Credit cards with the greatest value for authorized users

May 22, 2020

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There are many advantages to adding an authorized user to a credit card account. It 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 scores.

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Certain credit cards also extend some benefits to additional cardholders, such as lounge access and statement credits for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck applications. Some have even offered extended limited-time benefits due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

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:

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What is an authorized user?

An authorized user is someone who is allowed to use your credit card. The person is issued his or her own physical card, but it’s linked to your credit card account. Many cards allow authorized users to take advantage of some of the benefits offered to the primary cardholders. Considering the authorized user fees are typically less expensive than annual fees, adding family members or spouses as authorized users on your account is a way to share some of the advantages of a card without having to shell out for another annual fee.

Overview of the best cards for authorized users

Card Annual fee Authorized user fee Rewards rate
Chase Sapphire Reserve  $550 $75 per additional cardholder 10x on Lyft

3x on travel and dining

The Platinum Card® from American Express $550 (see rates and fees) $175 for up to three authorized users (see rates and fees) 5x on flights booked directly with airlines and flights (starting Jan. 1, 2021, earn 5x points on up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year)

5x on prepaid hotels booked through amextravel.com

The Business Platinum Card® from American Express $595 (see rates and fees) $300 per additional cardholder (see rates and fees) 5x on flights and prepaid hotels booked through amextravel.com

1.5x on purchases over $5,000

Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card $550 (see rates and fees) $175 per additional cardholder (see rates and fees) 3x on eligible Delta purchases

 

Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card $550 (see rates and fees) $175 per additional cardholder (see rates and fees) 3x on eligible Delta purchases

1.5x on all other purchases after you spend $150,000 on your card each calendar year. Terms apply.

Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard® $450 Up to 10 additional cardholders free 2x on eligible American Airlines purchases
Citi Prestige® Card $495 $75 per additional card 5x on airfare and restaurants

3x on cruises and hotels

The information for the Citi Prestige has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

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

Chase Sapphire Reserve

(Photo by Wyatt Smith/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Wyatt Smith/The Points Guy)

Although primary cardholders can expect plenty of perks, authorized users can only rely on a few in their own right. This card has a $550 annual fee.

Primary cardholder benefits:

Read our full review of the Chase Sapphire Reserve here.

Authorized user benefits: Cardholders, who are authorized users, receive their own Priority Pass Select membership and access to airport lounges worldwide. They are not eligible for the annual travel credits or Global Entry/TSA PreCheck reimbursements.

Limited-time benefits: The card is offering the following:  A $100 annual-fee credit for customers who renew their card between April 1, 2020 and July 1, 2020; earn 5x points on up to $500 in combined purchases at DoorDash and Tock through May 31, 2020; and earn 5x points on up to $1,500 in grocery purchases in May and June.

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

The Platinum Card® from American Express

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

One of the top all-around premium rewards cards available offers comprehensive perks for the primary cardmember as well as some great authorized-user benefits. This card has an annual fee of $550 (see rates and fees).

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, although 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 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, although they can only enter Delta Sky Clubs themselves (no guests allowed).

Limited-time benefits: Up to $160 in statement credits on select U.S. streaming services (up to $20 per month) from May through December 2020; up to $160 in statement credits on select wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers (up to $20 per month) from May through December 2020; and up to $200 in statement credits toward prepaid Amex Travel purchases made between August 2020 and December 2021 (only for cardholders who renew their card between April 1 and Dec. 31, 2020).

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, and also are not 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).

The Business Platinum Card® from American Express

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

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. This card has an annual fee of $595 (see rates and fees).

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.

Limited-time benefits: Up to $160 in statement credits on wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers (up to $20 per month) from May through December 2020; up to $160 in statement credits on U.S. purchases for shipping (up to $20 per month) from May through December 2020; up to $200 in additional statement credits for U.S. purchases with Dell: $100 in additional statement credits from May 1 through June 30, 2020, and up to $100 in additional statement credits between July 1 and Dec. 31, 2020; and $200 appreciation credit upon renewal for select cardholders with renewal dates from now through November 2020 (not all cardholders will be eligible).

