

Recommended: When Are Credit Card Payments Due

Guide to Choosing the Right Credit Card for Car Rental Insurance

If you have multiple credit cards in your rotation that offer differing levels of credit card car insurance protection, consider using the card that offers primary coverage. This helps you avoid the added step of going through your own auto insurance company before being able to successfully file a claim through the card issuer.

The next factor for consideration is coverage amounts. Your maximum reimbursement amount will vary between insurance coverages, so be mindful about how high or low this limit is. Also, pay attention to the exclusions for coverage, including ineligible countries, activities (e.g. off-roading in the rental vehicle), and restrictions on vehicle type.

Other Ways Your Card Can Protect You When You Travel

When a credit card is used responsibly, it can offer many travel-related benefits. In addition to rental car insurance coverage, some credit cards provide protection for lost luggage expenses and trip interruptions.

Credit card travel insurance is especially useful if your travel plans are canceled due to reasons like severe weather or illness.

Keep in mind that many premium travel credit cards will have higher credit score requirements, which is another reason why good credit is important if you’re interested in accessing these benefits.

Recommended: Does Applying For a Credit Card Hurt Your Credit Score?

The Takeaway

If your credit card covers rental car insurance, in many cases you can decline the duplicative car rental company’s offer for collision coverage. However, it’s worth learning whether your credit card car rental insurance coverage is primary or secondary and what its coverage limits are in case you need to file a claim

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.


Do you need a credit card to rent a car?

No, you generally do not need a credit card to rent a car through many national car rental companies, like Enterprise, Hertz, and Avis. Major car rental companies often accept a debit card to secure your rental. Depending on the rental company, your debit card may need to have the logo of a credit network, such as Visa, MasterCard, Discover, or American Express.

Do all credit cards have car rental insurance?

No, not all credit cards provide car rental insurance benefits. However, many credit cards offer this protection to some extent, whether as a primary or secondary coverage. If you’re interested in accessing this benefit, make sure to familiarize yourself with which credit cards cover rental car insurance.

How do I know if my card comes with primary or secondary insurance?

You can refer to your credit card’s terms and conditions to learn whether your credit card offers car rental insurance protection and, if it does, whether it’s primary or secondary coverage. You can also contact the customer support phone number listed on the back of your credit card to speak to a representative about your specific card’s car rental insurance benefits.

Photo credit: iStock/g-stockstudio

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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