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How Being an Authorized User Affects Your Credit Score

The primary account holder and authorized user may influence one another's score.

A man is using a credit card to make a contactless payment in public.
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If you want to improve your credit score or establish credit and want to avoid signing up for secured credit card, you might consider becoming an authorized user for another cardholder's account. As an authorized user, you will receive a credit card associated with the primary cardholder's line of credit. Both an authorized user and the primary cardholder Where your credit score goes depends on how you use your credit card and the primary cardholder's credit behavior. 

What is an authorized user?

An authorized user is a person who is added to someone else's credit card account. You'll be issued a credit card as an authorized user, but the primary account holder is responsible for making payments against the balance. Becoming an authorized user can help you build a positive credit history. Still, a handful of factors contribute to that outcome, including the primary cardholder's credit behavior and whether or not the data is reported to the three credit bureaus -- Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. 

How to become an authorized user

The process to add an authorized user varies by issuer, but in most cases, the primary cardholder can add an authorized user online or through the bank's mobile app. You may have to call the bank if you can't add someone via your account online. Once you initiate the process, you'll need to provide the authorized user's full name, date of birth and Social Security number. 

Different issuers have different policies regarding who can be added as an authorized user to an account. Several require the authorized user to be at least 18 years old; others have a lower age requirement or no age minimum at all. Similarly, some issuers will report the account's activity to the credit bureaus on behalf of the authorized user. Others will do so only if the authorized user is above a certain age, and the age limit varies from issuer to issuer. As such, if you're looking to help a child enhance their credit score by making them an authorized user on your account, confirm their eligibility with your issuer.

Risks of being an authorized user

There's minimal risk involved with becoming an authorized user if you join a well-managed credit card account, meaning the primary cardholder maintains a low credit utilization and always pays their bill on time and in full. But your credit score will take a hit if the primary cardholder racks up a balance and fails to pay it back. 

The primary accountholder takes on more risk in this scenario because they are responsible for any debt that comes with having an authorized user. Establishing a pay-back plan between both parties is essential to ensure the balance is covered at the end of each billing cycle. 

Additionally, if you remove yourself as an authorized user and the credit line you are taking yourself off of happens to be your oldest line of credit, your credit score will take a hit. Length of credit history makes up 15% of your FICO credit score, and removing yourself from the oldest line of credit on your credit history can impact your credit score. Minimize the impact of an exit plan by applying for a new credit card. At this point, ideally, you will have a better grasp on your credit score and getting approved for a credit card will be easier than before. 

Does being an authorized user affect your credit score?

Depending on the primary account holder's credit behavior, becoming an authorized user can either boost or hurt your credit score. However, for the data from your authorized user account to affect your credit score, the lender needs to report the account to the three credit bureaus. If the lender does not report the activity to the credit bureaus, that particular account won't influence your credit score. 

Once the account is added to your credit history, your credit score can be positively impacted if you and the primary account holder manage the account responsibly. If the primary account holder makes consistent on-time payments, your credit score can go up. But if the account runs up a high balance that rolls over from month to month, the primary account holder's credit score will take a hit -- and so will yours. 

The bottom line

It's possible to boost your credit score as an authorized user, but you'll need to take on your fair share of responsibility. Before deciding who to ask to make you an authorized user, think about who you can rely on and who takes good care of their credit since their actions can positively and negatively impact your credit.

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