By adding authorized users to your American Express credit card, you can help friends or family members boost their credit while boosting your own rewards-earning. But this move can leave you with a high credit card bill if your authorized users take advantage of your generosity.
Having a strong credit score is important. Consumers need it to get approved for a mortgage loan, to finance the purchase of a car and to qualify for the best credit cards at the lowest interest rates.
By adding friends and family members – or anyone else you’d like – as authorized users on your American Express credit card account, you can help them build a credit score if they lack one or improve one that’s weak. Just be careful: Authorized users can cause you financial pain if they overspend each month.
What is an authorized user?
An authorized user is someone who can use your credit card account to make purchases. Every purchase authorized users make goes onto your account.
These users, though, are not responsible for paying these charges. That’s up to you.
This is why it’s important to add only authorized users whom you trust to not run up charges on your account. You also need to create agreements with your authorized users on how much they can charge each month and when they need to pay for these purchases.
If you have added an authorized user who isn’t following your rules, however, keep in mind that you can remove that person from your American Express account whenever you’d like.
The most important benefit of adding an authorized user isn’t one that you receive. Adding users to your American Express card can help them build or repair their credit.
Every time you make an on-time payment, it’s reported to the three national credit bureaus – helping improve your credit score in addition to the scores of those listed as authorized users on your card.
One benefit for you as the primary cardholder? If you have an American Express credit card that generates rewards, authorized users can help you build those points faster. Every purchase authorized users make on your card will count toward your rewards bonuses.
Authorized user eligibility requirements
You can add anyone you’d like as an authorized user. Most people add family members, maybe their spouse or children. But you’re not limited to that: You can add friends or even people who work for you, such as a nanny or babysitter.
When adding authorized users, you need to provide the person’s name, date of birth and Social Security number. You don’t have to provide authorized users’ birth dates and Social Security numbers immediately when applying for the card, but American Express does require you to provide this information within 60 days of application. If you don’t, the authorized user’s card will be deactivated. There’s one other limit, too – all authorized users must be at least 13 years old.
How to add an authorized user to your American Express account
Adding authorized users to your American Express account is a simple process. First, log in to your American Express account. On your account page, scroll down until you see the “Useful Links” option on the right side of the page. You can then click on “Add Someone to your Account.”
Your authorized user will usually get the same card that you hold. If you hold the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express, for example, your additional card member will also receive a Blue Cash Everyday card.
There are exceptions, though. If you hold The Platinum Card® from American Express card, you can sign your authorized users up for either the Platinum card or the authorized user Gold card (not to be confused with the American Express® Gold Card). This option offers a limited number of benefits from the Platinum card.
See related: Amex Platinum authorized user perks
You can add as many authorized users as you’d like. And if you have more than one American Express card, you can add authorized users to any of them.
Fee for adding an authorized user
Some American Express cards charge a fee for adding authorized users. Others don’t.
For instance, you can add five authorized users to your American Express Gold card for free. If you want to add more, you’ll pay an annual fee of $35 for each extra authorized user.
Adding authorized users to the American Express Platinum card is costlier: You’ll pay a total annual fee of $175 to add three additional Platinum card authorized users. You’ll also pay $175 each year for each additional user you add after those initial three.
In addition, you’ll pay a $175 annual fee for each authorized user you add to the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card.
All other American Express cards charge no annual fees for adding authorized users.
Managing authorized user access
American Express does give primary cardholders some control over the authorized users on their account.
First, the charges that each authorized user makes on your account are itemized on your monthly statements. American Express also allows you to check the balances on your additional cards through your online account at any time.
Unlike some credit card providers, American Express lets you set a monthly spending limit for each of your authorized users. You can set this limit as low as $200 up to your full credit limit.
Pros and cons of adding an authorized user
There are both benefits and potential pitfalls to adding authorized users to your American Express card.
- Increased rewards: The purchases your authorized users make all count toward your rewards points and cash back bonuses. Adding authorized users, then, can help you earn rewards and cash back at a faster pace.
- You can help your children build credit scores: Want your children to steadily build a strong credit score? Adding them as authorized users can help do this. Many younger adults have no credit score at all because they don’t have enough of a credit history to have built one. Every time you make an on-time payment on your American Express account, it will strengthen your credit score, as well as help users who don’t have a score build one of their own.
- Help to those with damaged scores: Maybe you know a family member or friend with a weak credit score. By adding them as authorized users, you can help them repair their weak scores. Again, every payment you make on time is reported to the credit bureaus. These payments will also count for your authorized users, helping them improve their scores over time.
- You’re responsible for authorized users’ charges: You’re responsible for any charges your authorized users make each month. If they run up an excessive amount of debt and refuse to pay for it? You’re responsible for covering that payment. You can control some of this by setting spending limits for authorized users, but adding additional cards to your account is still risky.
- A damaged debt-to-income ratio? Your debt-to-income ratio, a measure of how much of your gross monthly income your monthly debts consume, is an important number for your credit score. If your authorized users add too much debt to your American Express card and refuse to pay it off, it could hurt this ratio. This is especially true if you can’t afford to pay off those charges on your own.
Should you add an authorized user to your American Express card?
Adding authorized users is a worthwhile move if you want to help a family member or friend boost his or her credit. The move, though, could be risky if your authorized users charge too much each month. Add only authorized users whom you trust to abide by any spending rules you set up for them.