How Does an Authorized User Affect Your Credit Score?

What you need to know about authorized users and credit scores

Your credit score is a three-digit number that gives potential lenders or creditors a way to quickly gauge your trustworthiness as a borrower. Typically, credit scores range from 300 to 850, with higher scores translating to better credit. And a better credit score is more than just bragging rights — it can not only make it easier for you to secure lending or financing when you need it, it can also save you a significant amount of money in the process. One method to increase your credit, at time quickly is to become an authorized user on another’s credit card account.

Let’s take a quick look at some data of individuals who have been added as an authorized user on another’s account and their respective average credit scores.

Number of Americans who have been added as an authorized user to an account and their average credit score

Authorized users addedPercent of members building with creditAverage credit score
Members19.1%661
Non-Members15.2%657
Source: Surveyed members between September 2015 and September 2016 on types of credit building tools used. Of those who indicated they had added authorized users, a further survey concerning average credit score took place October 2016.

As you can see above, even though this is a proven method to help raise your credit score, fewer than 1 in 5 people have been added as authorized users. In other words, this is an important strategy to bring to light, so that more people can use it to their advantage.

What is the “authorized user” strategy, and why is it important to understand?

Being added as an authorized user is one way to quickly improve your credit score. There are a number of reasons that people may find themselves in need of help to build their credit, so if you’re in this position, know that you’re not alone. Perhaps your young and just starting out, and need to quickly establish credit to rent an apartment. Perhaps you missed a few payments and now your credit could use some help.

Whatever the situation, there are some tried and true tactics that will help you improve your credit score quickly — and becoming an authorized user is one of them.

Still not convinced? Take a look at the numbers below.

Average improvement to credit score by becoming an authorized user

Credit Rankings30 Days3 Months6 Months9 Months12+ Months
Excellent (800+)1%1%1%1%1%
Very Good (750+)1.5%1.8%2.4%2.7%3%
Good (700+)3.5%5.2%7.1%8.5%9%
Fair (650+)9.6%10.6%12.5%17.2%20%
Poor (600+)9.6%11.9%18.1%23%28%
Bad (550<)10%18%24%27.5%30%
Source: Survey of 2000 members and non-members 5/5/2018.

As you can see, becoming an authorized user is a great way to quickly improve your credit score, especially if you’re starting out with credit that is, well, less than great. For instance, for those with bad credit (a credit score below 550), becoming an authorized user improved their credit score by 10% — in just 30 days. Fast forward to 12 months, and that figure jumps to 30%.

Improving your credit score as an authorized user

Your credit score is determined by analyzing a number of factors, such as your payment history, the total amount of your debt, and more. Becoming an authorized user on someone else’s credit card, or adding an authorized user to your credit card, primarily relates to the length of your credit history.

While not the largest piece of your credit score puzzle, the length of your credit history does play a role in determining what your credit score will be. If your credit history isn’t very long-standing, becoming an authorized user on someone’s established account can lend you instant credibility — and quickly improve your credit score. In addition to an authorized user helping with credit history, but also credit utilization, and possibly even credit mix depending on your current credit accounts.

What determines your credit score?

As we mentioned earlier, your credit score is determined by analyzing a number of factors:

  • Payment History (35%). Your payment history is the single biggest factor that contributes to your credit score. This shows potential lenders how often your payment have been on time — or if they have been late or missed.
  • Credit Utilization (30%). While this may sound complicated, your credit utilization is simply the percentage of your total available credit that you are currently using. This number is expressed as a percentage and, to keep the best score, you’ll want to keep your number below 30%.
  • Credit Age (15%). The age or length of your credit history also contributes to your score. To make the most of this factor, make sure to keep your oldest accounts open and in good standing.
  • Credit Mix (10%). Potential lenders like to see a mix of different credit types on your report, such as credit card accounts and an auto or mortgage loan.
  • Number of Inquiries (10%). While checking your credit score won’t hurt your account, hard inquiries, such as when you apply for a new credit card, will. Limit the number of hard inquiries on your credit to keep your score high.

Now that you know how your score is calculated, let’s take a closer look at how the average scores break down in the US.

Age group & average credit score

Age GroupAvg. Credit Score
18 to 24635
25 to 34638
35 to 44658
45 to 54703
55+729
Source: We surveyed 2,500 people in the United States on 9/2/2018.

Based on the data, it’s safe to assume that credit score and age are at least indirectly related, meaning that as you age, your credit score also typically improves. This could be due to a number of factors, including more disposable income and a longer credit history.

