How old an authorized user has to be really depends on the credit card issuer. Some set the minimum age for an authorized user on a credit card at 13, while others require that an authorized user is 15 or even 16. Many issuers don’t specify a minimum age requirement at all.
In other words, it’s largely up to the adult’s discretion whether a minor seems old enough to become an authorized user. While it can serve as an educational tool and help build their credit, it also can lead to racking up debt and impacting both parties’ credit. You’ll want to make sure you know what you’re getting into in order to determine if it’s the right arrangement for you.
How Old Does an Authorized User Have to Be?
While the minimum age to get a credit card of your own is 18, an authorized user on a credit card can be as young as 13.
That being said, the minimum age for an authorized user on a credit card ultimately depends on the credit card company, as each issuer has its own age requirements. Some set the minimum age to 13 years old, while others may make authorized users wait to get a credit card at 16 or 15. Some credit card issuers don’t specify a minimum age for authorized users on credit cards.
Factors to Consider Before Adding a Minor as an Authorized User
Before you add a minor as a credit card authorized user, consider the following factors.
Whether You’ll Have to Pay a Fee
Depending on the card, you might have to pay an additional annual fee to add an authorized user. The fee might apply per authorized user, or it may cover, say, three users added to your account.
Check with your card card issuer to see if you might get hit with a fee for adding authorized users to your account.
If They’re Old Enough to Handle the Responsibility
Even if you can add an authorized user as young as 13 to your card, doing so might not be in your best interest — or theirs. For instance, a child in their early teens might not have a basic grasp of managing finances, or they might not be mature enough to handle the financial responsibility and abide by basic credit card rules.
If you’re adding your minor as an authorized user to help them establish credit, a few years is enough time for them to be on their way. Plus, should you slip on your credit, it could also impact your child’s credit.
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How You’ll Track the User’s Purchases
Most credit cards don’t issue unique card numbers to each authorized user. That means if you have multiple authorized users on an account, you won’t be able to easily figure out who made which purchases. Before you go ahead with adding an authorized user, make sure you have a system worked out so you’re not stuck covering their spending.
Whether You’ll Give Access to the Card
While you can give an authorized user their own card, you don’t have to, especially if you’re worried about how they’ll spend with it. If you’re strictly adding a child to your card to help them build credit, there’s no need to hand them a card. They don’t need to have access to your credit card number, either.
Steps to Add a Minor as an Authorized User
First and foremost, you’ll want to carefully weigh the pros and cons of adding someone under the age of 18 as an authorized user. If you have decided that you want to proceed, you’ll need to do the following.
1. Educate the Child About Credit Card Basics
Before adding a minor as an authorized user and giving them the privilege to spend on your card, sit them down and walk them through how credit cards work. For instance, you’ll want to explain what a credit limit is, how interest rates work, what one’s financial responsibility is when putting purchases on a card, and why it’s beneficial to build credit.
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2. Reach Out to the Credit Card Company
Next, you’ll need to contact the credit card company to let them know you’d like to add an authorized user to your card. You can do so by calling the number on the back of the card, or by logging onto your account online.
You usually need to provide the following information about the individual you’re adding as an authorized user:
• Date of birth
• Social Security number
• Address (for them to receive the card)
• Additionally, you may be able to set spending limits or restrictions for the authorized user at this point in the process.
3. Check Your Account
To make sure the authorized user was correctly added, log on to your account on the issuer’s website or through the app. Double-check to make sure the minor’s name and details are all correct. You might also receive an email notification informing you of this change.
The Cost of Adding an Authorized User
Many credit card issuers do not charge a fee to add an authorized user to an account. However, premium credit cards or cards that already charge annual fees, may charge an annual fee for adding authorized users. This fee may apply per authorized user, or you may pay a flat cost for up to a certain number of users.
Beyond this potential fee, there are other costs you could incur by adding an authorized user. For instance, additional purchases made by the authorized user could cause you to rack up a balance. Plus, their activity can impact your credit utilization, which could hurt your credit score.
