Credit cards with the greatest value for authorized users in 2019

Nov 18, 2019

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

There are many advantages to adding an authorized user to a credit card account, both for the primary cardholder and additional ones. Doing so can help the primary cardholder hit certain spending requirements or thresholds and earn rewards faster. In turn,  authorized users can benefit from the primary cardholder’s credit score and improve their own credit.

Certain credit cards also extend some benefits to additional cardholders such as lounge access and statement credits for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck applications.

Here are some of the reasons you might want to consider adding other cardholders to your accounts, the best rewards cards for doing so and the perks given to authorized users:

In This Post

An overhead shot of the lounge.
Authorized users on some credit cards enjoy benefits like lounge access. (Photo by Eric Rosen/The Points Guy.)

Reasons to add authorized users

There are plenty of compelling reasons to add authorized users to your credit card accounts.

Increased sign-up bonuses. Some credit cards offer new applicants more bonus points for adding authorized users. In the past, the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card has offered new cardholders an extra 5,000 bonus points for adding an authorized user and having him or her make a purchase with the card within the first three months of account opening (however, this offer is no longer available).

American Express has also sent out targeted offers to cardmembers of various products, including the American Express® Gold Card and The Platinum Card® from American Express. In each case, you could earn 5,000 Membership Rewards® points for every authorized user you added who then spent $500 in the first three months on his or her card. Bonuses were capped at 20,000 points (equivalent to four additional users) on each card. (Targeted offers subject to change at anytime).

This type of additional-cardholder bonus is more typical with small-business cards, some of which offer supplementary cards for employees at no cost. For example, the Hawaiian Airlines Business Mastercard offers a welcome bonus of up to 70,000 bonus miles — 60,000 after you spend $1,000 in the first 90 days and an additional 10,000 when a purchase is made on an employee card in the first 90 days.

The JetBlue Business Card offers up to 60,000 bonus points — 50,000 after you spend $1,000 in the first 90 days and an additional 10,000 points when a purchase is made on an employee card in the first 90 days.

Adding children as authorized users can help them build their credit. (Photo by Getty Images.)

Rack up rewards faster. One of the best things about having additional cards on your account is that all the rewards points or miles they earn through everyday spending are credited to the primary cardholder. Of course, the primary cardholder is also responsible for making sure all those purchases are paid off. This shouldn’t be a problem if your authorized users are those you trust, or if you can place tracking alerts or spending controls on your additional cards.

Hitting spending thresholds. In the same vein, any spending on an authorized user’s card will count toward the primary cardholder’s spending activity and can help him or her hit the threshold for earning a sign-up bonus faster.

Activity on additional cards will also go toward achieving any of the spending-based annual benefits certain cards offer, like a free weekend night with the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card or earning additional Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) with either the Platinum Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express or the Delta Reserve® Credit Card from American Express.

Helping others build credit. Although your goal might be more points and more rewards for yourself, one of the best reasons to add authorized users to your credit card account is to help them build their own credit and raise their credit score. This can be especially beneficial for someone who might have bad or damaged credit, or for a teenager who is just starting out with credit and might not be able to qualify for a card on his or her own.

When someone is made an authorized user, the account is added to that person’s credit report. So if the account is handled responsibly, all the factors that can boost your score with your own accounts — on-time payments, low amounts owed, etc. — will eventually begin to raise the authorized user’s score too.

Account transfer options. Folks who earned transferrable points, such as American Express Membership Rewards and Chase Ultimate Rewards, used to be able to transfer those points to the partner accounts (frequent-flyer and hotel programs) of pretty much anyone they wanted. Not any more. Chase now only lets Ultimate Rewards earners transfer points to other members of their household. Amex will usually let you do so to the accounts of employees, authorized users or a spouse. So adding a relative, partner or employee to your account can be a useful way to stretch your transfer options.

Caveats

Despite all the benefits, there are a few drawbacks to adding authorized users to your credit card accounts. First, the primary cardholder is responsible for paying off all purchases, so you should only add someone you trust and put any spending controls you deem necessary in place. Many issuers will let primary cardholders both track spending and set spending limits on additional accounts, so this is fairly easy to manage.

Second, additional cards sometimes come at a cost. Before you open any, be sure you know whether you will have to pay annual fees for adding users to your account.

Third, many credit cards do not confer the same benefits upon authorized users that the primary cardholder enjoys. For example, the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard primary cardholder must be traveling with an authorized user to activate benefits such as free checked bags and priority boarding.