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®

(Photo by Eric Helgas for The Points Guy)
(Photo by Eric Helgas for The Points Guy)

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 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 receive the inflight discount and their spending counts toward earning the bonus EQMs. However, they do not receive day-of-travel benefits such as free checked bags or priority boarding when traveling without the primary cardmember. They are not eligible for their own Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee reimbursement.

Limited-time benefits: American Airlines is offering $225 statement credit upon account renewal for customers whose accounts were open as of March 31.

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.

Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card and Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card

(Photo by Wyatt Smith/The Points Guy)
(Photo by Wyatt Smith/The Points Guy)

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 got a major revamp that went into effect on Jan. 30, 2020, at which point their annual fees increased to $550 (consumer: see rates and fees; business: see rates and fees).

Primary cardholder benefits:

  • The Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card is currently offering new cardmembers 40,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after they spend $3,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening. Terms apply.
  • The Delta SkyMiles Reserve Business American Express Card is currently offering new cardmembers 45,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after they spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening.
  • Both cards earn 3x miles per dollar spent on eligible Delta purchases and 1x on everything else
  • The business version earns 1.5x miles per dollar spent on all purchases after you make $150,000 or more in purchases in a calendar year.
  • Cardholders are eligible for an application fee waiver for TSA PreCheck (every 4.5 years) or Global Entry (every four years, up to $100)
  • Cardmembers receive Delta Sky Club access when traveling on Delta and can purchase additional guest passes for $39.
  • Cardmembers 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.
  • 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.

Authorized user benefits: Additional cardholders do not 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 when they travel on flights marketed and operated by Delta and present a same-day Delta boarding pass.

Limited-time benefits for the Delta Reserve card: Earn 4x miles at U.S. supermarkets from May through July 2020; companion certificates due to expire between March 1 and June 30, 2020 have had their expiration dates extended to Dec. 31, 2020. Delta Sky Club one-time guest passes will have their expiration date extended by six months.

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

Citi Prestige

(Photo by The Points Guy)

Although this card has scaled back on benefits and protections, it still offers some valuable perks with an annual fee of $495.

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. They are not eligible for their own Global Entry or TSA PreCheck reimbursement, 4th-Night-Free certificate or travel statement credits, although their spending will count toward the primary cardmember’s benefits.

Limited-time benefits: For 2020, you can use your $250 annual travel credit at supermarkets and restaurants. You also get an additional three months to meet your minimum spending requirement if you apply for a Citi card between Dec. 1, 2019, and May 31, 2020.

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

The information for the Citi Prestige has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Does adding authorized users affect your credit score?

Adding an authorized user doesn’t affect your credit score. However, keep in mind that you are responsible for that person’s spending. If the user overspends on the card, you’ll be accountable for the balance and associated fees and interest charges. Because payment history and credit utilization both play large roles in the calculation of your credit score, the behavior of your authorized users can end up negatively affecting your score.

Related reading: Adding your kids as authorized users

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.

American Express has 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 information for the Hawaiian Airlines Business Mastercard has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Hawaiian Airlines A330 Aircraft
Some cards offer additional bonuses for adding authorized users to your account, such as the Hawaiian Airlines Business Mastercard. (Photo courtesy of Hawaiian Airlines)

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.

Hit 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 Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card or the Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card.

Help 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.

Adding your children as authorized users to your credit cards will help them build a credit history and will (hopefully) lead to better credit scores as they transition to adulthood. (Photo by Maskot / Getty Images)
Adding your children as authorized users to your credit cards will help them build a credit history and will (hopefully) lead to better credit scores as they transition to adulthood. (Photo by Maskot/Getty Images)

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 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 transfer 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 preferred boarding. The information for the Citi AAdvantage Platinum card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.   

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. With cards offering limited-time benefits due to the coronavirus pandemic, you may want to check your credit card to see which of these perks your authorized user may be able to use.

Related reading: Do the new coronavirus credit card perks apply to authorized users?

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.

Certain high-end credit cards also bestow value-added benefits on authorized users, 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.

Related reading: Are these 9 premium travel rewards credit cards offering enough perks amid coronavirus pandemic?

Additional reporting by Liz Hund and Madison Blancaflor.

Featured image by Isabelle Raphael/The Points Guy.

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.