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Authorized user? No, you're not responsible for the bill

Boyfriend added her to his credit card, she wants off

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Credit Care
'Credit Care' columnist Tanisha Warner
Tanisha Warner is the communications manager for Money Management International, where she manages educational content designed to teach consumers about personal finance topics. She writes "Credit Care," a weekly reader Q&A about debt issues, for CreditCards.com.

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Question for the CreditCards.com expert Dear Credit Care,
I was added to my boyfriend's account as an authorized user, which was totally his doing. I had the card for two months. I gave it back and it has been a little over six months, and I am still receiving alerts through Experian about the account. I have asked him time and time again to take me off of the account. I finally called and did it myself. I only used about $250 for gas charges. Am I responsible for the entire balance on the account as a whole? -- Sabrina

Answer for the CreditCards.com expert Dear Sabrina,
No, as an authorized user on the account you are not financially responsible for any of the charges. Most card issuers give the owner of an account the option to add someone to the account as an authorized user, but the owner remains solely responsible for all charges that are made on the account, including those made by the authorized user. As you've discovered, if you've been added as an authorized user, you can remove yourself. CreditCards.com has checked with all the major card issuers, and all of them let either the cardholder or the authorized user remove the user from an account.

If you are still in a relationship with your boyfriend, you might consider offering to pay for the charges that you made on the card, particularly if that was the agreement when he gave you the card to use. In the future, I would strongly urge you to keep your finances separate from those of your boyfriend. Do not open any joint credit accounts with him. It is difficult to separate finances once you have joint accounts. The relationship may be a good one now, but until you get married, I recommend you keep your finances separate.

You state that before asking to be removed, you were receiving alerts from a credit bureau regarding your boyfriend's credit card account. It sounds like you have kept on top of the situation, and that was a good idea. Here's why: Although Experian does not include negative authorized user account information on their credit reports, the other two major credit bureaus do. That means even though you're not responsible for the bill, being an authorized user intertwines your credit and his. If he had started to misbehave and failed to pay bills, your credit could have been negatively affected. You don't want to take a negative hit on your credit because of someone else's poor credit behavior.

In addition to the steps you've already taken, you should also follow through in a month or so by checking your credit reports to be sure that the account is no longer included. Should it still be listed, dispute the mistake with the credit bureaus to let them know it is not your account.

If your boyfriend is having trouble making his payments on the credit card, he might consider seeking help from a nonprofit credit counseling agency. His counselor will review his income and expenses with him and help him determine if he could change his spending habits and make it easier to pay his account each month. It might be a good idea for you to participate in the counseling session as well if you are sharing living expenses with him.

Handle your credit with care!

See related: How to remove yourself or someone else as an authorized user

Tanisha Warner is the communications manager for Money Management International, the largest nonprofit, full-service credit counseling agency in the United States. She manages educational content designed to teach consumers about personal finance topics. You can find more money management advice on Blogging for Change and MMI's Facebook page.

Credit Care answers a question about a debt or credit issue from a CreditCards.com reader each week. Send your question to Credit Care.

Published: November 11, 2012



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