That said, if you know the requirements and limitations of taking on additional cards with your account, you should be able to maximize their value and benefits.

Best cards to add authorized users

These rewards cards offer fantastic perks to authorized users that make them well worth considering. We’ll go through the primary cardholder benefits first, then discuss which ones apply to additional cardholders.

The Platinum Card® from American Express

One of the top all-round premium rewards cards available offers comprehensive perks for the primary cardmember as well as some great authorized-user benefits.

Primary cardholder benefits

Read our full review of The Platinum Card from American Express here.

Authorized-user benefits. First, the bad news. Authorized users on Platinum Card accounts do not get their own airline, Saks, or Uber credits, though their spending will count toward the airline and Saks credits for the primary cardholder. They don’t receive Uber VIP status, either. However, their cards still earn the bonuses on airline and hotel purchases for the primary cardholder and have access to booking through Fine Hotels & Resorts, along with all the extra benefits that conveys.

More importantly, authorized users are entitled to their own Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application refunds, can register for the hotel and rental-car elite status, and also get access to the American Express Global Lounge collection with the same entry privileges as the primary cardmember. In terms of Centurion and Priority Pass lounges, that means they can bring two guests for free, though they can only enter Sky Clubs themselves (no guests allowed).

Additional card fees: You can receive up to three additional cards for $175, then the charge is $175 per card after that (see rates and fees). You can also get complimentary Amex Gold cards, which are different from the American Express® Gold Card. The complimentary Amex Gold card comes with the same 5x earned on flights booked directly with airlines or prepaid hotels at American Express Travel and 1x on all other spending. Each additional card is eligible for one statement credit every four years toward the Global Entry/TSA PreCheck application fee (up to $100). Incidental air travel fees charged by both Platinum and Gold card members are eligible for statement credits (up to $200 annually). These cards also can receive Amex Offers.

However, these free Amex Gold cardholders are not eligible for Priority Pass Select membership or for access to Centurion Lounges, nor are they eligible for other perks such as annual Uber credits and elite status at certain hotels and rental car agencies.

Cardmembers still may prefer the free version, since the regular American Express Gold Card comes with a $250 annual fee (see rates and fees).

(Photo by Isabelle Raphael / The Points Guy)
(Photo by Isabelle Raphael/The Points Guy.)

The Business Platinum® Card from American Express

Like the personal Platinum Card, the business version offers some outstanding perks not only to primary cardmembers but also to authorized users, including some the personal version does not include.

Primary cardholder benefits

Read our full review of The Business Platinum Card from American Express here.

Authorized-user benefits. Like the personal version, only certain perks are available to additional cardholders. For instance, they do not get their own airline fee or Dell credits. Like additional personal cardholders, though, they are eligible for Global Entry/TSA PreCheck refunds and receive access to Centurion, Priority Pass and Delta Sky Club lounges, among others.

Additional card fees. Business Platinum cardmembers can tack on additional cards for $300 each (see rates and fees), so it’s not nearly as good a deal as with the personal card, but still worth considering.

Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard®

Citi’s top-tier American Airlines cobranded card costs $450 per year. But for that, primary cardholders can expect a dozen value-added benefits:

Primary cardholder benefits

Read our full review of the Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard here.

Authorized-user benefits. Let’s cut to the chase — the best feature of this product is the fact that additional cardholders can also access American Airlines’ Admirals Clubs and bring immediate family members or up to two guests in with them for free. That alone is worth paying the main card’s annual fee.

Authorized users also receive the inflight discount, and their spending counts toward earning the bonus EQMs. However, they do not receive day-of-travel benefits like free checked bags or priority boarding when traveling without the primary cardmember. Nor are they eligible for their own Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee reimbursement.

Additional card fees. Here’s where this card really proves its value: You can add up to 10 authorized users for free, each of whom has Admirals Club access and can bring in guests – meaning you can essentially get 10 memberships for less than the price of one.

Citi Prestige

Though this card has scaled back on benefits and protections, it still offers some valuable perks.

Primary cardholder benefits

Read our full review of the Citi Prestige here.

Authorized-user benefits. The one main benefit authorized users can expect is their own access to Priority Pass lounges with the same privileges as the primary cardholder. Unfortunately, they are not eligible for their own Global Entry or TSA PreCheck reimbursement, 4th Night Free or travel statement credits — though their spending will count toward the primary cardmember’s benefits.

