Matt About Money

Act fast to remove authorized users when your credit goes south


Authorized users on your credit card account suffer when your credit hits the skids. Our expert shows how to remove those users to minimize the damage.

The content on this page is accurate as of the posting date; however, some of our partner offers may have expired. Please review our list of best credit cards, or use our CardMatch™ tool to find cards matched to your needs.

Question for the expert

Dear Opening Credits,
I added my son and my daughter as authorized users on my credit card while they were in college in order to facilitate their need to purchase school supplies, food and minor expenses. I paid their education either by credit card, loans or checks. Now my Capital One account is in default because I lost my job and ended up taking a position that pays $20,000 less. I tried to negotiate a plan with the credit card company. They refused to lower my interest rate, which they have at almost 30 percent, and demanded a full payment immediately, which I am unable to do. Now the situation is pending with an attorney they have appointed, but this status is affecting my children’s credit score. They were only authorized users on the card and are not responsible for the debt. My son is trying to establish credit to purchase a car, but his credit score is being hurt by this pending situation. The credit card company will not talk to him and will not talk to me — they immediately refer us to the attorney holding the case. How can I remove my son and my daughter off the credit card as authorized users since they have not used it in over two years and are not dependents anymore? Should my attorney handle this, or can I just send a letter to the credit bureaus? Please help. — Desperate Mom In Oregon

Answer for the expert

Dear Desperate Mom In Oregon,
Your situation perfectly illustrates why combining credit accounts with others can lead to great financial distress for all concerned.

I do get why you added your college-aged children to your credit card as authorized users — a technique known as “piggybacking.” Providing them with the ability to make autonomous spending decisions not only benefits them, it frees you up from having to approve every transaction. Also if you, as the primary account holder, keep the account in good standing, they gain by having the positive information from that account reported to their own credit reports. The problem is, if payments are made late, the balance nears or exceeds the credit limit or the account slides into collections or a lawsuit, all authorized users also suffer the damage.

So what can be done now? The short answer is that you absolutely can have your children removed from the card. The account in question was issued to you based on your financial status and credit history, not theirs. Your son and daughter are merely guests on the account, and it is your right as the host to remove them any time you wish.

Collection agencies and lawyers can be difficult to deal with, but they do have to communicate with you. Immediately write and send a letter to both Capital One and its attorney, explaining that you want your children expunged from the account. Give a date for when you expect their names to be removed (10 business days from that day’s date is reasonable). Of course, you can have your attorney handle this for you, but give it a try yourself first. After all, a lawyer’s fees will eat up funds you clearly don’t have right now. If they are still resistant to your request, you can always call in the hired guns.

Once your kids are removed from your Capital One account, their credit reports should recover from the damage quickly, as all evidence of that account will be gone. It’s a good idea to have them pull their reports to make sure the information has been deleted, though. If it’s not, then you’ll have to deal with the bureaus.

Now, on to a couple of other important issues, Desperate Mom in Oregon. I know this warning comes too late, but I never recommend paying for higher education expenses — especially someone else’s — with credit cards or loans (with the possible exception of PLUS loans, which are student loans granted to parents, as they typically have pretty decent terms and interest rates). Almost all college students are eligible to receive their own student loans, and if you weren’t able to cover the cost with savings, it would have been a better idea for them to have borrowed independently.

As far as that delinquent account, you’ve got to deal with it — and fast. With an interest rate of nearly 30 percent, the balance is escalating. I understand that you have tried to negotiate with them with no success, but have you tried offering money as an enticement? Try sending a partial payment, with a promissory letter saying something like: “I can’t afford to pay the total balance now, but here’s my first check of X, and I will send you the same or more every month on this date until the account is paid in full.” It’s possible to avoid a lawsuit this way. You may also consider selling some assets and applying the proceeds to the balance due. With a bulk sum, you can possibly even arrange a debt settlement.

Yet another option is to have your son and daughter pay you back. You were kind enough to support them through their college years, and now your son wants to buy a car. How about kicking some cash your way first?

See related:How debt settlement works and how it affects credit scores, The basics of debt settlement, 11 tips for dealing with debt collectors, Piggybacking, meant to jump-start credit, can backfire, Cure your defaulted student loan in six steps, Authorized users don’t have to pay for cardholder missteps, College students love, hate new credit card law, Credit card marketers drop out of college

Meet’s reader Q&A experts

Does a personal finance problem have you worried? Monday through Saturday,’s Q&A experts answer questions from readers. Ask a question, or click on any expert to see their previous answers.




Editorial Disclaimer

The editorial content on this page is based solely on the objective assessment of our writers and is not driven by advertising dollars. It has not been provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products from our partners.

What’s up next?

In Matt About Money

Trade credit card for debit? Remember your credit score

A reader asks: If I use my debit card all the time instead of my credit card, what impact will that have on my credit score?

See more stories
Credit Card Rate Report
Cash Back

Questions or comments?

Contact us

Editorial corrections policies

Learn more