If you’re new to credit or want to rebuild your credit, becoming an authorized user on another person’s credit card account can help. As an authorized user on a credit card, your credit score can be positively impacted when the account and its activity are reported to the credit bureaus. The card’s activity is still also reported under the primary account holder’s credit profile, in addition to yours.
Being an authorized user does have its share of responsibilities. You’ll want to make sure to maintain responsible credit card habits as an authorized user to help your credit, as well as to avoid adversely impacting the primary account holder’s credit.
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What It Means to Be an Authorized User
When you’re an authorized user, you have a credit card that’s attached to another person’s account. This duplicate credit card, also known as a supplementary credit card, will have your name on it, and you’ll be able to use it to make purchases. Since you’re not the primary account holder, you won’t have the authority to make changes to the account.
As an authorized user, you’re not legally responsible for making a payment after each billing cycle. That responsibility remains solely with the original cardholder, which marks a major distinction between an authorized user relationship and a joint credit card account. Since you’re not liable for repaying the charges as an authorized user, you might not get a monthly statement.
In terms of getting started as an authorized user, be aware that some issuers impose an annual fee to add authorized users to a card account. Additionally, some credit cards have limits for the maximum number of authorized users permitted on an account.
Further, card issuers often have a minimum age requirement that you must meet as an authorized user. The age requirement depends on the issuer. For example, SoFi requires authorized users to be at least 15 years old, while the minimum authorized user age for an American Express Platinum Card is 13 years old.
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How Being an Authorized User Affects Your Credit Score
There are a couple of ways that being an authorized user on a credit card can affect your credit score.
If the Lender Reports Authorized Users to Credit Bureaus
If your main goal in becoming an authorized user is establishing credit or rebuilding your credit history, this can be a viable option to pursue. Card issuers don’t require a credit check to become authorized use.
However, your credit score can be positively affected if the issuer reports satisfactory payment activity and usage to the credit bureaus for all persons named on the account. Keep in mind that not all credit card companies send activity data to the bureaus for authorized users though. So before going this route, ask the primary user to confirm whether it does.
How You Use the Shared Account
If the bank reports the card’s positive activity to credit bureaus for all users, it will also report unsatisfactory activity. Being an authorized user can hurt your credit if a late or missed payment is reported and included on an authorized user’s credit profile, for example. On the flipside, on-time payments or a low credit utilization rate can help the credit of both the primary and authorized users.
Since the card data that’s included for an authorized user depends on the credit bureau, ask the credit issuer to specify which credit agency it reports to. That way, you’re aware of the factors that affect credit scores.
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Risks Associated With Being an Authorized User
A major risk of becoming an authorized user on a credit card is that it can adversely affect your credit score. If the primary user fails to make at least the minimum monthly payment on time, for instance, that will also impact your score, assuming the bureau reports payment history for authorized users.
Additionally, the purchase behavior of all users on a card could put a strain on the account’s limit, pushing balances near or at the borrowing limit. This will affect the credit utilization on the account, which also can impact the credit score of all users on the account.
With so many factors that need to be in balance, each user associated with the card must have a clear understanding of purchase and repayment expectations. If an individual drops the ball, it can put a strain on the relationship in addition to the users’ credit scores.
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Who Should You Ask to Add You as an Authorized User?
Asking another person to add you as an authorized user on their credit card is significant. It requires the utmost mutual trust, which is why this individual is typically someone who’s very close to you. This might include your:
• Spouse or partner
• Adult child
• Adult sibling
• Aunt or uncle
It’s helpful to clarify expectations around payment before being added as an authorized user. For example, do they want to cap your spending power on the card? When do they want payment for your charges? What’s the expectation if, for any unforeseen reason, you can’t cover your part of the bill?
Even though the primary cardholder is liable for the payments, it’s helpful to come to an agreement about how you two will settle your purchases, one-on-one.
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Using Your Credit Card Responsibly
Receiving authorized user status on a credit card is a convenient way to build your credit profile. It also can help you practice responsible borrowing habits. A few sensible practices when using a credit card as an authorized user include to:
• Avoid overspending. Examine your budget before using your card to verify that you can afford the purchase.
• Ensure payments are made on time. Communicate with the primary cardholder to confirm that at least the minimum payment is made by the due date. If you’re covering your portion of the charges, make sure to get the money to the primary cardholder by the date you agreed upon.