Additional-card fees. The fee for additional cards is $75 per card per year.

(Photo by Isabelle Raphael)
(Photo by Isabelle Raphael/The Points Guy.)

Chase Sapphire Reserve

Although primary cardholders can expect plenty of perks, authorized users can only rely on a few in their own right.

Primary cardholder benefits

Read our full review of the Chase Sapphire Reserve here.

Authorized-user benefits. The one major benefit additional cardholders can expect is their own Priority Pass Select membership and access to airport lounges worldwide. Unfortunately, they are not eligible for the annual travel credits or Global Entry/TSA PreCheck reimbursements.

Additional-card fees. Additional cards cost $75 each per year.

Delta Reserve® Credit Card from American Express and Delta Reserve® Business Credit Card from American Express

The benefits offered by both the personal and business versions of this card are extremely similar, so let’s consider them together. Both of these cards are  getting a major revamp that goes into effect starting Jan. 30, 2020, at which point their annual fees will increase to $550 (see rates and fees). We’ll focus on the benefits available effective on that date.

Primary cardholder benefits

  • The Delta Reserve® Credit Card from American Express is currently offering new cardmembers 40,000 bonus miles and 10,000 MQMs after they spend $3,000 on their card in the first three months.
  • The Delta Reserve for Business Credit Card is currently offering new cardmembers 40,000 bonus miles and 10,000 MQMs after they spend $3,000 on their card in the first three months.
  • Both cards will earn 3x miles per dollar on Delta purchases and 1x on everything else after Jan. 30, 2020.
  • The business version will earn 1.5x miles per dollar on all purchases after you make $150,000 or more in purchases in a calendar year.
  • Cardholders will be eligible for an application fee waiver for TSA PreCheck (every 4.5 years) or Global Entry (every four years).
  • Cardmembers receive Delta Sky Club access when traveling on Delta and can purchase additional guest passes for $29 each ($39 after Jan. 30, 2020).
  • After Jan. 30, 2020, cardmembers will also have access to American Express Centurion Lounges when flying Delta with a ticket purchased on the card (up to two guests may also enter for a fee of $50 each).
  • Other travel benefits include priority boarding, a free checked bag for the cardholder and up to eight companions on the same reservation and 20% savings on inflight food, beverage and headset purchases.
  • Starting Jan. 30, 2020, cardholders can earn 15,000 additional MQMs toward Delta Medallion status for each threshold when they hit $30,000, $60,000, $90,000 and $120,000 of spending in a calendar year, up to a total of 60,000 MQMs.
  • Delta Reserve and Delta Reserve Business cardholders receive a companion certificate each cardmember year redeemable for one round-trip itinerary within the 48 contiguous United States (cardholders in Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, or the U.S. Virgin Islands can originate there) in Main Cabin, Delta Comfort+ or first class. Taxes and fees are capped at $75.
  • The annual fee for each card is currently $450, but will go up to $550 after Jan. 30, 2020 (see rates and fees for Delta Reserve) (see rates and fees for Delta Reserve Business)

See our full review of the Delta Reserve Credit Card from American Express here.

See our full review of the Delta Reserve Business Credit Card from American Express here.

Authorized-user benefits. Additional cardholders do not get to reap most of these benefits. However, their spending does count toward those MQM thresholds and they get access to Delta Sky Clubs (and Amex Centurion Lounges after Jan. 30, 2020) when they travel on flights marketed and operated by Delta and present a same-day Delta boarding pass.

Additional card fees: Additional cards cost $175 per year each (see rates and fees).

Bottom line

There are plenty of reasons to add an authorized user to your credit card account. It can help someone build their credit and improve their score, net you extra points both as a sign-up bonus and in terms of everyday spending, and extend the use of your points to more friends or family members.

However, certain high-end credit cards also bestow value-added benefits on additional cardholders, such as lounge access, Global Entry reimbursements and inflight purchase discounts.

As always when considering a credit card, look at your spending habits and needs and then determine whether you will get enough value out of adding authorized users to justify any annual fees you might incur for doing so.

Additional reporting by Eric Rosen.

Featured image by by Maskot/Getty Images.

For rates and fees of the Delta reserve, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Delta Reserve Business Amex card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Amex Business Platinum Card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Amex Platinum Card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Amex Gold card, please click here.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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.