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Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here – Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard, Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Card, Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard
Many credit cards offer incentives for adding an authorized user. For example, the current sign-up bonus from the Chase Sapphire Preferred offers 50,000 points when you spend $4,000 in 3 months, plus an additional 5,000 points when you add an authorized user to your account and they make a purchase within the first 3 months. Thus, one of the questions I get most often from readers is whether adding authorized users to your account is worthwhile, and why.
I have covered this topic before in the following posts:
- Benefits and Costs of Adding Additional Cardholders on Credit Cards
- Additional Cardholders and Future Credit Card Bonuses
- What Are The Effects of Adding An Additional Cardholder?
But I thought it would be a good idea to refresh your memory and look at the value of current offers for adding authorized users, and whether they’re worthwhile.
Pros and Cons of Additional Cardholders
On the pro side of the equation, there are a number of factors to consider, including the following.
Double Your Earning: When you add a cardholder to your account, any spending they do on the card automatically earns you points, miles or cash back, since their spending falls under the umbrella of your account. While this is a useful strategy for married couples, it can also be helpful if you’re on the same account as a relative who pays off their own bills, since their spending earns you points at no extra cost to yourself.
Hitting Spending Thresholds: Adding authorized users can also make it easier not only to hit minimum spending thresholds to earn a sign-up bonus, but also to hit annual or calendar-year spending threshold bonuses such as the British Airways “Travel Together” companion ticket or the Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard’s 10,000 EQM bonus for spending $40,000 in a calendar year.
Access to Credit: One of the great things about being able to add authorized users is that it gives people who might not otherwise be credit-worthy – whether due to past mistakes or perhaps a lack of credit history – access to a line of credit and a way to build or repair their credit score before applying for cards in their own right.
Double the Bonuses: Being an additional cardholder or authorized user on an account does not preclude someone from signing up for that card in their own right to score future bonuses. Couples can even both get in on the same bonus offers (after making sure they can each meet spending requirements!), and then add each other as authorized users on each account to earn any additional bonus points that might be offered for doing so.
Transferability: When it comes to transferable points such as American Express Membership Rewards and Chase Ultimate Rewards, being able to send some points to other people’s accounts can be a huge boon, especially when they need to book an award right away. Unfortunately, both issuers have cracked down recently on points transfers, and you can only send your points to the frequent flyer or hotel accounts of a spouse, authorized user, or employee in some cases. The notable exception to this is Citi ThankYou Rewards, which you can transfer to anyone (though they expire within 90 days if you transfer between ThankYou accounts, or are otherwise subject to the expiration policies of the transfer partner). So adding an authorized user is a good way to share the points love if you are going to be transferring back and forth a lot in the future.
There are two main considerations when deciding whether to add an authorized user to your account.
Additional Fees: Although many credit cards let you add authorized users to your account for free, there are several out there that charge a fee either per additional user or for a number of users. For instance, The Platinum Card® from American Express, offers members the ability to add up to three additional cardholders for $175 total, and then charges $175 for each additional card beyond the first three.
Your Credit Score: Remember, when you add an authorized user to your account, it’s your credit score that’s on the line. If your additional cardholder charges up a fortune or doesn’t pay their bills, you’ll be on the hook for it. So it pays to know your authorized user and their spending history and habits intimately. This is especially true for charge cards like the Ink Bold from Chase, where you have to pay off your balance in full every month or incur enormous fees.
Current Offers, Fees and Benefits
Additional cardholder fees and benefits can vary greatly by issuer and product, so review the terms carefully. Here’s a list of the current terms for major points-earning travel credit cards out there and what benefits they offer to authorized users, as well as the cost of adding them to your accounts.
Platinum Card: $175 for up to three additional cards, then $175 per card after that. Additional cardholders get pretty much the entire suite of perks that primary cardholders do, including Priority Pass and Centurion Lounge access, Delta SkyClub access, a $100 credit for Global Entry or $85 TSA Pre-Check fee (when the application fee is charged on the additional card) and SPG Gold status. Just note that the one benefit additional cardholders do not get is an additional calendar year $200 airline rebate. That $200 is taken from charges on all the cards in the same account.
The Business Platinum® Card from American Express OPEN: $300 fee for each additional Business Platinum card. Benefits for authorized users are similar to those offered by the personal Platinum card.
Premier Rewards Gold Card: There is no annual fee for up to 5 additional cards. The annual fee for 6 or more additional cards is $35 for each card. Authorized users get no extra benefits, but having additional cardholders can help you hit the $30,000 calendar year spend threshold (and thus earn 15,000 bonus points) faster.
Business Gold Rewards Card: Introductory annual fee of $0 for the first year; then $50 for the first Business Gold Rewards Card and no fee for the rest. No additional benefits, but same benefits as primary cardholder with OPEN discounts.
EveryDay Preferred Card: $0 to add an authorized user, no additional benefits. Having another user can help you meet the minimum spending threshold on this card, as well as the monthly transaction thresholds to score the 50% point earning bonus.
