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 AnnualCreditReport.com.

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.

FAQ

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.

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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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.

FAQ

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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Credit Card Refunds: Everything You Need to Know

Getting a credit card refund is usually a straightforward process, whether you’re asking for one because a product is defective or you’ve simply changed your mind. When you get a refund on a credit card, you’ll receive a credit on your account for the amount you paid for returned goods that you’d charged to your card.

Although credit card refunds are routine, there are some important things to know about the process. Read on to learn more about how credit card refunds work.

What Is a Credit Card Refund?

A credit card refund is the money you get back when you return something that you’d paid for with your credit card. Rather than getting cash back for the full amount of the returned item, you’ll receive a credit to your credit card account for that amount. The process of a credit card refund is started when you go to return the item, and it can take a few days or longer to see the money credited to your account.

How Do Refunds on Credit Cards Work?

When using a credit card to make a purchase, there’s a third party involved in your transaction. The store or other merchant at which you swipe or tap your card to buy something requests their payment from the credit card issuer. When your credit card issuer pays the charge, it adds the amount of the purchase to your account balance. Then, you pay your credit card bill to pay back the credit card issuer for the purchase you made.

When you return a purchase, the merchant issues a refund to the credit card issuer, not directly to you. In turn, your credit card company posts the credit to your account. This process is why credit card refunds aren’t immediate like cash refunds.

Recommended: When Are Credit Card Payments Due

Types of Credit Card Refunds

There are two basic types of credit card refunds. It can be helpful to know the difference between the two and how a refund to a credit card works in each instance. It may not be something that you took note of when applying for a credit card.

Refund at the Point of Sale

This is when you return an item, either by going to the store in person or sending back an online purchase. The retailer then credits you for the return when the item is received.

Disputed Transaction

Disputed transactions are different from straightforward returns. With a disputed transaction, you’re making a complaint about the purchase as opposed to just making a return. For instance, you might dispute a credit card charge for an online purchase that never arrived. Or you might dispute a charge for a canceled event.

In most cases, you must file a dispute within 60 days of the transaction, providing details and perhaps documentation of the problem. From there, your credit card company has 90 days to investigate the issue and resolve the issue.

While it’s best to start with the merchant when you have an issue with the goods or services provided, you do have options if the merchant will not grant you a credit card refund. In this instance, you can request a credit card chargeback, which reverses your original charge after you have filed a claim with your credit card company.

With a chargeback, the refund process is initiated by the credit card company (often automatically once you dispute a charge), whereas with a credit card refund, the merchant initiates the process.

Recommended: What is a Charge Card

How Long Does a Credit Card Refund Typically Take?

The amount of time it takes to receive a credit card refund depends on the retailer and the type of refund you’re requesting. It typically takes about three to seven business days to see your refund from a routine return you make in person, and sometimes it’s even faster than that.

Online merchants may take a bit longer to issue a credit card refund because you need to allot time for shipping and processing the returned merchandise. As mentioned above, chargeback or disputed charge refunds can take much longer — sometimes as long as 90 days due to the time allowed to file and investigate a disputed charge.

Do Credit Card Refunds Count Toward Payments?

No, credit card refunds are not considered a payment or partial payment, and they do not automatically go toward that month’s minimum payment on your card.

Instead, you’ll see a credit in the amount of the refund in your account statement and, depending on where you are in the billing cycle, this could reduce the total amount you owe by the amount of the refund. You will still need to make your monthly minimum payment while you’re waiting for a refund credit to appear on your account. In fact, one of the cardinal credit card rules is to always make your minimum payment on time.

Keep in mind that interest will continue to accrue on your charge until the refund credit appears. Depending on how much the purchase is for and where you are in the billing cycle, this can affect your overall balance.

How Credit Card Refunds May Affect Your Credit Score

To understand how credit card refunds work when it comes to your credit score, it’s important to understand something called credit utilization ratio. This term refers to the percentage of your total credit limit that you are currently using. Credit utilization can be an important factor in calculating your credit score — the lower your credit utilization ratio, the better. Most financial experts suggest a credit utilization ratio of no more than 30%, with 10% being a good figure to aim for.

In some situations, a refund may build your credit score if the refund reduces your balance and lowers your credit utilization ratio. On the other hand, a delayed refund could lower your credit score if the amount of the purchase pushes your credit utilization higher during a certain billing period.

