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For people who have little or no credit, it can seem like an uphill battle to get their credit into top shape. Many credit issuers turn down applicants who don’t have a solid credit history or meet their high credit score requirements. It might seem nearly impossible to improve one’s credit score under these circumstances.
Using a credit card can be one of the easiest ways to build credit – especially when you carry a low balance and pay on time. But what happens if you’ve already been turned down by more than one credit card issuer? You can still improve your credit rating by using a credit card, but not in the way you might expect.
Authorized user credit cards are one way for people to piggyback on the success of someone else’s good credit history. By jumping onboard as an authorized user on someone else’s credit card, you can benefit from owning and using a credit card.
However, not every credit card allows authorized users, and of those that do, not all of them report data from authorized users to a credit reporting agency – which is crucial to building your credit. However, some do, which is why you have to do your due diligence before asking to become an authorized user.
Keep the following recommendations in mind:
- As an authorized user, the primary user is responsible for paying all charges at the end of the billing period. But both cards are technically on the same account, and all charges will appear together.
- If the primary cardholder defaults on the monthly bill, however, your credit might take a hit.
- Enter into an authorized user situation carefully, consider the type of credit card involved (including the interest rate and potential card perks), as well as the history of the primary cardholder. Only choose to enter into an authorized user agreement with someone who already has a long and excellent credit history.
- Ensure that you spend responsibly to keep your financial relationship with that person in good standing. Arguments over money end many friendly and familiar relations.
Finding Authorized User Credit Cards
Most major credit card companies do report the credit data of the authorized user, but local banks and credit unions might report to only one or two credit reporting agencies – or none at all. Don’t be surprised if different credit cards communicate credit information slightly differently for authorized users as well. Before you sign on, asking the issuer about their credit reporting policies for authorized users.
American Express Gold Card
All American Express cards report authorized users to the credit reporting agencies. However, it can be beneficial to get more bang for your buck by becoming an authorized user on a card with a rewards program. The American Express Gold Card offers big rewards for dining and groceries, plus up to $120 per year in statement credits for ordering from Grubhub, Seamless, or other select restaurants, plus a $100 annual travel credit for incidental travel fees.
Citi Prestige Card
A premium card with premium benefits, the Citi Prestige Card can have a lot to offer both the primary cardholder and the authorized user. The elite travel benefits may come in handy for any avid international travelers. It even offers a fourth-night stay for free at one of their partnered hotels. The card does come with a hefty annual fee of $450, however.
Building Your Credit as an Authorized User
As an authorized user, you can improve your credit score in the following ways:
- Ensure that the credit card bill is paid off in full, every single month.
- Ensure a payment is never missed.
- Practice healthy credit card spending. Only use it to cover bills and purchases you already have money to cover. Do not use it as a high-interest, short-term loan; this can lead you down the path to bad credit.
- Always remember that you’ve entered into a financial agreement with another person when you become an authorized user. Their financial decisions, at least to some extent, can have effects on your credit score, and vice versa.
>> Read More: Best credit cards for couples
Author: Jeff Gitlen, CEPF®
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