Sunday Reader Email Question: Can Adding an Additional Cardholder Improve Credit?

by on August 7, 2011 · 27 comments

in Credit Cards, Sunday Reader Questions

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TPG Reader Kris writes:
“I have excellent credit, while my fiance’s is not so great … He has about 7 thousand in credit card debt on two cards with a total credit limit of 14 thousand dollars or so. Because of that he’s been unable and unwilling to get into mileage game. Would adding him as an authorized user on one or more of my cards bump up his credit at all? It takes twice the time to earn amazing vacations if only one of us can get the credit!”

In short, yes – your husband will benefit by being added as an authorized user on your credit cards as long as they are being paid on time and the balances kept low. Authorized users are reported to all of the major credit reporting bureaus, so he will probably see a bump in his score due to adding more positive accounts to his credit report. Check out this post on how FICO scores are calculated - he will also benefit from the length of time you’ve had your accounts in good standing.

This is also a great way for parents to help build their children’s credit. Most card issuers will allow you to set a limit on the amount an authorized user can spend, so you don’t have to worry about them spending past an amount you are comfortable with. Adding a user who has bad credit will not negatively affect yours, as long as everything is paid on time and your debt to available credit ratio does not spike up.

In general, while credit cards can be the keys to the mileage and points kingdom, you should really do research if you are carrying balances. While getting mileage bonuses may be tempting, depending on the balance you carry, it may make sense to get a card with 0% APR (like the Chase Slate card) so you can work to pay off the balance while it is interest free (note: there is a 3% balance transfer fee so do the math to make sure it would make sense).

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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  • Nic

    Interesting because most of the issuers don’t request SS for the authorized user. So I am not sure how they tied to that person.

  • Anonymous

    Amex requires a ssn and I bet others as well, though I haven’t personally added a user to my chase/citi cards

  • Nic

    Yes, amex does, chase and citi don’t.

  • CatJo

    Chase didn’t ask me for a SSN when I just added someone to my Sapphire.

  • PJ

    Amex MR program DOES allow CO points to go to an authorizer user on the card while Chase requires you need to be a COSIGNER to transfer Freedom points into Sapphire Preferred. or the Sapphire primary holder HAS TO BE the COSIGNER of the freedom cards to shovel Freedom points into Sapphire Preferred. I was amazed to learn they have to send the paper back and forth in mail to get signed and sent back. Wonder which area of Chase I can call to speed up my daughter ( the Sapphire primary holder) as COSIGNER of my Freedom cards ( Visa and Mastercard) ; I am a authorizer user of the Sapphire. I do not want to be the Cosigner on her Sapphire since soon I will try my own Sapphire Preferred thinking me as a Sapphire cosigner risk rejection tho our r all excellent credit

  • PJ

    I can not figure out this: I applied more than a few cards ( blames to TPG) in the last 2~3 months per creditsesame my credit score went up from mid 780 to almost 810 wonder if this has to do with me paying all purchases pretty much as they are posted instead of waitng until the auto pay to take over ? I paid off my daughter’s accounts same way ; her score went from ~810 to +830

  • Cal1st0

    That is exactly what I was thinking. I have recently added my husband to 2 of my credit cards-chase and citi. Neither asked for a SSN. When he added me to discover, they didn’t ask either. However, I do remember my ex-husband’s discover reporting on my credit as an authorized user.

  • Dave

    How about turning things around the other way…I had to short sell my townhouse during the housing crisis so my credit is trash. Thankfully, we never put my wife’s name on the deed so her credit is still wonderful and she’s been able to get in on the recent British Airways and Chase Sapphire card deals and add me as an additional cardholder on her accounts. I have older Chase Signature cards, would it further raise my credit score to add her to my cards as a joint cardholder?

  • Dewhit6959

    Why would you want to get him “into the game” when he does not want to play ? This is his seven thousand dollar credit card debt and he obviously must feel it needs to be addressed before occurring additional debt for travel rewards. Let sleeping dogs lie and don’t compound the problem.

  • Brian

    With Chase you could add Mickey Mouse and they probably wouldn’t know.

  • Guest

    I am currently a secondary card holder on a centurion card. The primarily account holder has a less favorable credit score then I have. Will my score be negatively impacted? It was always my understanding that being a secondary card holder does not impact your credit score.