What to Do With a Negative Account Balance

Sometimes a refund will give you a negative balance on your credit card, meaning your available credit is more than the amount you owe on the card. This can often happen with cardholders who pay their balance in full each month.

If you have a negative balance, it’s usually not a problem. The negative balance will be applied to the next purchase you make on that card, eventually bringing your balance back to $0 or above. A negative balance will likely not affect your credit score because that’s something that credit card companies report to credit bureaus.

However, a negative balance can be problematic if you’re receiving a large refund and don’t often use that credit card. In these instances, you can ask your credit card company to issue a refund via check, money order, or direct deposit. Your credit card issuer may require this request in writing in order to issue the refund.

How Credit Card Refunds Affect Your Rewards

Any credit card rewards you earned on a purchase that was returned, such as cash back rewards or miles, will not be awarded after your refund is processed.

If you decide that it makes more sense to keep the rewards, you can ask the merchant or service to refund you in the form of a merchant credit or store credit. However, that means you will still have to pay for the purchase on your credit card.

The Takeaway

Knowing how credit card refunds work will help you manage both your budget and your credit score. Credit card refunds are usually straightforward transactions. But they can take longer than a purchase made with cash, and they can affect your credit score. Additionally, you usually won’t be able to hang onto the rewards you’d earned from the purchase you returned.

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 credit card refunds affect your credit

Yes, refunds can affect your credit score. A refund can lower your credit utilization — or the total amount of credit you’ve used compared to your overall credit limit. Credit utilization is something credit rating agencies look at closely when determining your credit score. A delayed refund could hurt your credit score because if the charge stays on your account for a while, it may increase your credit utilization ratio, thus negatively impacting your store. On the other hand, when you receive a refund, that may lower your credit utilization, helping to build your credit score.

Do credit card refunds affect the rewards earned from a refunded purchase?

In most cases, you will not receive the rewards that you may have earned from a purchase you’ve returned. You may want to consider getting a store credit for your refund if you want to keep your rewards, but you will then have to pay for the full amount of the purchase on your credit card.

What happens if I have a negative balance after a credit card refund?

Sometimes you’ll get a refund credit, and it will exceed the balance you have on your card. This is usually not an issue, as the amount of the credit will be applied to the next purchase you make on the card. If the refund is quite large and you don’t use the card often, you may want to ask your credit card issuer for a refund via check or direct deposit.


Photo credit: iStock/Amax Photo

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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A Guide to How Credit Card Travel Insurance Works

A Guide to How Credit Card Travel Insurance Works

With flight disruptions, natural disasters, and other issues, travel insurance has become a popular option for travelers. While you can purchase travel insurance through third-party providers (and get specific insurance when booking flights, hotels, and rental cars), you may already have credit card travel insurance at your disposal.

So, should you choose a credit card specifically because it offers travel insurance? Below, we’ll take a closer look at what credit card travel insurance is, how it works, what it covers, and why you might want a credit card with travel insurance ahead of your next adventure.

What Is Travel Insurance?

Travel insurance protects consumers against financial losses when traveling domestically or internationally. It can cover everything from lost luggage to new hotel arrangements because of canceled flights to medical emergencies while on vacation.

Travel insurance can also protect you before your trip. If something changes, like a family emergency, that will keep you from traveling as planned, travel insurance might get you a refund for your expenses.

You can find travel insurance through insurance companies, travel agents, and insurance comparison sites. Your car insurance policy may insure you even in a rental car, and certain hotel booking sites may allow you to make refundable accommodations for a fee. But did you know that your credit card may also already cover portions of your trip?

How Does Credit Card Travel Insurance Work?

Credit card travel insurance is a set of coverages offered by select credit cards to protect you when traveling on qualified trips. How credit card travel insurance works varies by card, however. It’s important to read the fine print of your credit card to understand what may and may not be covered.

The main thing to remember is that you typically need to use the credit card when booking your major travel expenses (airfare, lodging, and transportation) for those costs to be covered should something happen.

Recommended: Tips for Using a Credit Card Responsibly

Types of Travel Covered by Travel Insurance

Each travel credit card will have its own inclusions and exclusions for travel insurance. But generally, credit cards with travel insurance may offer trip protection and coverage for unexpected medical expenses.

