How much does being an authorized user affect your credit?

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Being an authorized user can positively, negatively or minimally impact your credit score, depending on the primary cardholder’s financial actions surrounding monthly payments, credit history and credit utilization.

Whether you’re just starting to build your credit or have made some financial choices that have negatively impacted your credit, you’ve likely noticed that building credit isn’t easy. However, adding yourself as an authorized user on someone else’s credit card account is a useful way to establish new credit.

So, how does being an authorized user affect your credit? Let’s explore the various ways being an authorized user can impact your credit and how to start building credit using this strategy.

Table of contents:

What is an authorized user on a credit card?

An authorized user is an individual who is attached to another person’s credit card account but is not the primary cardholder. Authorized users are not legally responsible for credit card charges or ensuring on-time payments. They typically receive a credit card issued under their name, which is linked to the cardholder’s account.

However, the primary cardholder will receive the monthly statement for the card, not the authorized user. It’s the cardholder’s responsibility to complete payments for that card. Some credit lenders split charges by card so the cardholder can see which charges are being made by the authorized user.

How does being an authorized user affect your credit?

Being an authorized user on someone else’s account can both negatively and positively impact your credit. You’re taking a risk based on trust and communication that the primary cardholder will consistently complete payments on time and maintain a good credit history. Below are a few ways being an authorized user can affect your credit.

1. Help build your credit

If the primary cardholder consistently submits monthly payments on time and maintains a low credit utilization, you should see a positive impact on your credit. Before asking to be added to the account, ensure that the cardholder has a good credit history and that the credit lender they use reports it to the three major credit bureaus—Equifax®, Experian® and TransUnion®. This way, your authorized user account will eventually show up on your credit report.

2. Hurt your credit

Becoming an authorized user on someone else’s account, regardless of their relationship to you, involves taking a risk. Your credit can be negatively impacted if the primary cardholder fails to make timely payments or accumulates a high credit balance. If this happens, it’s best to remove yourself from the account to prevent any further impact on your credit.

3. Minimally impact your credit

If the card’s lender doesn’t report authorized user activity, the account won’t appear on your credit report. As a result, you won’t see any impact, positive or negative, on your credit.

How to build credit as an authorized user

Becoming an authorized user is a great way to start building credit or repairing a bad credit score. Follow the steps below to better your chances of successfully building credit through this method.

1. Choose the right credit card holder

Carefully consider who you want to ask to add you as an authorized user on their credit card account. Choose a relative or close friend who you can trust to make timely payments and who has a good credit history and low credit utilization.

2. Request to be added to the account

Kindly ask the primary cardholder to add you as an authorized user on their account. Keep in mind that not all credit lenders report authorized users to credit bureaus, so research the credit lender before proceeding with the approval process.

3. Monitor account activity and payments

Whether you’re using the credit card account or not, it’s important to communicate with the primary cardholder about payments and spending limits. While you aren’t legally responsible for submitting payments on time, you want to ensure that you’re not overspending on the account and increasing the utilization ratio—this ratio represents the proportion of your total credit limit that you’re using.

4. Regularly check your credit report

Regularly check your credit report to ensure that your authorized user activity is reported accurately and is positively affecting your credit. If you notice a negative impact on your credit, check to see if the primary cardholder is making timely payments and maintaining low credit utilization. If they aren’t, consider removing yourself from the account before your credit health worsens.

Authorized user FAQ

Below are answers to some common questions about how being an authorized user can affect your credit.

Who can be an authorized user?

Anyone can be an authorized user of a credit account. However, typically authorized users are family members, close friends, employees and legal guardians. Most commonly, authorized users are young individuals who want to build credit or have a poor credit history.

Who should you ask to add you as an authorized user?

While anyone can add you as an authorized user on their account, it’s best to ask someone you can trust and are close with. Relatives and close friends who have excellent credit and demonstrate a history of timely payments are good choices, as this behavior can further increase the likelihood of improving your credit.

Will adding someone as an authorized user hurt my credit? 

Adding an authorized user to your credit account shouldn’t negatively impact your credit. If you maintain full control of the account and make payments on time, both you and the authorized user will benefit. However, if the authorized user misuses your credit on your account, both you and the authorized user can be negatively impacted.

Does removing an authorized user hurt their credit score?

Removing yourself as an authorized user on an account may affect your credit score. Removing yourself from an account with a good payment history may cause a slight decrease in your credit score, as you’re no longer benefiting from the credit account.

However, opening your own credit card as soon as you remove yourself from the other account can minimize the impact on your credit history. Additionally, if the primary cardholder isn’t making payments on time or is maxing out the card, removing yourself as an authorized user can benefit your credit. That’s why it’s important to carefully consider whose credit account you add yourself to.

What’s the difference between joint credit cards and authorized users?

Joint credit cards function exactly like a normal credit card, but they are shared by two people rather than one primary cardholder. The biggest difference between joint account holders and authorized users is that with a joint account, both parties are legally responsible for making payments on the account.

Additionally, those who apply for a joint credit card can expect to have their credit history and other financial information considered during the application process, whereas the authorized user’s typically isn’t considered.

How long until an authorized user account shows on your credit report? 

The amount of time it takes for an authorized user account to show on your credit report depends on the credit bureau and when it’s reported. However, it’ll typically show up within 30 days of adding the authorized user to the account. Ultimately, being an authorized user can be a valuable tool for building credit, but it’s important to weigh the benefits and risks carefully. Not sure where to start but need help building your credit? Learn more about services offered at Lexington Law Firm and start repairing your credit today.

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