Being an authorized user on a credit card is a great way to establish or rebuild your credit. That said, if the primary cardholder forgets to pay their bills or wracks up tons of debt, your credit scores may suffer, too.
This begs the question, “Can an authorized user become the primary cardholder? The short answer is no, they can’t. Let’s explore why this is the case.
What is an authorized user on a credit card?
Almost anyone can become an authorized user, even those under 18. Being an authorized user means that a current credit card holder adds you to their account.
In other words, they authorize you to use their card. The card issuer will send you a card in your name attached to their bill. Then, you can use it or let it sit in a drawer, but either way, the primary cardholder’s activities will appear on your credit report.
What authorized users can and can’t do
Authorized users enjoy the benefits or the downfalls of someone else’s credit history and usage. However, they don’t have total authority over the account.
Authorized users can:
- Make purchases online, in stores or over the phone.
- Ensure the account activity is reflected on their credit reports.
- Withdraw cash from an ATM.
- Login in the app and make payments.
- Remove themselves from the account at any point in time.
However, authorized users can’t do the following actions:
- Close the account.
- Request a credit increase.
- Add more authorized users.
- Change the mailing address.
- Take over as the primary account holder.
Bear in mind that some permissions vary by lender. Some card issuers permit authorized users to login online to see statements, make payments or cash in rewards. Others may restrict online or statement access.
Are authorized users on credit cards responsible for debt?
Authorized users on credit cards are not responsible for debts that pile up. That responsibility remains with the primary cardholder. When you make a purchase as an authorized user, the primary account holder receives the bill and sees your activity on their credit card statement.
Authorized users vs joint account holders
Being an authorized user isn’t the same as being a joint account holder. As a joint account holder, you’re considered a primary card holder. As such, you’re legally responsible for any accrued debts, though you can make changes to the account.
The process to become a joint account holder is also stricter, and it’s similar to applying for your own credit card. Joint accounts are more common among spouses who share financial responsibilities.
By contrast, authorized users have fewer legal and financial responsibilities as well as less control over the account. Still, as an authorized user, your credit score is going to be impacted by the primary user’s activities as well as your own. Authorized user accounts are common between parents who want to help their children build credit or friends who need a boost.
How does being an authorized user affect your credit?
As an authorized user, credit activities on the account may appear on your authorized user’s credit report. But that’s not always the case.
Some lenders don’t report authorized user activities to credit bureaus. As such, you might want to ask about the lender’s policies before you sign up.
Also, if the card issuer does report to the bureaus, the account will appear on your credit report within one to two months. However, this is a two-way street. Any positive activities will boost your score, including on-time payments and low credit usage.
On the other hand, high credit usage, nonpayment, delinquency or other negative marks will drag it down. Some credit bureaus allow you to remove the account from your authorized user credit report if the primary cardholder fails to pay their debts. Unfortunately, that may remove any prior positive impacts, too.
Pros and cons of authorized users on a credit card
Being an authorized user can be a mixed bag. Before you sign up, it’s important to understand the benefits as well as the drawbacks.
- Quickly and easily build or rebuild your credit score
- Benefit from someone else’s good credit habits
- Person responsible for debt is primary cardholder
- Lets you avoid a hard credit check on your credit report
- Convenient for families, especially parents with children
- May generate more rewards due to increased spending
- Ability to remove yourself as an authorized user
- You can’t alter the account, such as requesting a credit limit increase.
- Your credit may suffer if the primary cardholder doesn’t pay the bill.
- You may not have login access to the account, though it depends on the card issuer.
- Improper use or failure to pay can ruin your relationship with primary cardholders.
- Credit reports of primary and authorized users can drop if either party is irresponsible.
- Some cards charge additional fees if you want to add an authorized user.
So, can an authorized user become the primary cardholder?
Ultimately, the actions an authorized user can and cannot take will depend on the card issuer’s policies as well as permissions granted by the primary account holder. In other words, authorized users can’t become the primary card holder. If you’re looking to build credit on your own terms, you may have to consider alternatives like a credit builder loan or secured credit card instead.
Can an authorized user see transactions?
The answer to this question varies among different credit card issuers. Some offer online access or they will send statements to both parties. Others restrict online access and statement permissions due to internal policies or the primary cardholder’s request.
Does being an authorized user build credit?
If the lender reports authorized user activities to the credit bureaus and the primary account holder pays their bills on time, then being an authorized user can build credit. But if the lender doesn’t report to the bureaus or the primary cardholder doesn’t pay the bills, your credit score may suffer.
Can you add an authorized user without a Social Security Number?
Some credit card issuers require a Social Security number, while others don’t. You’ll have to ask specific lenders about their policies to find out which forms of personal information are required to add or become an authorized user.