Trip Protection

Trip protection covers a wide range of potential insurances your credit card might offer when traveling:

•   Trip cancellation and interruption insurance: If you prepaid for a trip and have to cancel it, or are on a trip and need to end it early, your credit card may cover this. Read your credit card’s policy closely to understand how your credit card works and what qualifies as a covered trip cancellation or trip interruption. Unexpected injuries or illness, inclement weather, terrorist action, a change in military orders, and jury duty are examples of reasons a trip may be canceled or end early — and be covered by credit card travel insurance.

•   Trip delay insurance: If your flight, bus, cruise, or other transportation (called a common carrier) is delayed or canceled and you miss activities or lodgings that you’ve already paid for, your credit card may cover this. In addition, such policies might cover your expenses as you scramble to find new lodging, meals, and transportation.

•   Rental car insurance: Check with your car insurance provider before booking a rental to understand if your coverage extends to rentals. If it does not (or if you do not want to make a claim with your car insurance provider), your credit card might also serve as an insurance option in the event of an accident. Read the fine print carefully; many credit cards require that you decline the insurance from the rental company for the credit card travel insurance to apply. Some credit cards only offer secondary car insurance, meaning they require you to file a claim through your personal car insurance first.

•   Delayed or lost baggage insurance: If an airline loses or damages your baggage, you can make a claim for the (depreciated) contents of the bag. Some credit cards may even cover delayed baggage since it can put a dent in your plans. Just check your policy: You may have to put in a claim with the airline before your travel credit card will step in.

Medical Coverage

Travel insurance through credit cards may cover medical expenses as well, including:

•   Medical insurance: If your health insurance doesn’t cover medical costs incurred abroad, travel medical insurance might cover qualified expenses. In most cases, Medicare does not cover health costs incurred outside of the U.S., so travel insurance can be helpful for seniors relying on a government health plan.

•   Accident insurance: While we don’t want to assume the worst can happen, this insurance sometimes offered through credit cards offers a payout if you are killed or seriously injured (such as dismemberment or loss of sight, hearing, or speech). This applies while traveling on a common carrier or on a covered trip paid for with the card. In this way, accident insurance can operate like life insurance while traveling.

•   Emergency evacuation: If you fall ill or are injured while traveling and need to be evacuated, including through emergency airlift, this coverage will pay for associated expenses. This also may cover emergency evacuations due to extreme weather or political unrest.

Recommended: Preparing Financially for Travel

Benefits of Credit Card Travel Insurance

Credit cards offering travel insurance have multiple benefits. Not all credit cards offer travel insurance, however, so it’s a good idea for consumers to weigh these benefits against benefits of other credit cards to determine which card is right for them.

Among the benefits of credit card insurance are:

•   Financial security: Travel can be a big expense. When unplanned events cut trips short or leave you stranded, travel insurance can protect the money you have spent.

•   Emergency coverage: Whether you encounter dangerous weather, a terrorist incident, or a medical emergency during travel, having travel insurance can make it easier to deal with crises while on vacation.

•   A sense of comfort: Ultimately, insurance policies can ease consumers’ worries when traveling. Knowing that there is a Plan B when your best-laid travel plans go awry can be comforting, especially when facing an emergency in an unfamiliar place.

Recommended: Tips for Finding Travel Deals

Picking a Credit Card for Travel Insurance

When looking for a new credit card, you can search specifically for cards that offer travel insurance among ​​different credit card rewards. Note that many of these can have annual fees, so they might only be a good choice if you’re a frequent traveler.

Before applying for a credit card, check your credit score to ensure you can qualify.

If travel insurance is not your top priority for choosing a credit card, you can consider other incentives, like credit card bonuses for new customers or cash back rewards.

Recommended: What Is a Charge Card?

Filing a Travel Insurance Claim

If you experience an unexpected event, like a delayed flight, during your trip, calling your credit card company to ensure your emergency expenses will be covered can be a smart idea. This might keep you incurring credit card payments for meals or lodging that won’t actually be covered.

Look at the back of your credit card to find the phone number for a benefits administrator. They can help you as you begin your claim process.

As explained previously, certain credit cards may require you to file a claim with another entity before they get involved. For example, a credit card offering secondary auto insurance requires that you file with your personal car insurance company first. Likewise, if an airline loses your luggage, a credit card’s travel insurance policy may stipulate that you file first with the airline.