Starwood Preferred Guest: $0 to add an authorized user, no additional benefits. Having an additional user can help you hit the minimum spending requirement for the sign-up bonus, as well as the calendar year spending bonus of SPG Gold Status for spending $30,000.
Delta Platinum SkyMiles: $0 and no extra benefits (including no checked bag fee waiver for authorized users), but purchases will help the primary cardmember earn sign-up and spending threshold bonuses, including bonus MQMs, and the $25,000 threshold to waive Delta’s Medallion Qualifying Dollar threshold.
Delta Reserve: $175 per additional card, with no limit to the number of additional cards that can be requested. As of May 1, 2014, only the Delta Reserve Card Member will have complimentary Sky Club access (and be allowed up to two guests per visit at a discounted rate of $29 per guest, plus additional guests at the standard rate). In order to receive a baggage fee waiver and priority boarding, the additional cardholder must be traveling with the primary card member. Spending by additional cardholders will count toward thresholds and earn additional MQMs for the primary cardholder.
Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard: $0 to add an authorized user, no additional benefits.
Hawaiian Airlines World Elite Mastercard: $0 to add authorized user, with no additional benefits. Only the primary cardholder gets the free checked bag, one-time 50% companion discount on round-trip coach travel between Hawaii and North America, and anniversary $100 discount for a coach companion ticket.
US Airways MasterCard: $0 to add authorized users, with no additional benefits. Card benefits such as free checked bag and Zone 2 boarding apply only to the primary cardholder.
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card: $0 for up to five additional cards, with no additional benefits.
Sapphire Preferred: $0, and new applicants get a 5,000-point bonus when they add an authorized user within 3 months and make a purchase. No additional benefits are provided, but authorized users receive the same category bonuses like 2x points on travel and dining.
Sapphire: $0, and new applicants get a 2,500-point bonus when they add an authorized user within 3 months and make a purchase. No additional benefits are provided, but authorized users receive the same category bonuses like 2x points on dining.
Freedom: $0, and new applicants get a $25 cash back for adding an authorized user and making a purchase within 3 months. The $1,500 cap on the quarterly 5% cash back bonus applies to all cards on the same account.
Ink Bold and Ink Plus: $0 with no additional benefits, but authorized users have reported getting their own annual lounge passes and Lounge Club membership. The $50,000 yearly cap on category spending bonuses (i.e., 5x on office supplies and telecommunications, 2x on hotels and gas) applies across all cards on the account.
United MileagePlus Explorer Card: $0 for additional cards, 5,000 bonus miles when you add an authorized user within 3 months and make a purchase. Card benefits like free first checked bag, priority boarding and 2 annual United Club passes apply only to the primary cardholder and a companion on the same reservation.
United Club Card: $0, but only primary cardholder and travel companions get United Club access, free first and second checked bag, Premier Access, close-in booking fee waiver, any-seat-any-time award availability, Hyatt Platinum status, Avis First membership, etc.
Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Visa: $0 with no additional benefits, but the extra spending can help toward earning Tier-Qualifying Points (1,500 for every $10,000 in purchases up to 15,000 points per calendar year) and Companion Pass qualification.
Marriott Premier Visa: $0 with no additional benefits, though the spending can help earn 1 elite credit per $3,000 spent.
Ritz-Carlton Card: $0 for additional cardholders. Authorized users are eligible for their own Lounge Club membership. Other benefits including Gold Elite status only apply to the primary cardholder. The $200 annual airline reimbursement is drawn from all users on the account. The three annual Club Level upgrades are also a total for the primary cardholder and authorized users.
IHG Rewards Club Select MasterCard: $0 with no additional benefits. Automatic Platinum status is for the primary cardholder only.
Citi Platinum Select AAdvantage MasterCard: $0 with no additional benefits. Only the primary cardholder and travel companions gets benefits like free checked bags, priority boarding, etc.
Citi AAdvantage Executive World Mastercard: $0 with no additional benefits. Primary cardholder and travel companions get Admirals Club membership. To receive the other benefits like first checked bag free and enhanced airport experience, the primary cardholder must be traveling. Spending from all cards on the account applies toward earning up to 10,000 EQMs when you make $40,000+ in purchases in a calendar year.
Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve: $0 with no additional benefits. Perks like automatic Gold status and Diamond status if you spend $40,000 in a calendar year go to the primary cardholder.
Citi Premier Card: $0 with no additional benefits.
Citi Prestige: $50 for each authorized user. The annual $250 airfare credit applies to all cards in the same account. Only the primary cardholder and up to 2 guests get Admirals Club access; authorized users cannot access lounges on their own.
Bank of America
Virgin Atlantic World Elite MasterCard: $0 with no additional benefits, but when you sign-up for the card and add two additional cardholders, you get 5,000 bonus miles (2,500 miles each).
Club Carlson Premier Visa: $0 with no additional benefits, and benefits like automatic Gold Elite status are only given to the primary cardholder.