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A reader recently asked a question about her credit score. It’s a question I’ve heard many times in the past and it had to do with being an authorized user on a credit card. Here is the question that Kelly asked:

“I just added my husband as an authorized user on a credit card that reports monthly to all credit bureaus, so I was wondering if that will show up on his report by May 1st. We are trying to buy a home and only need four points increased on his score to get approved and I was wondering if that would do it. Please help asap.”

What is an authorized user?

The primary account holder on a credit card can add a number of authorized users to the account. Each authorized user will receive his or her own credit card with his or her name on it. They will be able to make purchases with the card, dispute charges, report a lost or stolen card, and even make payments on the account.

There are some privileges that an authorized user does not have. For example, an authorized user cannot close the account, increase the credit limit, or change the contact information for the primary cardholder. Beyond these limitations, however, an authorized user can generally use the card much like the primary account holder.

It is common for family members to be added as authorized users. There are limits to the number of authorized users that can be added to a credit card. For example, the Chase freedom card limits the number of authorized users to five. The Discover it® Cash Back limits the number of users to nine. Finally, it is important to note that the authorized user is not financially responsible to pay for charges made with the credit card.

Affect on credit scores

And now to the big question. Will an authorized user’s credit score be affected by virtue of being added to the credit card account? The answer is yes.

For example, here is what the Chase freedom website says about authorized users: “Reference to the account may appear on the authorized users’ credit reports.”

Capital One has a similar notice in its terms and conditions: “Even though the authorized user does not have financial responsibility for the account, credit data is still reported to the credit bureaus on the authorized user (except on Small Business accounts).”

This question was also asked on the myFICO forums, and the same answer was given:

Authorized Users and Credit Scoring? - myFICO® Forums 2013-10-07 16-59-57

Authorized Users and Credit Scoring? - myFICO® Forums 2013-10-07 17-00-29

And finally, FICO has made clear that authorized user accounts are a factor in the FICO formula, including the FICO 8 formula:

“Every generation of the FICO score formula has included authorized user credit card accounts when calculating a person’s score. FICO 8 score continues that policy. This can help people benefit from their shared management of a credit card account. It also helps lenders by providing scores that are based on a full snapshot of the consumer’s credit history.”

The Risks of Being an Authorized User

For many, being an authorized user is a great way to build credit. It’s important to recognize, however, that there are some risks involved. If the primary account holder fails to pay the card on time, the authorized user’s credit can take a hit. Likewise, if the card is maxed out, your score can go down because your credit utilization is high. So the key is to understand the risks before being added as an authorized user.

What About Piggybacking?

Piggybacking is the practice of adding an authorized user to an account for the sole purpose of improving their credit. Typically the card holder and the authorized user do not know each other, but are brought together by an intermediary in the business of credit repair. The practice usually involves the authorized user paying a fee to the card holder. The authorized user can’t use the card, but they get the benefit of the card holder’s good credit.

Does it work? Generally, no. Although they don’t provide details, the folks at FICO have developed a way to distinguish when card holder adds a friend or family member to an account versus what FICO calls tradeline renting:

“To protect lenders and honest consumers, the FICO 8 formula substantially reduces any benefit of so-called tradeline renting. That’s a credit repair practice that entices consumers into being added to a stranger’s credit account in order to misrepresent their credit risk to lenders.”

Next–>11 Ways to Improve your Credit

Author Bio

Total Articles: 1080
Rob founded the Dough Roller in 2007. A litigation attorney in the securities industry, he lives in Northern Virginia with his wife, their two teenagers, and the family mascot, a shih tzu named Sophie.

Article comments

Jessica says:

I want to add my sister as an authorized user to my card so she can build credit. She will be using and paying on the card, will FICO disregard this for her credit because she is not a spouse or will this help her?

Rob Berger says:

Jessica, you don’t have to be a spouse to get the benefit of being an authorized user. Many parents add children to their accounts for the same reason. I do believe, however, that FICO has some way of discounting authorized users in some cases. I believe they are trying to identify people who pay strangers to be adding to the account.

Richard says:

My wife is an authorized user on my Chase freedom cc. she has been transacting with her card for the past six months, but still no credit history showing up in her report. Some advised to modify the application to a joint status. she is a home maker and does not have a credit history or even a score. what should i do?


Rob Berger says:

Richard, if she has no credit history or score to begin with, it takes 6 months of activity before one will show up. That being said, I’d suggest calling Chase and asking them.

Marie says:

If you add a authorized user, does the AU have the ability of seeing your social security number. I want to add a family member but would like some of my info still private.

Stephanie Colestock says:

I’ve never seen a card that displays the accountholder’s SSN, especially to AUs. They may need the last 4 to access the account (depending on the card — some of them with utilize the AU’s own SSN for customer service access), but showing the full number on any account information is something I’ve never come across.


joe m says:

Rob Berger- can you email me? i have a couple questions i think you can help me with.

Stephanie Colestock says:

You can send him a message to DR@doughroller.net. He has limited email access while he’s writing his book, but will respond as soon as he can.


Cherarli says:

Would the authorized user and the primary holder credit score be accessible from the same credit report.

Kalim Cain says:

So if I add an authorized user and don’t issue them a credit will their credit scores still go up with mine?

richard smith says:

Yes, at will, at IZM Credit Services we provide this type of service and our clients. The don’t get any of our credit partners cards or information

Jennifer says:

Hello, i was wondering how long does chase freedom take to report an AU to the bureaus? They didn’t want the social, already received the card few days ago, they said everything is a go but I was told by lenders it usually shows up no more than a week, but it has been that week now. Just worried it isn’t being reported. Don’t want our family to call chase and ask because I don’t want them to think it was only for credit boost, yes it is needed a.s.a.p. but we do actually use and help with finances and responsibilities for the family member that but me as an AU. Please any input would really help

Rich says:

Hello, We provide this service for clients. Reporting date is determined by the payment due date. Reporting usually happens within 10-14 days after the payment due date.. If you need help or more information regarding being an authorized user or to get added and boost your credit scores contact IZM credit Services. We’ve seen clients get score increases of more than 200 points on credit files. Score increases of 100 points or more within 30 days.

JS says:

I have 2 credit cards that I use, but was planning to add my 18 year old brother as an AU to the one I rarely use so he has an emergency card. He’s also new to credit and wants to start building his history before he tries to apply for anything on his own like an auto loan etc. Will the reporting for his credit be based off of the card I add him to, or both of my cards? Does my current score have any impact on his, or is it just based on the card that he is on?