When you know you will be filing a claim, saving your receipts (and taking photos of them as you go) can be a smart way to stay organized. Filing as soon as you’re home (or even while still traveling) may expedite the process. In fact, some credit card insurance policies might have deadlines for filing claims.

The Takeaway

Some credit cards include travel insurance among their perks. Insurance coverage can vary, but it might cover delayed flights, trip cancellations, emergency medical expenses, and lost luggage. Travel cards with such coverage often have annual fees, so it’s a good idea for consumers to weigh multiple options when selecting a credit card and insurance policies.

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.

SoFi Travel has teamed up with Expedia to bring even more to your one-stop finance app, helping you book reservations — for flights, hotels, car rentals, and more — all in one place. SoFi Members also have exclusive access to premium savings, with 10% or more off on select hotels. Plus, earn unlimited 3%** cash back rewards when you book with your SoFi Unlimited 2% Credit Card through SoFi Travel.

Wherever you’re going, get there with SoFi Travel.

FAQ

How do I know if my trip is covered?

Not every credit card offers travel insurance. Always read the fine print of your credit card before making travel insurance decisions ahead of and during your trip. If the legal jargon is confusing, you can typically contact a benefits administrator for clarification. Look at the back of your credit card to find the number.

What does travel insurance cover?

Every credit card travel insurance policy is different. Common coverages include trip cancellation or interruption, accident and medical, lost luggage, and even rental car insurance. Research your card’s policy ahead of your next vacation.

Will the expenses not charged to my card be covered?

Some credit cards with travel insurance require that you use those cards on travel expenses for the insurance to apply. Others may automatically apply certain types of coverage, like medical coverage, regardless of what card you used to book your trip. Reach out to your card’s benefits administrator before travel if you need help interpreting the travel insurance policy.


Photo credit: iStock/Atstock Productions

**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.
You must agree to SoFi’s privacy consent agreement.
You must book the travel on SoFi’s Travel Portal reached directly through a link on the SoFi website or mobile application. Travel booked directly on Expedia's website or app, or any other site operated or powered by Expedia is not eligible.
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.
©2023 SoFi Bank, N.A. All rights reserved. Member FDIC. Equal Housing Lender. NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC), (www.nmlsconsumeraccess.org).


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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Charge Card vs Credit Card: What’s the Difference?

Charge Card vs. Credit Card: Understanding the Key Differences

Though the terms may be used interchangeably, there are major differences: With a credit card, you can either pay your full monthly bill or a portion of it. With a charge card, no matter how much you owe, you’re expected to pay the monthly bill in full.

That’s not the only thing that sets these cards apart. The two also vary in their accessibility, flexibility, spending limits, and costs. If you’re wondering if a charge card vs. a credit card is a better fit for you, read on to understand their key differences, which can help you decide.

How Charge Cards Work

In some ways, a charge card is much like a regular credit card. When you use it to make a purchase, you’re borrowing money from the card issuer. And when you pay your bill, you’re paying the card issuer back.

But there are several things about the way charge cards work that make them very different from traditional credit cards. And because of the way they work, there are benefits and risks of charge cards to consider.

As mentioned above, a charge card holder’s obligation to pay the bill in full each month is probably the most important distinction. Because you don’t have the option of carrying forward a balance, you won’t pay any interest. But if you don’t pay the balance in full by the due date, you could be subject to a late fee and restrictions on your future card use.

Another thing that makes a charge card unique is that there’s no pre-set credit limit. This offers charge card holders some added flexibility, but it doesn’t mean you can go out and spend as much as you want any time you want — even if you’ve stayed current with your charge card payments.

A transaction still may be declined if it exceeds the amount the card issuer determines you can manage based on your spending habits, account history, credit record, and other financial factors. To avoid any confusion, card holders can contact their charge card issuer before making a major purchase to ask if the amount will be approved.

Recommended: When Are Credit Card Payments Due

How Credit Cards Work

Because they’re more common, you may be more familiar with how credit cards work than you are with charge cards. With a traditional credit card, card holders are given a preset credit limit that’s based on their income, debt-to-income ratio, credit history, and other factors.

Once your account application is approved and you receive a card with a unique credit card number, you can use your card as much or as little as you like — as long as you stay within that limit.