Wondering how you can improve your credit score? Let’s break down some tactics you can use to see an improvement quickly.

What improves your credit score?

Before you can start to work on your credit score, you need to know the proper steps to take that will help you see an increase in your credit score.

  • Check your credit report and dispute any errors. By law, each of the 3 major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) are required to give you a copy of your credit report each year, at no cost. It’s important to regularly check your credit reports to make sure the information they contain is accurate and up to date. While it may seem like a given that the information would be correct, you would be surprised at how many credit reports contain errors. In fact, as many as 35% of consumers in 2018 had errors on their credit report — which could have a serious, negative impact on their score. Carefully review your credit reports, and dispute any errors that you may find.
  • Make all of your payments on time. Your payment history is the single largest factor that contributes to your credit score. As such, it is important that you do your best to always make your payments on time. Believe it or not, even just one late payment can have a big impact on your score — and can haunt you for years to come. And remember, if you find yourself in a difficult position, many creditors are willing to work with you — which can make a big difference in your credit score.
  • Reduce your debt. Your credit utilization is the second largest contributing factor to your credit score. Your credit utilization is simply the percentage of your total available credit that you are using at any given time. You should always aim to keep this number below 30%; however, many of the best credit scores have a credit utilization of 10% or below.
  • Become an authorized user, or add an authorized user to your account. Becoming an authorized user on the account of someone with good, established credit can give you a nearly instant boost to your own credit score. By adding you as an authorized user, your trusted friend or family member is assuming financial responsibility for any payments you may miss — or risk damage to their own credit. With this in mind, it’s important that you take this tactic seriously, as it is a big responsibility.
  • Diversify your credit. Having a good mix of credit types can also help to improve your credit score. If you only have credit cards, consider applying for a credit builder loan. Conversely, if you only have a student loan or an auto loan, consider applying for a secured credit card.
  • Limit the number of hard inquiries. While only contributing to 10 percent of your credit score, the number of hard inquiries into your credit can — and will — affect your credit score. To help keep your score in good shape, only apply for credit when necessary. And keep in mind that checking your own credit score will not hurt your credit score, in fact it can actually help to improve it.

We talked with Credit Sesame member, Tiffany, to find out how she raised her credit score by adding her brother as an authorized user. Below is a timeline that shows how her score improved 25 points in just 3 months.

Tiffany raised her credit by adding an authorized user

Description: Tiffany a 25 year old was approached by her younger brother about adding him as an authorized user. She already had good credit and he did not have any. Knowing her brother was trustworthy, she added him in June 2018. As you can see by the timeline, because of adding him, her score rose 25 points in three months. Here is how.

FactorUpdate DateChangeScore
Was asked to add brother as an authorized userJune 2018+0765
Added brother as authorized userJuly 2018+6771
Brother bought a plane ticket and paid it off August 2018+9780
Decreased Utilization, brother helped with freelance paymentSeptember 2018+10790
Checked her scoreSeptember 2018+0790
Source: We ran the survey and collected different cases from our members between September 2017 and September 2018.

Tiffany saw a direct benefit by having her brother as an authorized user. Her brother also saw a benefit in that his credit displayed the payment history, credit utilization, and credit history. While her story was positive, there is also the chance of it having a negative impact if either the card holder or authorized user are not responsible. Think of it as two credit reports being affected by a single account, for better or worse.

Benefits of adding an authorized user to your credit card

The biggest benefit of being adding as an authorized user to a credit card account is obvious — the improvement it offers to your own credit score. The account holder’s responsible credit habits, by extension, become like your own, improving your score month after month. And, as an added bonus, being adding as an authorized user couldn’t be more simple — just have them contact their credit card company and speak to someone who can add an authorized user to your account. Most credit cards even allow you to add an authorized user through the company’s website or app. Make sure that it is an authorized user and not just an additional card holder. There is actually a difference, and an additional card holder may or may not have the card on their credit report.

Do authorized users affect your credit score?

In conclusion, being added as an authorized user to your credit card is a great way to improve your own credit score. Your credit score is calculated by analyzing a number of factors, including your payment history, credit utilization, mix of credit, length of credit history, and the number of hard inquiries into your credit. If your own credit score could use a boost in any of these areas, being added as an authorized user can help you to quickly see an improvement in your score. Simply contact your credit card company to add a user, and you’re on your way to enjoying your better credit score. Be careful to only add or be added to individual’s accounts who you trust and that you know will not put you in financial ruin.

