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I’ve Been an Authorized User for a While — Do I Have to Get My Own Credit Card?

Oct. 15, 2014
Credit Card Basics, Credit Cards
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If you’ve been piggybacking on someone else’s credit card as an authorized user for a while, you may wonder if you should bother to get your own credit card. It isn’t necessarily required, but it’s a good idea. Read on to find out what it means to be an authorized user and why you should apply for your own credit card when you can.

I’m an authorized user — what are my rights and responsibilities?

An authorized user is permitted to make charges on a credit account, but isn’t obligated to make payments. She also can’t make changes to a credit account, with the exception of removing herself from it (which we’ll discuss in a bit).

Authorized users are typically reported to the credit bureaus, so the primary cardholder’s good credit habits help the authorized user build a good credit history. It’s a safer credit-building method than having a joint account with someone, because the responsibilities of the primary cardholder and authorized user are well defined. If the primary cardholder and authorized user decide to part ways, it will be easier than if they owned the account jointly.

Why should I get my own credit account?

Generally, the authorized user of a credit card is the family member or significant other of the primary cardholder. And it’s great that your loved one is willing to help you improve or build your credit in that way. However, if for any reason the primary cardholder feels that you aren’t working out as an authorized user, he can drop you with a call to the credit card issuer. Of course, this is a two-way street. You can also remove yourself as an authorized user if you’re so inclined by calling the issuer and requesting removal.

Why would your primary cardholder remove you? There are a several circumstances that could leave you without access to a credit card including these: Your relationship with the authorized user ends; he declares bankruptcy and all his cards are cancelled; or he passes away. It’s best to be prepared, just in case.

» MORE: Credit cards that help authorized users build credit

Declare credit independence by getting your own plastic

As soon as your score is good enough to get a credit card of your own, you should. If anything would happen to your primary cardholder or if he drops you from his account, you’ll want your own card to fall back on.

This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to remove yourself from the credit account. It may make sense to stay on as an authorized user, especially if the primary cardholder is a significant other with whom you have joint finances. But don’t rely solely on a credit account you don’t have any control over.

Bottom line: You don’t necessarily have to get your own credit account to build credit if you’re an authorized user, but it’s a good idea. After all, your primary cardholder can remove you as an authorized user at any time, leaving you without a credit account. Apply for your own credit card as soon as you have a good enough credit score to do so.

Woman with credit card image via Shutterstock