Each month when you receive your billing statement, you can decide if you want to repay the full amount you owe or make a partial payment, but you must make at least the minimum payment that’s due. And if you carry forward a balance, you can be charged interest on that amount. (Similar to your spending limit, interest rates are typically based on a cardholder’s creditworthiness.)

A credit card is classified as “revolving credit” because there’s no set date for when all the money you’ve borrowed must be repaid. As long as you make at least your minimum payments on time and stay within your credit limit, the account remains open, and you can use the available credit over and over again.

Differences Between a Charge Card and Credit Card

Here’s a side-by-side look at some key differences between charge cards and credit cards:

Charge Card vs. Credit Card
Charge Cards Credit Cards
Full payment required every billing cycle Can carry a balance, but must make minimum monthly payment
Can be difficult to find and qualify for Many options available, even for those with not-so-great credit
Accepted by most U.S. vendors (but less so overseas) Widely accepted in the U.S. and worldwide
No interest charged, but can expect a high annual fee May avoid annual fee, but interest accrues on unpaid balance
Known for prestigious rewards programs Many cards offer rewards, often without an annual fee
No hard spending limit Hard pre-set spending limit

Payment Obligations

With a charge card, you’re required to pay what you owe in full when you receive your monthly billing statement. With a credit card, on the other hand, you can make a full or partial payment, but you’re only required to make a minimum monthly payment.

Even if you’re waiting for a refund that hasn’t yet shown up as a credit on your statement, you’ll be expected to pay the full amount of your charge card bill. With a credit card refund, you’ll just have to make sure you pay at least the minimum amount on your current bill.

Availability

If you’re looking for a new card, you’ll find there are far more credit cards available than true charge cards these days. Even American Express, the only major card issuer that still offers charge cards, has gone with a more hybrid approach.

American Express still offers cards that don’t have a preset spending limit. But those cards now come with a feature that — for a fixed fee — allows a card holder to split up eligible large purchases into monthly installments.

There also are some fuel cards, typically geared toward businesses, that are true charge cards.

Credit cards also are generally easier to qualify for than the charge cards that are available. Even if you have a poor or limited credit history, you may be able to find a secured or unsecured credit card that suits your needs.

Acceptance

Whether you shop local most of the time or hope to use your card as you travel the world, you may want to look at the acceptance rates of charge cards vs. credit cards.

Your card may not do you much good if you can’t use it where you like. American Express says its cards can now be accepted by 99% of the vendors in the U.S. that accept credit cards. If you aren’t sure your favorite local boutique or grocer will accept a particular card, you may want to ask or look for the card’s network logo in the store window.

If you plan to use your card overseas, you may want to check ahead on the acceptance rate in that country and also find out if you’ll have to pay a foreign transaction fee. Charge cards tend to have a lower rate of acceptance overseas.

Costs

If you’re trying to decide between a charge card vs. a credit card, how much a credit card costs compared to a charge card — both in interest charges and fees — could be an important consideration.

Interest

You can find a full explanation of how your card issuer calculates interest in your card’s terms and conditions. But as noted above, if you carry forward a balance on your credit card, you can expect to pay interest on the outstanding amount.

According to the Federal Reserve, the average credit card’s annual percentage rate (APR) is currently around 22.8%. Your rate may be higher or lower, depending on your creditworthiness.

You may not have just one interest rate associated with your account either. Your account may have a different APR for purchases, for example, than for credit card cash advances or balance transfers. Or you might have a lower, introductory APR for the first few months after you get a new card. If, over time, you miss payments or make late payments, the card issuer also could decide to raise your APR.

Because you don’t carry a balance with a charge card, you don’t pay interest. But if you pay off your credit card balance by the due date every month, you also won’t have to worry about accruing interest on a credit card account.

Annual Fees

You won’t pay interest with a charge card, but you may end up paying a significant annual fee just to own the card. (The annual membership fee for an American Express Platinum Card, for example, is currently $695.)

Some credit cards also charge annual fees, but you can find many that don’t.

Rewards and Perks

You may decide it’s worth paying a higher annual fee to enjoy the extra benefits some charge cards offer. American Express, for example, has a reputation for offering its card holders prestigious perks, including travel and retail purchase protections, early access to tickets for concerts and other entertainment events, and special offers from partner merchants.

However, plenty of credit cards also come with special benefits, such as cash back rewards, travel rewards, retail discounts, and more. And many of those card issuers don’t charge an annual fee.

