Card issuers’ policies vary in the details, so if you need to remove an authorized user from your account, here’s how to do it.
If you allowed a person to use your credit card as an authorized user, eventually, the time may come when you want to revoke their privileges. As the primary account owner, it is your decision to break off the arrangement for any reason and at any time. But while the credit card issuer won’t ask for an explanation, it is often a good idea to first notify the person who has access to your account.
Here is what making a person an authorized user on your account does, some excellent reasons to remove a person from your credit card account and how to properly (and gracefully) do it with each of the major credit card issuers.
Rights and restrictions of an authorized user
All major credit card issuers let primary account owners assign additional cardholders. Authorized users don’t have to go through a qualification process because they are never account owners. Instead, they are guests invited by you.
The credit cards they receive have the same account numbers as yours but are imprinted with their names. Users are legally permitted to make transactions, and very often can report lost or stolen cards, review and discuss account information with the issuer, initiate billing disputes and make payments. Some may even be able to complete a balance transfer.
As the primary account holder, and depending on the issuer and card, you may be able to set a lower limit for authorized users so they don’t have total access to your credit line.
Most credit issuers furnish account information to authorized users’ credit reports, and once listed, the account activity will be factored into that person’s credit scores. As long as you handle the account well by making all payments on time and keeping the credit utilization ratio low, the authorized user’s credit history and credit scores benefit.
Authorized users, however, are never obligated to pay the issuer. As the primary account holder, you are entirely liable for payments and debt even if you didn’t make the charges. Therefore, it is important for you to always maintain control over the account.
To start, draw up a set of rules. For example, you may expect the authorized user to:
- Repay you for all or a portion of the charges
- Shop only at certain stores or buy specific things
- Not charge more than a fixed amount each month
- Contact you before making the transaction to get your permission
- Use the card only in extreme emergencies
The authorized user should be aware of all expectations before agreeing to the arrangement, as well as the consequences for faltering. Write everything down, and have all parties sign the agreement, said credit card expert Jason Steele. Clarity is an essential component of the authorized user relationship, even if the person is very young.
“I was 14 when my parents made me an authorized user on their account, and I’ve done it for my 13-year-old,” Steele said. “You have to make sure it’s a positive experience, and if it’s not, or no longer necessary, end it.”
When to remove an authorized user from your account
While you don’t need to offer a reason to the credit card issuer when you nullify the authorized user relationship, there are some sensible motivations to do so, including:
- Change of employment status: “It’s common for employers to make employees authorized users on their business cards,” Steele said. “But if their job duties or work travel needs change or the person leaves the company, remove them from the card.”
- Divorce or separation: Splitting couples need to pay attention to their cards, too, Steele said. If your partner is listed as an authorized user and you don’t trust that person to treat the credit card wisely, don’t delay in pulling access to the account.
- Broken rules: If the authorized user doesn’t abide by the agreement, you may want to pull the plug – especially if it resulted in unmanageable payments or a high balance that you have to deal with.
- Regain control: When other people have access to your credit card account, you may experience a growing sense of unease about the possibility of debt or credit damage. In the end, you may decide that sharing the account just isn’t right for you.
- Financial instability: You may have told the authorized user that you will cover the charges because you could afford them at the time. If your financial circumstances changed, though, and you’re no longer in the position to pay for them, that arrangement may not make sense.
- Reduced credit line: Credit card issuers have the right to lower credit lines, and if yours does, the account may not have enough charging power for extra cardholders.
- Account no longer in good standing: If you will be or are currently behind on payments or the balance has creeped up to be consistently more than 30% of the credit limit, the card isn’t doing the authorized user’s credit rating any good (or yours) so you may as well take the person off.
- Credit history established: If you wanted to help the person build credit history so they can qualify for their own card and that goal was hit, it may be time to transition the person off your card. “Authorized users get immediate value when the card is on the report,” said credit expert John Ulzheimer. “A perfectly managed credit card will help build a person’s credit, even if they aren’t the primary card owner.”
- No longer necessary: Many parents allow their young adult children to jump on their cards to cover potential emergencies and learn to use credit properly. That’s what Lisa Shamus, president of the branding firm Lisa Shamus & Partners, did. “I wanted her to have it when she was away at college and traveling abroad,” Shamus said. “I removed it when she graduated and got her first job. She got her own card and pays her own bills.”
And if an authorized user wants out of the arrangement? That person can leave your account at any time without your permission – or knowledge – by making a request over the phone to the credit card issuer.
How to tell an authorized user it’s over
While there’s no law or policy that stipulates that you must inform the person that you are removing them from your account, in many circumstances, it’s a good idea.
“If you have an authorized user who has abused the privilege, you need to remove the person from your account,” said Beverly Harzog, credit card expert. “Don’t scold the person but do explain why. This is an opportunity to educate someone about how credit works. And also discuss how irresponsible behavior with your credit card impacts both of your credit scores.”
In the event that you’re removing the person from your card for a positive or neutral reason, or it’s a personal decision that has nothing to do with them, simply explain your change of plans. Provide a date for when you’ll be taking that action so they can prepare, especially if they want to apply for a credit card or loan in their own name.
When you inform the credit card issuer that you are removing the authorized user from your account, the issuer will usually send a dispute form to the three credit reporting agencies: TransUnion, Equifax and Experian.
“Timing is important,” Ulzheimer said. “Authorized users should apply for their own cards while the card is still on their credit reports. If you remove them from your account, the card will be deleted from their credit reports so any value it gave them will be lost.”
Conversely, if you think the person will take the opportunity to make a lot of charges (as might be the case in an acrimonious breakup) an unannounced closure can protect you from unwanted debt.
In general, credit card issuers do not notify people that they are no longer authorized users. That’s up to you, the primary cardholder. Also, make sure you ask them to return the card to you or destroy it. If the person doesn’t and you believe they will attempt to use it, contact the issuer to have the account numbers changed, which will render all old cards unusable.
How to remove an authorized user from your account
Although adding an authorized user to your account can usually be done on the card issuer’s website, in app or over the phone, many issuers only remove authorized users over the phone.
Below are the customer service phone numbers for the major credit card issuers, and which issuers allow primary cardholders to remove authorized users online.
|Credit card issuer||Phone Number||Online|
|American Express||800-528-2122||American Express|
|Bank of America||800-732-9194||N/A|
|Capital One||800-227-4825||Capital One|
|Citibank||800-950-5114||Costco Anywhere Visa® Card|
Other Citi credit cards use “chat” function
Worried about how removing an authorized user from your account may affect your credit reports and scores? Don’t be.
“There will be no record that you’ve taken the person off your card because it was never on your report in the first place,” Ulzheimer said. “So, you don’t have to worry about any negative effect when you make the change.”
After you’ve contacted the issuer to make the request, reclaimed or destroyed the user’s card (or had the account numbers changed), there is nothing left for you to do. You’ll have the account all to yourself again.