Adding an authorized user to your credit card comes with a lot of benefits. For one thing, you’ll probably be helping him or her build good credit. For another, you’ll be racking up rewards faster.
But tracking authorized user purchases can get frustrating pretty fast. Unfortunately, many credit cards issue billing statements as one long list of transactions, with no way to tell which activity belongs to which user.
The good news is that this can be avoided by choosing the right card. Not sure which one to pick? Take a look at the details below – the Nerds did our research, and we have some information you just have to hear.
Which credit cards allow you to see authorized user purchases?
If you’re trying to keep careful track of your authorized user’s purchases, it’s important to use a credit card that will allow you to see which transactions were made by which user. Surprisingly, this feature is somewhat hard to come by.
To find out how different credit cards convey activity by user, the Nerds made phone calls or conducted online chats with customer service representatives from nine of the largest credit card issuers in the United States. Here's a list of whether each issuer itemizes authorized user activity:
Wells Fargo: No
Bank of America®: No
Citi: No, but primary cardholders can call customer service to get an inventory of authorized user activity
Capital One: Yes, online and on monthly billing statements
American Express: Yes, online and on monthly billing statements.
Discover: Yes; report looks different from that of primary accountholder.
Barclaycard: Not online, but a list of authorized user transactions will appear on monthly billing statements.
U.S. Bank: Yes, online and on monthly billing statements.
Calls and chats were conducted on Jan. 7, 2015. Information is current as of that date.
As you can see, only American Express, Capital One, and US Bank itemize transactions by user. The Nerds verified that this information is provided both online and on monthly billing statements, which makes it easy to keep track of authorized user activity as it’s happening.
Although Citi, Discover and Barclaycard don’t offer disaggregated transactions by user in an up-to-the-minute fashion, each provides some way for the primary user to track activity by authorized user. It may not be particularly convenient, but you can access the information if you really need it.
Chase, Wells Fargo and Bank of America don’t offer any option for sorting transactions by user.
American Express is best for authorized users
Generally, American Express is the best option for folks looking to add authorized users to their cards. Aside from the fact that this issuer makes it easy and convenient to track the transactions of all card users, it also reports authorized user activity to the credit bureaus.
This means that, as you pay your bill on time and in full, positive information makes its way to your authorized users’ credit reports. Consequently, you’ll be helping them build a solid credit profile.
It’s also worth pointing out that, as of August 2016, American Express is the only major issuer of consumer credit cards that allows all cardholders to set spending limits for authorized users. So if you only want your authorized user spending up to a certain amount of your total credit line, you can arrange to put a limit in place.
Our top American Express credit card picks
If you’re excited about the idea of applying for an American Express card and adding authorized users to it, here are a couple of specific recommendations:
Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express
If groceries is your main monthly spending category, you’ll want to take a close look at Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express. With it, you’ll earn 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets, on up to $6,000 a year in spending (then 1%); 6% cash back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions; 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations and on transit (including such things as taxis, rideshares, parking, tolls, trains and buses); and 1% cash back on all other purchases. Terms apply (see rates and fees).
What’s more, this card comes with an exciting welcome bonus: 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.
There is an annual fee of $0 intro for the first year, then $95. As long as you’re spending a hefty chunk of change at the grocery store each year, you’re likely coming out ahead because of the card's high rewards rate.
The Platinum Card® from American Express
If your lifestyle involves a lot of luxury travel, The Platinum Card® from American Express might be a good choice. With this card, you’ll earn 1 Membership Rewards point for every dollar you spend. For flights booked directly with the airline or through American Express Travel, you'll earn 5 points per dollar spent. It also provides entrée to primo travel benefits, like airport lounge access, a $100 credit toward the Global Entry program and a $200 annual airline fee credit. Terms apply (see rates and fees).
If your jet-setting often takes you overseas, you’re in luck: The Platinum Card® from American Express doesn’t charge a foreign transaction fee. Just remember that American Express cards aren’t as universally accepted as those in the Visa or MasterCard networks.
This card comes with a generous welcome bonus: Earn 75,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $5,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership. Terms Apply. Its annual fee is a hefty $550, but keep in mind that this is partially offset by the $200 airline fee credit.
Updated on Aug. 11, 2017