You can boost a child’s credit by adding them as an authorized user, but cards’ policies vary widely on how old the child must be.
Some parents want to give their child’s credit history an early start by adding them as an authorized user to their credit cards before they reach adulthood. But before you add your child to your card, you need to consider card issuer rules.At an appropriate age, adding your child as an authorized user on your credit card can help them build credit, provide access to funds in an emergency and offer lessons on using an account responsibly, says Brette Sember, author of “The Complete Credit Repair Kit.”
“They’re going to be using credit for the rest of their lives, so it makes sense that you as a parent should teach them how to use it carefully from an early age,” she says.
Can you add a minor or child as an authorized user?
Most major card issuers allow you to add a minor as an authorized user. Some issuers impose a minimum age, while others don’t – but a few cards prohibit cardholders from adding minors altogether.
The question of whether you can add your child to your card as an authorized user hinges on age.
Bank of America, Capital One, Chase, Wells Fargo and Citibank have no minimum age requirements for adding authorized users to credit card accounts. However, Chase does include fees on some of its cards when adding authorized users. For example, the Chase Sapphire Reserve has a $75 fee per year per user added to the account.
While some parents might be tempted to put a newborn on a credit card as an authorized user so they can have 18 years of credit history before applying for their own credit lines, there’s no need to rush.
First, it’s not necessary because a few years is plenty of time for a kid to build a credit history and an excellent score. Also, adding a child too early can backfire. If you run into financial difficulties and stop making payments on that card and your credit tanks as a result, your kid’s credit will take a hit, too, unless you remove them from the card.
|Minors allowed?||Minimum age||Number of users allowed||Fees|
|American Express||Yes||13||Not specified||$0–$175|
|Bank of America||Yes||None||Up to 5||Free|
|Discover||Yes||15||Up to 5||Free|
|Synchrony||Yes||None||3 to 6||Free|
|U.S. Bank||Yes||16||Up to 7||Free|
Updated: September 2021
What you need to know about adding authorized users to your credit card
Before adding your child to your card, consider the ins and outs of how the issuer handles authorized users to make sure you (and your child) get the desired benefits without getting hit by high fees.
Here are key factors to consider when adding authorized users to your credit card:
- Almost all cards from major issuers allow you to add an authorized user for free, but a few premium cards charge a hefty fee. Platinum Card® from American Express cardholders must pay a flat $175 fee each year for adding up to three additional card guests, then $175 more for each additional Platinum Card after. The Chase Sapphire Reserve charges a $75 annual fee for each additional authorized user card.
- Most major issuers report an authorized user account on the guest’s credit files. However, some issuers report both positive and negative information (such as late payments) associated with the main account on the authorized user’s credit, while others report only positive items.
- American Express is the only major issuer that issues authorized user cards with different card numbers and allows the primary cardholder to set spending limits for, and receive alerts about, the authorized user’s spending.
In a pinch, Discover offers its “Freeze it” option to temporarily freeze and unfreeze your account in seconds online or on the mobile app. This could be used to halt all purchases if, for example, your child loses their card. However, the downside is it also freezes your own line of credit at the same time.
How to add someone as an authorized user to your credit card
Since most credit card issuers have online banking for account management, you can usually add an authorized user online.
- Log in to your credit card account profile.
- Find the account or financial services hub page for your credit card.
- Look for an option called “Order a card for someone else” or “Add user to account.”
- Follow the issuer’s process, providing name, date of birth (if required) and Social Security number and adding any spending limits or restrictions to the card.
- Once complete, the card with the user’s name should arrive in the mail.
If you’re having trouble adding your child or someone else to your credit card as an authorized user online, you can also call the number on the back of your credit card to speak with a representative and get the process started.
How to remove authorized users from your credit card
Eventually, the day will come when it’s time to remove your child from your card.
You might decide to remove them if they use your card irresponsibly, but ideally, it will be because they’re ready to get their own card.
At age 18, a young adult can legally enter into a contract and perhaps get a card. However, the CARD Act of 2009 made it harder for people under 21 to get credit cards, and they must show proof of income or get a co-signer. Unlike adding your child as an authorized user, most credit card issuers don’t have an online process for this. Typically, you’re required to call in to remove an authorized user.
- Take out your credit card and call the customer service number on the back of the card.
- Enter your card number, SSN or account number to verify your information.
- Follow the phone prompts to get to a customer service representative or account services.
- Ask to remove an authorized user from the account.
- Inform the authorized user that they were removed from the account and that their card is no longer active. Typically, the removal is instant and the card is immediately deactivated.
See related: Everything you need to know about authorized users
Pros and cons of adding a child or a minor to your card
Pros of adding your child as an authorized user
- Teaches financial responsibility before adulthood: Your child can learn more about how credit cards and billing cycles work when using a card on their own.
- Establishes a credit profile earlier in life: Instead of waiting until they are 18, your child can start building a positive credit history as long as the card is used responsibly.
- Cards can be used in an emergency: If an emergency pops up and you can’t be there to resolve it, a credit card might be able to help them with a flat tire, empty gas tank or even an emergency grocery trip.
Cons of adding your child as an authorized user
- Fees may apply for each authorized user: Some card issuers charge annual fees per person added as an authorized user.
- Their spending may affect your credit utilization and credit score: Your credit utilization ratio may rise with the addition of someone else spending on your account. Be sure to set limits and restrictions on when the card can and can’t be used.
- Additional cards create more risk of theft and fraud: Another user on your account means more risk of credit card fraud via unsafe online shopping practices or simply misplacing the credit card in public.
Credit card authorized users FAQs
Will adding my child to my credit card hurt my credit score?
Generally, adding your child to your credit card will not hurt your credit score, as long as they use the card responsibly, and you keep an eye on your credit utilization ratio and make timely payments on your account.
What is the cost of adding an authorized user?
Most card issuers do not charge fees for additional users on credit card accounts. Bank of America, Barclays and Capital One do not impose fees for adding authorized users. However, Chase and American Express charge fees on their premium credit cards for additional users.
Does adding an authorized user help your credit?
Yes, if you have responsible credit card habits, then adding an authorized user will help their credit. Your credit card account will be added to the user’s credit report and positive payment history. And your credit utilization ratio and account age will be factored into their credit score.
How many authorized users can I add to a single card account?
It depends on the card issuer. Discover limits the number of authorized users to five, while some card issuers don’t specify limits. However, some card issuers do require authorized users be family members who live at the same address.
Is an authorized user relationship or a joint account holder better?
It depends on the situation. If you’re opening an account to share with a partner or spouse, than a joint account holder relationship may be the way to go. However, note that few issuers still offer joint credit card accounts. If you are just extending your credit line to someone else or want to help a family member build credit, then an authorized user relationship is likely the right choice.
Typically, the minimum age to be an authorized user is 13, but some card issuers like Capital One, Citibank and Wells Fargo don’t specify the minimum age. However, you shouldn’t add just anyone under 18 years old as an authorized user on your credit card just to help them build credit or give them access to your credit line.
When adding a minor or child as an authorized user on a credit card, make sure to set boundaries and restrictions on spending or use. Teach them how to responsibly handle a credit card and make sure they understand the financial impact of charging plastic and how it could affect both of your credit scores.
*Information was collected independently by contacting customer representatives at each card issuer represented in the table.