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What you need to know about being an authorized user on a credit card

Becoming an authorized user on a credit card is a great way to build credit. We review common questions about being added as an authorized user on a credit card.

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If you're looking to build credit, becoming an authorized user on someone else's credit card is a smart option. It can be relatively low-risk and allows you to build or boost your credit score. But before you sign up there are some things you should know.

Below, CNBC Select reviews common questions about what's involved in being an authorized user on a credit card.

What is an authorized user?

An authorized user is an additional cardholder on someone else's credit card account. You have a credit card in your name that is linked to the primary cardholder's account.

How can being an authorized user affect your credit?

When you're added as an authorized user to someone else's credit card account, you can piggyback off their credit. With that in mind, you should really only become an authorized user on an account owned by someone with good (670-799) or excellent credit (800-850). Most major card issuers report authorized user data to the three main credit bureaus — Experian, Equifax and TransUnion — but you can call your issuer to confirm.

What responsibilities does an authorized user have?

An authorized user has no liability whatsoever. Authorized users can make charges, but they aren't responsible for bill payments. The primary cardholder has complete liability and is responsible for making payments, redeeming rewards, requesting credit limit increases, etc.

That said, it's essential for authorized users to show good financial habits when using someone else's card. You should not spend beyond your means, and you should make a clear plan with the cardholder to pay off your balance on time and in full each month.

You also don't have to actually use the card to see your credit score rise as the result of being an authorized user. So if the cardholder doesn't feel comfortable trusting you with your own card, you'll still benefit from being linked to their account.

How do I add/become an authorized user on a credit card?

The primary cardholder has to add you as an authorized user. You can either do it online, via your bank's mobile app or over the phone. The process can be completed within a few minutes, and your card will likely be mailed to the primary cardholder's address. Sometimes there's the option to ship the card to an alternative address.

And if you already added someone as an authorized user on one card from an issuer, the process is often quicker to add them to an additional card from the same issuer. For example, if you already added your spouse to your Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express, then you would just have to select their name to add them to your American Express® Gold Card instead of reentering the information. Terms apply.

How much does it cost to be an authorized user?

Depending on the credit card you're added to, it may cost nothing to be added as an authorized user. However, some credit cards charge a fee for authorized users. For example, the Chase Sapphire Reserve® charges $75 annually for each additional card.

Credit cards that don't charge authorized user fees include: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card, Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards credit card, and Citi® Double Cash Card.

How do I remove/get removed as an authorized user on a credit card?

Depending on the card issuer, the authorized user may be able to call and asked to be removed from the card. In other cases, the primary cardholder will have to call the bank themselves to ask for the removal of any authorized users they no longer want to have access to the card.

What's the next step after being an authorized user?

After you've been an authorized user for a while and you've seen your credit score increase, you may want to apply for your own credit card. Consider some of the best cards for rewards (American Express® Gold Card), cash-back (Citi® Double Cash Card) and travel (Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card).

Information about the Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards credit card has been collected independently by CNBC and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of the card prior to publication.

Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the Select editorial staff’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any third party.
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