When a credit card is in your name, the buck stops with you. An authorized user on your account — say, a spouse, child or employee — might make charges on the card, but you’re responsible for footing the bill. So how do you guard against someone else's overspending?
Some consumer credit cards — though not many — offer a concrete solution to this problem: They allow you to set spending limits for authorized users. And in the small-business world, such features for employee cards are commonplace.
Consumer credit cards
Consumer credit cards that let you set spending limits for authorized users are few and far between. After contacting several major issuers, NerdWallet found that only American Express offers this feature on all of its consumer cards. However, Citi offers this benefit on one of its consumer cards, and Barclays offers a variation of this feature that limits authorized user spending by transaction.
Spending limits can be set only on a per-transaction basis, not overall, according to the issuer. For example, the primary cardholder could opt to block authorized user charges over $100. Check out Barclays credit cards.
Our picks for authorized user card spending limits
Looking for a consumer card that lets you set spending limits for authorized users will narrow your credit card search considerably. If you're keen on this benefit and want a practical card that delivers rewards, here are our top picks.
Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express
The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express is an excellent card for grocery rewards. It offers 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 in purchases a year, then 1% after) and streaming services and 3% cash back on gas and transit, including taxis, rideshares and buses. Terms apply (see rates and fees). It features a robust welcome offer: Earn up to $350 in statement credits: Earn 20% back on Amazon.com purchases on the Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership, up to $200 back. Plus, earn $150 back after you spend $3,000 in purchases on the Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership. You will receive cash back in the form of statement credits. Terms Apply. It has an annual fee: $0 intro for the first year, then $95. Like other AmEx consumer cards, it allows you to set limits for authorized users.
Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi
For Costco members who fill up at the pump often, the Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi is a standout. The card offers 4% cash back at U.S. gas stations (on up to $7,000 a year, then 1% after), 3% on restaurants and eligible travel purchases and 2% on purchases from Costco and Costco.com. You'll receive your cash back in an annual reward certificate, redeemable for cash or merchandise at Costco. The annual fee is $0, but you'll need a Costco membership. This card allows you to set spending limits on authorized users' cards, as well.
Small-business credit cards
Few consumer cards let you set spending limits for authorized users. But on credit cards for small businesses, spending limit controls for employee cards are nearly ubiquitous. You don't have to have a brick-and-mortar business to qualify for one of these cards, either; you can generally get one if you're a freelancer, run an online business or have a side hustle, as long as you meet the other credit and income requirements.
Here are the major issuers that offer this feature:
Bank of America®.
Wells Fargo (only available on the Wells Fargo Business Platinum credit card and the Wells Fargo Business Elite credit card).
Our picks for employee card spending limits
When it comes to choosing a small-business card that allows you to set limits on employee cards, you have plenty of options. In fact, as of this writing, every card on our list of Best Small Business Credit Cards has this helpful feature. Here are a couple of good choices.
Capital One Spark Cash for Business
The Capital One Spark Cash for Business offers an impressive 2% cash back on all purchases. It also features a rich sign-up bonus: Earn a one-time $500 cash bonus once you spend $4,500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening. There are no foreign transaction fees, and the annual fee is $0 intro for the first year, then $95. Like all Capital One small-business cards, it allows you to set spending limits on employee cards.
Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card
For entrepreneurs who travel often, the Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card offers excellent value. It features a generous sign-up bonus: Earn 100k bonus points after you spend $15,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 cash back or $1,250 toward travel when redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. The ongoing rewards are decent, too: It offers 3 points per dollar on the first $150,000 spent on travel and select business categories each account anniversary year, and 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases. Those points are worth 1.25 cents each when redeemed through Chase's Ultimate Rewards® travel portal. Points can also be transferred at a 1:1 ratio to several loyalty partners, including United Airlines and Hyatt hotels, for example. There are no foreign transaction fees, and the annual fee is $95. Like all small-business credit cards Chase offers, you can set spending limits on employee cards.
To view rates and fees of the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express, see this page.