Are Authorized Users Still Eligible to Earn Sign-Up Bonuses?
Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here.
TPG reader Angela sent me a message on Facebook to ask about earning credit card sign-up bonuses:
“My fiancé applied for the Chase Sapphire Preferred card recently, and got an additional card for me as an authorized user. I later received a pre-approved offer for the same card, but it says current cardholders are ineligible for the bonus. Am I considered a current cardholder since I'm an authorized user on his account, or can I still apply and earn my own bonus?”
There are several benefits to adding authorized users on your credit card accounts. The additional purchasing power makes it easier to meet spending requirements for bonuses, and secondary cardholders often get to share certain card benefits. Some cards even offer an incentive to add users as part of your sign-up bonus — for example, the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card offers 5,000 Ultimate Rewards points when you add an authorized user and make a purchase within the first three months.
Best of all, being listed as an authorized user on someone else's card does not prohibit you from applying for your own card and earning a sign-up bonus. Card issuers sometimes limit sign-up bonuses to exclude existing customers or anyone who earned a similar bonus recently (or ever, in some cases), but that only applies to primary cardholders. Being listed as a secondary cardholder won't affect your eligibility.
That means not only can Angela get the Sapphire Preferred card and earn a sign-up bonus, but also she can add her fiancé as an authorized user to earn the extra 5,000 bonus points on her own account. The same goes for other cards that offer a bonus for adding an authorized user, like the United MileagePlus Explorer Card or the Chase Freedom Card (No longer open to new applicants).
While being added as an authorized user is generally beneficial (so long as the primary account is in good standing), it may impede you from getting approved for some cards that earn Ultimate Rewards points. In 2015, Chase began automatically denying applications from anyone who has opened five or more cards (from any issuer) in the previous 24 months. Reports indicate that some authorized user accounts have been counted in that total, which is one reason why I recommend making Sapphire Preferred your first card in 2016.
Fortunately, that's the exception and not the rule. If you're an authorized user on someone else's account, you can rest easy knowing that you're still eligible to earn your own sign-up bonus down the line. For more on authorized user accounts and the Sapphire Preferred card, check out these posts:
- Do Authorized User Purchases Count toward Credit Card Bonuses?
- Does Adding an Authorized User Affect My Credit Score?
- 50,000 Points from Chase Sapphire Preferred Sign-up Bonus