  • YahooRocks


    Not all issuers report additional users to CR agencies any more. As others have said, many do not even ask for the SSN of additional users. AmEx is one of the few that still do, however you can respectfully decline their request if you do not want to provide SSNs for whatever reason, and they’ll hesitantly process the request any way. To ensure reporting, one should do a “joint” application, however if one of the person’s credit is bad, the application will likely get declined altogether.

  • Carl

    Yep, he needs to address his credit problems by paying off his existing debt before taking on new credit. This is not the game for those with credit problems or high amounts of unsecured debt. Instead of taking fantastic vacations, suggest a part-time job to clean up the balances.

    Also, adding an authorized user is the same as co-signing a note, which is a really bad idea. If he is unable to satisfy the debt, the account holder is responsible for payment.

  • Latimer

    this was most likely a result of your total credit limit increasing, which probably improved your debt to CL ratio

  • HoKo

    @TPG et al.

    Since when does AMEX require SSN’s? I have added multiple authorized users to my SPG account in the past year and was never once asked for SSN’s.

    Same thing for Chase… Haven’t tried it with Citi

  • HoKo

    @TPG et al.

    Since when does AMEX require SSN’s? I have added multiple authorized users to my SPG account in the past year and was never once asked for SSN’s.

    Same thing for Chase… Haven’t tried it with Citi

  • Anonymous

    I did it recently for the Plat card and it asked for SSN.. maybe because its a charge card?

  • Anonymous

    Your score shouldn’t be impacted as long as the Centurion account is in good standing and is paid off on time.

  • Anonymous

    An AU on your card won’t help your credit score. You are benefiting by being associated with her good accounts, but her being on yours shouldn’t have an impact

  • Sss

    No offense, but this info is incorrect (I used to work for a cc company). There is a difference between being a co-signer/joint user responsible for the debt, and an authorized user who can incur debt on the card without having responsibility to pay. For the former, the companies that still allow you to do it (some phased it out in the early 2000′s) will report this as actual debt being paid down to whichever credit agency it reports to. In those instances there is an immediate positive impact. In the later cases, as said here, its a case by case basis on whether they report to a CC company – if done correctly, you are only added as an “authorized user” and the impact to your score isn’t that great if anything. The best way the questioner can get her hubby’s credit up is to have him take out a card with a small loan and start carrying a balance month-to-month and paying it down (none of the paying it every month stuff), co-sign on a car loan or mortgage (those really help if you make on time payments for a couple years), check all three reports for any reports of bad debt or incorrect lines of credit and work on getting those taken off (contact the bureau for incorrect reports, contact the creditor to possible work them taking off their flag). If none of these options work and his credit is that bad, you can start him off with a secured line of credit with a bank and start carrying a balance on that. Let me know if you have any additional questions.

  • Joshua Pickles

    I got one from Chase in my birds name.

  • Jason

    YahooRocks – can you elaborate any on telling AMEX to ignore the SSN questions? It seems on all the online forms they will ask when adding an AU. Did you just call and ask and tell them you won;t give it? They do have a blacklist of which they compare SS numbers too. Thanks.

  • Mikes

    I added myself to my wife’s Cap1 last week (with the intent of cancelling mine before the annual fee comes around so we don’t pay twice). Cap1 did indeed require my SSN to issue the extra card.

  • aba

    I also did it with my plat, spg and delta plat and asked for SSN. But when i did it for delta gold no SSN was asked. i believe it depends on service personnel

  • Chemist661

    If Kris or her finance has a relative that have an ancient AMEX (opened years ago and still open), have them add her finance as an authorized user. Say the primary’s AMEX was opened years ago (say in the 1960′s-1990′s), her finance will inherit their positive pay history and the old age of the account.

    Kris could add the finance as an authorized user but keep the physical cards. He will inherit her positive history. This assumes that the accounts have low statement balance to credit limits, the account is fairly old (older, the better) and has no negative history.

    Check http://www.creditboards/forums under the “credit” thread for interesting reading. On one of the threads, one of the posters has sponsored certain users on creditboards and they gained very positive history. (His AMEX was opened in 1982).

  • Jmlynch47

    I believe that the additional user only can take advantage of this strategy when the additional user’s social security number is required in the request for the additional card; otherwise, the credit reporting agencies have no way of identifying that the additional user is on the account.

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