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Three Things to Know Before Adding an Authorized User to Your Credit Card

[Wednesday, June 12th, 2013]

Adding an authorized user to your credit card account is a relatively simple thing to do. Just call up your credit company, provide them with some information about the person you’d like to add, whether they are a relative, friend, employee—and you are all set. But before you add your boyfriend, stepdaughter, new hire or long-lost cousin to your account, consider these three important facts about adding an authorized user to your credit card account:

  • Your friend, employee, or loved one’s use of the card will affect your credit report. Yes, it is not your name on the card – but as the primary cardholder, you are responsible for any debt incurred, not the authorized user. If your card gets charged up to your total credit limit, it is your debt-to-credit ratio that will be negatively affected. If the authorized user makes a purchase that goes over the credit limit, you will be charged an over-the-limit fee. And if you have an agreement that someone else is going to pay the bill, make sure it is paid on time. If it isn’t, the late payment will go on your credit history (and the fee will get tacked on to your bill).
  • In light of the above, it’s good to know that many credit cards will allow you to place limits on your authorized user’s card activity. American Express lets users put different credit limits in place for each authorized user. So you may have a credit limit of $25,000—but you can put a limit of $250 on your son’s card if you wish. Just be sure to disclose this to him first, so he doesn’t get a rude surprise when he tries to pay for a fancy dinner date and the card is turned down. This is a very useful feature for business credit cards too, as you may want to set different limits for different employees when passing out company credit cards.
  • If the authorized user lives at a different address than you, they will need to memorize your address—or at least your zip code. There are plenty of reasons why cardholders on the same account might have different addresses. You daughter off at college may have a card linked to your account, or you might have made your father who lives two states away a cardholder on your account. In any case, there can only be one address registered as the primary address on the account. That means if anyone is using your credit card account to buy something online and needs to fill out the billing address, they need to enter the primary cardholder’s address. When using the card at an ATM or other automated ticketing service machine, they may be asked to enter their zip code: that will be your zip code, not theirs.

Giving a credit card to a family member or employee can be a convenience for both of you; just be sure you know what you are getting into, and head off misunderstandings before they happen.

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