Both charge card and credit card issuers also occasionally offer generous welcome or sign-up bonuses to new card holders, so that might be another benefit worth looking at when you’re searching for a new card.

Before you sign up for any card to get the perks it offers, though, it can be a good idea to step back and assess whether it’s worth paying a higher annual fee (or accruing interest on a balance you can’t pay off) to reap those rewards.

Spending Limit

With a credit card vs. a charge card, you’ll know exactly how much you can spend, because your credit card will come with a pre-set limit. You can go online or use an app to check your credit card account at any time to see how much available credit you have.

Charge cards don’t have hard spending limits. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you can use your card to buy a car or take a trip around the world. Your card issuer may decline a charge if you’re spending more than it thinks you can afford.

How Card Choice Can Impact Your Credit Score

When it comes to what a charge vs. credit card can do for (or to) your credit score, there are few things you should know.

Inquiries

Whether you’re applying for a charge card or credit card, you can expect the card company to run a hard inquiry on your credit. This could temporarily lower your credit score, but usually only by about five points.

Payments

Whether you use a charge card or a credit card, paying your monthly bill on time is critical to building and maintaining a good credit record.

Payment history makes up 35% of your FICO® credit score, so consistency is key. If your payment is 30 days or more past due and your card issuer reports it to the credit bureaus, that negative news could remain on your credit report for up to seven years. And it could come back to haunt you when you try to borrow money to buy a car or house.

Utilization

Credit utilization (the percentage of your available credit that you’re currently using) makes up 30% of your FICO score, so it’s important to keep your credit card balances well under the assigned limit.

To maintain or positively impact your credit score, the general rule is that you should try not to exceed a 30% credit card utilization rate. If you’re using up a big chunk of the pre-set limit on your credit card, it could have a negative effect on your score.

Because charge cards don’t have a pre-set credit limit, it can be difficult to determine if a card holder is at risk of overspending — so neither FICO or VantageScore include charge card information when calculating a person’s utilization rate.

This can have both pros and cons for charge card holders. The advantage, of course, is that you don’t have to worry about negative consequences for your credit score if you spend a lot in one month using your charge card. On the flip side, though, if you have a large amount of available credit that you aren’t using, it won’t do anything to help your score.

Choosing Between Credit Cards and Charge Cards

Deciding whether to apply for a credit card vs. a charge card may come down to evaluating the benefits you’re hoping to get from the card and assessing your own spending behavior. Here are some questions you might want to ask:

•   Does the card offer unique, valuable perks you think you’ll use?

•   If there’s a high annual fee for the card, does it fit your budget and are the card’s perks worth the cost?

•   Do you have enough money, discipline, and organization to ensure your bill is paid in full every month? Or could there be times when you’ll want to make a partial or minimum payment and carry forward a balance?

•   Is your credit score good or excellent? If not, you may have more options and a better chance of qualifying if you apply for a credit card instead of a charge card.

•   If you think you’ll pay off your card’s balance every month, would a credit card still be a better fit because of the rewards, low or no fees, and wider acceptance from vendors?

Also keep in mind that you don’t necessarily have to choose. In fact, you could benefit from owning both a charge card and a credit card. You may find there are reasons to have both types of cards in your wallet.

Recommended: Charge Cards Advantages and Disadvantages

The Takeaway

The terms charge card and credit card are often used interchangeably, but they are not the same thing. A charge card must be paid off every month, so there’s no interest to worry about — but there may be a high annual fee to pay. A credit card allows the user to make a minimum monthly payment and carry forward a balance, but the interest on that balance can add up quickly.

Each individual user must decide which is the better fit for their needs. And a card’s benefits vs. its costs may be a deciding factor.

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

Is a credit card easier to get than a charge card?

Because these days there are more companies issuing credit cards, it may be easier to find one that suits your needs and has qualifications you can meet — even if you have a poor or limited credit history. There are very few charge cards available anymore.

Does a charge card build credit better than a credit card?

Both a credit card and a charge card can help or hurt your credit score, depending on how you use it.

When do credit cards charge interest?

Most credit cards come with a grace period, which means the credit card issuer won’t charge you interest on purchases if you pay your entire balance by the due date each month. If you fail to pay the entire amount on your statement balance, however, or if you make your payment after the due date, interest charges will likely appear on your next monthly statement.


Photo credit: iStock/9dreamstudio

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.

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 .

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