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It’s quite common for credit card issuers to offer incentives for adding authorized users to your account. The more people are using cards, the more merchant fees the card issuers will earn with each transaction. But what’s in it for the authorized user? Today, I’ll cover a few frequently asked questions about adding additional cardholders to your account and show you the best cards for authorized users this year.
Why Add an Authorized User?
- Multiply your earnings — Any spending an additional card holder completes earns you points, miles or cash back, since their purchases fall under the umbrella of your account. That, of course, means you’re also ultimately responsible for ensuring the bill is paid off. Many married couples apply separately to earn two sign-up bonuses and add each other as authorized users to help with spending requirements.
- Hit spending thresholds quicker — Adding authorized users can also make it easier to not only hit minimum spending thresholds to earn a sign-up bonus, but also to hit annual or calendar-year spending threshold bonuses or elite-qualifying mile bonuses like the Citi AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard’s 10,000 EQMs for spending $40,000 in a calendar year.
- Help someone build credit — One of the great things about adding 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 score before applying for cards in their own right. If you’re looking to be added as an authorized user in order to build your own credit, look for a cardmember whose account has been open a long time. Remember though, not all credit card issuers report authorized users to credit bureaus, so the impact to a user’s score may be minimal.
- Rewards transferability — Unfortunately, both Amex and Chase have cracked down on point transfers, and you can only send your points to the frequent flyer or hotel accounts of a spouse, authorized user or employee for Amex and household member for Chase. The notable exception to this is Citi ThankYou Rewards points, 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).
With a few basics covered, let’s look at some top cards that currently incentivize authorized users:
These Amex cards easily offer the most benefits to authorized users, however you do have to pay for them. The first three additional cards for the consumer Platinum card have a total annual fee of $175 (See Rates & Fees), and then each card after that has a $175 fee. That’s on the steep side, but authorized users get nearly all the same benefits of the main card holder (except the $200 airline fee credit and $200 Uber credit). This includes Delta Sky Club, Centurion Lounge and Priority Pass Select lounge access; Marriott Gold Status and Hilton Honors Gold status. Each card also gets a $100 Global Entry sign-up fee reimbursement.
One benefit of the Amex Platinum card is the ability to add 99 Gold Card authorized users for no fee. While the Gold Card does not come with any of the same benefits that Platinum authorized users enjoy, it does offer the ability to earn points at the same rate, which are credited to the master account
Additional Business Platinum cards have a $300 annual fee (See Rates & Fees) and receive the same benefits as personal Platinum authorized users plus 10 Gogo in-flight Wi-Fi passes. You can also add Gold Cards to the Business Platinum card for a fee of $45 each.
Not only is the Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard the only card to offer complimentary access to American Airlines Admirals Clubs, but you can also add up to 10 authorized users for no additional fee, and they will each have Admirals Club access including two guests of their own (though some agents may only allow authorized users into a lounge with an American Airlines boarding pass). With each card holder being allowed two guests, a single account will allow you to get 33 people in the Admirals Club. If you have a group of friends of colleagues that you trust and who frequently fly on American, you can all split the $450 annual fee. Divide that 10 ways and you’re essentially paying $45 a year for an Admirals Club membership with guesting privileges, a steep discount over the $550 per person fee for general AAdvantage members.
For $75, the main account holder can add authorized users to their account. The authorized user will get their own Priority Pass Select membership, but will not get an additional $100 Global Entry or $300 annual travel credit. Besides lounge access, the main benefit to having an authorized are earning 3x points on travel and dining and having the ability to transfer points between Ultimate Rewards accounts.
If your spouse has a Chase Freedom Unlimited, they will earn 1.5% cash back on all spending. As an authorized user on your Chase Sapphire Reserve, they can transfer their points to your account. Now all your combined Ultimate Rewards can be redeemed for 1.5 cents each toward paid travel through the Ultimate Rewards travel portal. This effectively makes the Chase Freedom Unlimited a 2.25% flat cash-back card if it’s used in conjunction with an account that has the Chase Sapphire Reserve.
The Delta Reserve card is a great choice for frequent Delta flyers because it comes with complimentary Delta Sky Club access when you’re flying on Delta, and authorized users can get some great benefits as well. For $175 per card (See Rates & Fees) you can get addition Delta Reserve authorized user cards, which will allow your authorized user to also enjoy complimentary Sky Club access.
As an added bonus, the Reserve is currently offering an elevated welcome bonus of 75,000 miles and 5,000 Medallion Qualifying Miles (MQMs) after spending $5,000 in the first 3 months. This offer is only valid until Apr. 3, so make sure to act fast.
If You Already Have It: The Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card
While the Ritz-Carlton Card was closed to new applicants as part the Marriott/SPG merger, if you already have one and add an authorized user, they can get a $100 Visa Infinite airline ticket discount and receive Priority Pass Select membership — and both perks can be incredibly valuable.
You can add unlimited authorized users for free, but they don’t get their own $100 Global Entry fee reimbursement and do not get an additional $300 travel credit. An authorized user will not get additional Ritz-Carlton Club Level upgrades and cannot officially use the $100 property credit on paid stays of two nights or longer, though I did in Bahrain and Dubai as an authorized user on my wife’s card.
While not advantageous directly for the authorized user, having more spenders to help reach large or annual spend bonuses is a great reason to add someone else to your account. The Ritz-Carlton card offers Platinum status to the primary card holder for any year with $75,000 in annual spending.
A few other cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card have been known to give bonus points for adding authorized users who make a purchase in the first three months (though that’s not currently available on the CSP). It’s also important to note that authorized user benefits are rarely spelled out in the card agreement’s fine print. I recommend calling the card issuer before applying to ensure which benefits apply—and even this may yield you different answers depending on which agent you speak with.
Lastly, remember that becoming an authorized user does not disqualify you from receiving a new cardmember bonus. Chase does count personal authorized user accounts as part of its 5/24 rule, but not business credit card authorized users. If you’re initially denied for having too many accounts open in the past two years, request that a reconsideration agent remove any authorized user accounts from consideration.
What’s your favorite card when it comes to authorized users?
For rates and fees of the Amex Platinum Card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Amex Business Platinum Card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Delta Reserve Card, please click here.
Know before you go.
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