Authorized Users Aren’t Responsible for Debt, but Late Payments Pose Issues

If the primary cardholder makes late payments, it can drag down your own credit scores. The good news is that you can fix this.
Lindsay Konsko
Sara Rathner
By Sara Rathner and  Lindsay Konsko 
Edited by Kenley Young

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Let’s say some kind family member or spouse makes you an authorized user on their credit card, which gives you access to credit and, in theory, helps you build your credit history. But then you discover that the primary cardholder is making late payments or racking up credit card debt.

While you’re not liable for the debt, the late payments can create problems for your credit scores. That's because payment history is a major factor in those scores, and negative information about a primary user's payment history can show up on an authorized user's credit report, too.

Fear not — it’s fixable.

How to remove yourself as an authorized user

If you discover the primary cardholder isn’t making on-time bill payments, you may decide that cutting ties is the best way to go.

Call the issuer and ask to have your name removed as an authorized user.

It should take only a few days, and the issuer will cease making reports under your name to credit bureaus.

At some point, that account should vanish from your report entirely. Just remember that doing so removes both good and bad information from your credit report.

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How to fix your credit reports afterward

Thankfully, you can have these kinds of negative marks taken off your credit report. Open a dispute with all three credit bureaus online or over the phone. Tell them the primary cardholder is or was the one making late payments. It will take 30 days or so, but these late payments should be removed.

You’ll want to be particularly diligent about this if you’ve been building good credit as an authorized user and are about to apply for some kind of credit on your own. You don’t want this to throw a wrench into all your hard work.

Why might you decide to remain an authorized user?

The above steps are for when the primary cardholder is not using the card responsibly. Otherwise, though, there are generally several potential benefits to being an authorized user:

  • It helps you build credit. As long as the primary cardholder is responsible, you stand to benefit, because all that good credit information can flow onto your credit report as an authorized user.

  • It’s a convenient option. You’ll get access to a credit card without having to go through an application process. This can be especially helpful if you don’t have an established credit history and would qualify for only a limited number of cards.

  • Again, you’re not liable for the debt itself. Most credit cards do not hold an authorized user responsible for any debt incurred on the card.

Note that being an authorized user is different from being a co-signer or joint cardholder on someone else’s credit card. Both co-signers and joint cardholders are completely liable for paying the card off if the other cardholder fails to make payments.

Most major issuers don’t allow cardholders to add a co-signer or joint cardholder.

Other reasons to remove yourself as an authorized user

Maybe you've ridden the coattails of a responsible primary cardholder for so long now that your own credit scores have benefited. If they've risen high enough, it might be time for you to ditch the training wheels and apply for your own credit card.

After all, it's worth noting that as an authorized user, you typically won't benefit from credit card rewards. Even though both you and the primary user are putting purchases on the account, all those valuable points or miles usually end up in the hands of the primary cardholder.

Depending on your credit scores now, multiple options may be available to you:

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