Which Credit Cards Help Authorized Users Build Credit?

Adding an authorized user can be an effective strategy, but it helps first to know how issuers and credit bureaus handle this information.

Claire TsosieOctober 6, 2020
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Adding someone to your credit card as an authorized user is a simple way to potentially buoy their credit scores, assuming you’ve paid the account on time and haven’t used too much of your available credit. But to make this strategy actually work, you’ll want to be sure that information about that account is included on their credit reports. Otherwise, adding someone to your card — whether it’s a child, partner or parent — won’t do a thing for their scores.

Getting that same account to appear as a "tradeline" on your authorized user’s credit reports will depend on two major factors:

  • The issuer’s policy. All major issuers NerdWallet surveyed reported authorized user activity to the three major credit bureaus — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion — in some form. But some noted that they don’t report information if the primary account includes negative information or if the authorized user is under a certain age.

  • The credit bureau’s policy. Even when issuers report an authorized user account, the credit bureaus might not include it in the authorized user’s credit report if it includes negative information or if the authorized user is under a certain age, depending on their policy.

Ultimately, if you want to help someone establish a credit history by adding them to your account, you can save time and energy by knowing beforehand about how issuers and bureaus handle this information. After all, you don’t want to add someone to an account in an effort to help their scores, only to find out months later that it had no effect.

Issuer policies

All the major issuers NerdWallet surveyed below said they reported authorized user activity to all three major credit bureaus, which generally means this information shows up on the authorized users’ credit reports. However, their reporting policies vary. Here’s how they stack up, as of February 2019, according to issuer spokespeople.

Issuer

Does the issuer report authorized user activity to the credit bureaus?

American Express

Yes, if the account isn’t delinquent and the authorized user is at least 18.

Bank of America

Yes.

Barclays

Yes, if the authorized user is at least 16.

Discover

Yes; Discover requires its authorized users to be at least 15.

Capital One

Yes.

Citi

Yes.

Chase

Yes.

U.S. Bank

Yes, unless the primary account is delinquent.

Wells Fargo

Yes, if the authorized user is at least 18.

Credit bureau policies

Here’s how the three major credit bureaus handle authorized user information that issuers report, as of February 2019, according to the credit bureau spokespeople.

Credit bureau

Is reported authorized user activity included on an authorized user’s credit report?

Equifax

Yes; if the authorized user is at least 16. Both positive and negative information will be included.

Experian

Yes; but if the information on the primary account becomes derogatory, the account is removed from the authorized user’s credit report.

TransUnion

Yes. Both positive and negative information will be included.

Why isn't the account showing up?

Issuer and credit bureau policies can give you a good basic understanding about why a tradeline may or may not be included on your authorized user’s credit reports. But aside from the exceptions laid out in these policies, here are a few other reasons an account might be MIA:

Your issuer doesn’t report any authorized user activity. While it’s common for issuers to report authorized user accounts, it’s not mandatory. “In some cases, although rare, lenders may choose not to report authorized user accounts,” says Rod Griffin, the director of consumer education and awareness at Experian, in an email.

You left out required information when creating the account. Under the National Consumer Assistance Plan, an initiative launched by the three major credit bureaus, lenders reporting to credit bureaus must report certain information about authorized users, including their date of birth. While you might be able to add someone to your account without providing this information initially, it won’t be reported to credit bureaus unless you include this information. For example, AmEx notes that you can add an additional cardholder without providing their date of birth or Social Security number, but if that information isn’t added within 60 days, the additional card would be closed.

The authorized user account was closed by the issuer. Issuers generally reserve the right to close an authorized user account if they determine any of the information is fraudulent, or the authorized user didn't give consent to be added to the account. In some cases, the account might have been closed in error. If the account isn’t showing up on your authorized user’s credit reports and you’re not sure why, call your issuer’s customer service line and ask.

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