You can trust that we maintain strict editorial integrity in our writing and assessments; however, we receive compensation when you click on links to products from our partners and get approved.
Published October 7, 2014 Updated: February 14, 2019
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Comments(13)

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eugene•  January 2, 2016 Edit
Hi. I want my sister to add me as an authorized user on her credit card. If she calls the card issuer first will they confirm whether they will report it to my credit report AND if they'll report the age of the account for the primary card holder or report it as a new account on my report? Thanks.
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Carl•  January 20, 2016 Edit
To answer your question, does an authorized user get credit history: yes. From my personal experience I think it shows up on your report as an existing account. What I mean to say is the credit history of the authorized account shows up - it is not labelled as a new account. This way adding an authorized user to credit card helps you build credit, but only if the account is in good standing. Hope that helps!
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Stephanie S. Boling•  January 19, 2016 Edit
Great article John! Just curious about credit card authorized user facts and whether someone who is an authorized user can disengage at any time from being one? How does the process work? Is it unique from issuer to issuer or is there a standard process for having to disconnect from the agreement? Thanks!
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Rob D.•  January 22, 2016 Edit
Stephanie, I believe piggybacking off credit cards with authorized users gives the authorized user a big increase in credit. However, the opposite can occur and that's when you'd want to consider 'disengaging'. It can be done by either party. An authorized user can disengage at any time with a simple call (it can be slightly different for different companies).
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Cathryn Murdoch•  January 19, 2016 Edit
Does adding authorized user to credit card impact the credit score of the one actually signing the person up? Or does it not impact them at all - just adds risk? I understand that as an authorized user we will never have to owe any money, but will our reputation be hurt if things go sideways?
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Matthew Zirkle•  January 19, 2016 Edit
Does being an authorized user help credit? Probably not. At least from what I understand, simply supporting someone else building their credit won't build yours. The authorized credit card user themselves will build credit however, with your support of trusting them, but nothing is really holding you liable, so it won't make or break your credit.
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Sara•  January 20, 2016 Edit
I agree with Matthew, will being an authorized user build credit? Not directly. However, if you are an authorized user you will be even more motivated to keep your accounts in the positive and pay off any debt in full and on time. In this way, you will be more inclined to act financially responsible because your credit is not the only one on the line. And that in turn can maintain/increase your credit score!
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Kari•  January 22, 2016 Edit
Does authorized user help credit score or hurt credit score really depends on the person piggybacking's credit. An authorized users score will shadow that of the owner
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Arya P•  January 22, 2016 Edit
Some questions for someone who understands this topic: does an authorized user get a credit card and is an authorized user responsible for credit card debt? I don't really get it.
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Joan Wiley•  January 22, 2016 Edit
What is the difference between joint account and authorized user and how many authorized users can be on a credit card? My twin girls are about to go to college and need credit cards!
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Jim Agrawal•  January 22, 2016 Edit
I am in the process of making my brother an authorized user on credit card. I really want to help him out but can being an authorized user hurt your credit? Thanks in advance!
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Christy•  August 5, 2016 Edit
If you are an authorized user on a card which maintains a decent balance but continues to be minimally paid, would it be beneficial to remove myself as an authorized user? This is in assumption that lowering my overall debt will improve my credit score after a rough few years?
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Christine Fagin•  September 14, 2016 Edit
I have very good credit now...I have gotten different numbers from different sources as to my FICO score. I am trying to qualify for a very low interest credit card that requires a 760 FICO score. I applied and was told that Transunion reported it as 718. My Discover and Capital One-which says it pulls from Transunion- report it at 756 and 769 respectively. I am close. My auto loan will finally be paid off in December and thought that is sure to help, but was told that this may actually negatively effect my credit (I assume because it was a high dollar loan and then closing it, it will appear as less spending vs available credit?) I am 65 and still working full time. If the paying off the car won't help, and might hurt, I should find a way to do this BEFORE my last payment in December, I need to find a solution quickly to raise my score to the required 760+. I don't have the funds to pay any of my credit cards down significantly. Would it help if I were to be added to one of my adult daughter's high limit/low balance credit card accounts? She and her husband are both professionals and earn over $325,000 per year between them, and they have excellent credit. Hopefully it would be plausible to FICO that I am being added to cover expenses for their children when I come to take care of them from time to time. Don't want to do this if it won't help or if it could appear I am gaming the system. Advise?
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