• Be mindful of the card’s limit. Avoid keeping an ongoing, high balance, which can negatively affect credit. Authorized users might not have access to the account history or statements, so regular communication with the primary user is essential.
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As an authorized user, your credit score can benefit from the positive borrowing activity on the card, assuming the the issuer reports the account activity to the credit bureaus. Additionally, the card must be managed responsibly — otherwise, your credit could be negatively impacted. Getting added to a card that doesn’t charge an authorized user fee can be a frictionless way to get started.
If you’re looking to get a credit card like this, the SoFi credit card is one option to explore. It allows up to five authorized users on an account at no extra charge. Plus, purchases made by all users — the primary cardholder and their authorized users — earn cash-back rewards. For a limited time, new credit card holders† who also sign up for a SoFi Checking and Savings with direct deposit can start earning 3% cash back rewards on all eligible credit card purchases for 365 days*. Offer ends 12/31/23.
Can authorized users affect your credit?
Having an authorized user on your credit card doesn’t directly impact your credit score. However, if they rack up charges, it might adversely affect your credit utilization ratio, which in turn can lower your credit score.
Additionally, you’re legally liable for all charges the authorized user makes on the card. If they’re unable to pay and you also can’t keep up with the payments, missed or late payments can negatively impact your credit.
Does an authorized user get a hard inquiry?
Typically, authorized users who are added onto an existing account don’t undergo a hard inquiry. Since the primary cardholder is the person who opened the account and is still 100% liable for all charges made to the card, credit issuers usually don’t need to verify the authorized user’s credit background or ability to repay the debt — even if they make charges.
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1See Rewards Details at SoFi.com/card/rewards.
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The SoFi Credit Card is issued by The Bank of Missouri (TBOM) (“Issuer”) pursuant to license by Mastercard® International Incorporated and can be used everywhere Mastercard is accepted. Mastercard is a registered trademark, and the circles design is a trademark of Mastercard International Incorporated.
†SOFI RESERVES THE RIGHT TO MODIFY OR DISCONTINUE PRODUCTS AND BENEFITS PROSPECTIVELY BASED ON MARKET CONDITIONS AND BORROWER ELIGIBILITY. Your eligibility for a SoFi Credit Card Account or a subsequently offered product or service is subject to the final determination by The Bank of Missouri (“TBOM”) (“Issuer”), as issuer, pursuant to license by Mastercard® International Incorporated and can be used everywhere Mastercard is accepted. Mastercard is a registered trademark, and the circles design is a trademark of Mastercard International Incorporated. Please allow up to 30 days from the date of submission to process your application. The card offer referenced in this communication is only available to individuals who are at least 18 years of age (or of legal age in your state of residence), and who reside in the United States.
*You will need to maintain a qualifying Direct Deposit every month with SoFi Checking and Savings in order to continue to receive this promotional cash back rate. Qualifying Direct Deposits are defined as deposits from enrolled member’s employer, payroll, or benefits provider via ACH deposit. Deposits that are not from an employer (such as check deposits; P2P transfers such as from PayPal or Venmo, etc.; merchant transactions such as from PayPal, Stripe, Square, etc.; and bank ACH transfers not from employers) do not qualify for this promotion. A maximum of 36,000 rewards points can be earned from this limited-time offer. After the promotional period ends or once you have earned the maximum points offered by this promotion, your cash back earning rate will revert back to 2%. 36,000 rewards points are worth $360 when redeemed into SoFi Checking and Savings, SoFi Money, SoFi Invest, Crypto, SoFi Personal Loan, SoFi Private Student Loan or Student Loan Refinance and are worth $180 when redeemed as a SoFi Credit Card statement credit.
Promotion Period: The Program will be available from 10/1/22 12:01 AM ET to 12/31/23 11:59PM ET
Eligible Participants: All new members who apply and get approved for the SoFi Credit Card, open a SoFi Checking and Savings account, and set up Direct Deposit transactions (“Direct Deposit”) into their SoFi Checking and Savings account during the promotion period are eligible. All existing SoFi Credit Card members who set up Direct Deposit into a SoFi Checking & Savings account during the promotion period are eligible. All existing SoFi members who have already enrolled in Direct Deposit into a SoFi Checking & Savings account prior to the promotion period, and who apply and get approved for a SoFi Credit Card during the promotion period are eligible. Existing SoFi members who already have the SoFi Credit Card and previously set up Direct Deposit through SoFi Money or SoFi Checking & Savings are not eligible for this promotion.
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