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Pros and Cons of Adding a Minor as an Authorized User
Here’s an overview of the advantages and downsides of adding a minor as an authorized user to your credit card:
|Helps to build credit||May cause you to rack up debt|
|Allows you to earn more rewards||Can’t easily track who’s making purchases|
|Serves as an educational tool||Can impact credit of both primary cardholder and authorized user|
Adding an authorized user can have the following benefits:
• Helps to build credit: A major upside of adding a minor as an authorized user is that it will help them establish credit at a young age. They’ll have a more firm financial footing as a result.
• Allows you to earn more rewards: Another person making purchases on your card means there’s greater potential to earn more rewards. You can more quickly than if you would if you were the sole user.
• Serves as an educational tool: If you take the time to teach them, adding a minor as an authorized user to your card can help your child learn credit basics and how to manage credit card debt.
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Beware of the potential downsides of having an authorized as well:
• May cause you to rack up debt: It can be easy to rack up debt and overspend on the credit card with an authorized user. This is especially possible if you’re giving a child access to your card who is still wrapping their head around financial basics.
• Can’t easily track who is making the purchases: Because purchases aren’t tracked by the authorized user, it might be tough to figure out which person was responsible for which transaction with your card. This is particularly tricky when you have, say, a joint account user and several authorized users.
• Can impact credit of both primary cardholder and authorized user: If having several users on your card equates to carrying a higher balance, that can up your credit utilization ratio. As credit usage makes up 30% of your credit score, you’ll want to keep that ratio under 30%. Beyond potentially hurting your credit, also know that any irresponsible credit behavior on your card can hurt your authorized user’s credit. For instance, if you are late on a credit card payment, both your credit and the credit of the minor you added to your card can suffer.
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Tips for Managing a Minor as an Authorized User
If those possible downsides are making you nervous, here are a few things you can do to ensure your minor uses their privileges responsibly:
• Set limits. Talk to your child and give them an amount they can spend on the card each billing cycle. Also, determine if they’ll be responsible for helping you pay off their share. Or perhaps you might consider an alternative arrangement, such as doing chores around the house to cover purchases they made on their credit card. Hash this out beforehand.
• Treat the card as a teaching tool. Sit down with your child and go over basics of a credit card, such as how interest fees work, how to read a billing statement, and what can happen if you’re late or miss a payment. You’ll also want to teach them how repayment works.
• Set alerts. To keep an eye on your child’s spending, consider setting alerts on your credit card. You can set it up so you get notifications for transactions over a certain amount, or any transactions made online, in person, or over the phone.
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Removing a Minor as an Authorized User
Removing a minor as an authorized user from a credit card is a relatively simple and painless process. To do so, you call the number on the back of the card and let them know the name of the person you’d like taken off. If you have several authorized users on a card, be sure to specify which card user you’re removing.
It’s not a bad idea to leave a paper trail and send a letter to the credit card company reiterating that you’ve requested the change over the phone.
The minimum age for an authorized user on a credit card varies depending on the credit card issuer. Some require an authorized user to be 13, while others set the age limit at 15 or 16, or even have no formal limit at all.
While you can add a minor as an authorized user on a credit card, you’ll want to carefully weigh the pros and cons before doing so. If you decide to add a child as a user, set some ground rules and teach them credit and financial basics beforehand.
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Do some issuers allow authorized users with no minimum age?
Usually the minimum age requirement to add an authorized user to a credit card is at least 13. However, there are several credit card issuers that don’t note a specific minimum age.
How many authorized users can I add to my account?
It depends on the credit card issuer. Some allow up to four, while others allow up to seven. Some credit card issuers have no limit as to how many authorized users you can add to a credit card. The number of authorized users might also depend on what type of card it is, such as a rewards or travel credit card.
Is an authorized user relationship or a joint account holder better?
It depends on what kind of privileges you want the additional card user to have and the reason you’d like to add them. If you want to help boost someone’s credit and not have them responsible for making payments, then an authorized user could be the better route. If you’d like the user to be equally responsible for making payments and have access to make changes on the account, a joint account holder might make sense.
Photo credit: iStock/Manuel Tauber-Romieri
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