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It’s become common practice for credit card providers to offer incentives and benefits for adding an authorized user (AU) to your card account. Some of the perks offered are for the primary cardholder, while others are benefits the authorized user receives for holding the card.

Cards like The Platinum Card® from American Express provide carryover benefits to authorized users such as lounge access and complimentary elite status, at a fraction of the annual fee of holding a standalone card.

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The list of carryover benefits differs for each card, as does the cost of adding authorized user accounts. We're not covering cards in this post that provide bonus points to the primary cardholder for adding an authorized user, as we've covered those cards in detail in another post, this post is aimed at the authorized user cards, and the perks they receive.

Benefits of Adding an Authorized User to Your Credit Card

The benefits of adding an authorized user to your card include:

  • Track spending & expenses – Adding an authorized user is a great way to keep track of your monthly expenditures. Whether it’s an AU card for the kids or additional cards for employees, you’ll have an easy time tracking purchases made with your account.
  • Earn additional points & miles – Additional cards typically mean more spending power which in turn means earning more points. Spending on AU cards will earn points that deposit directly into your rewards account.
  • Help meet minimum spend & threshold bonuses – Reaching the $500 minimum spend on the Freedom Card isn’t going to present too much of a hurdle for most folks. But there are plenty of minimum spend and spending threshold bonuses that require tens of thousands of dollars to reach, which is a harder obstacle to overcome. Having two or more cards racking up purchases makes hitting those high spending thresholds a little easier, helping you reach the big payoffs like Marriott Platinum Elite Status when you spend $75K on your Ritz-Carlton Card in a calendar year.
  • Help AU build a credit file – Adding an AU to your account can help that person establish a positive credit file before applying for making the jump into the credit market themselves. If the card has been open a long time, an authorized user can add years to their credit score with minimal effort.
  • Gift cheap/free benefits to AU cardholders – Lots of rewards cards offer top benefits for AU accounts without the high annual expense of being a primary cardholder. For instance, want a free Priority Pass membership? Get added an AU to a family member’s Ritz-Carlton Card, and you’ll receive your own Priority Pass membership, and with no annual fee for adding the AU card!
  • Receive the benefits before getting the bonus – As an authorized user, you can receive many of the benefits of holding the card, while keeping open the opportunity to get the signup bonus on the same card at a later date. If you’re holding out for now, but you still want that sweet lounge access when you fly, put off applying for the card and have a family member add you as an authorized user.

Carryover Benefits for Credit Card Authorized User Accounts

The table below covers the carryover benefits on the most popular premium rewards credit cards. Outside of the typical Visa Infinite/Signature, Mastercard, and Amex benefits, which are provided to both primary and authorized user accounts, these are tangible benefits that AU accounts receive each year.

CardAU Card BenefitsAU Bonus PointsAU Annual Fee
The Platinum Card® from American ExpressReceive the full suite of Platinum Card benefits except for the Airline & Uber Credits. This includes all lounge access perks, elite status benefits across multiple programs, and Boingo Wi-Fi access, plus each card receives a Global Entry/TSA fee credit up to $100.N/AAdd up to 3 AU cards for a total of $175, each card after that is an additional $175 - Rates & Fees
The Business Platinum® Card from American ExpressReceive the same benefits as consumer Platinum AU's plus 10 Gogo in-flight Wi-Fi passes.N/A$300 -Rates & Fees
Chase Sapphire Reserve®Full Priority Pass membership with same guesting privileges plus all the travel insurance and Visa Infinite perks offered to primary cardholders. Don't receive the $300 travel credit or Global Entry fee credit.N/A$75
The Ritz-Carlton Rewards® Credit CardFull Priority Pass membership with same guesting privileges and can use the $100 Visa Infinite Airline Discount and insurance benefits. Don't receive the $300 airline credit or Global Entry fee credit.10K points if added and a purchase made in the first three monthsNo Fee
Citi Prestige® CardFull Priority Pass membership with same guesting privileges, don't receive the $250 travel credit or the 4th-night free perk.N/A$50

Outside of the premium cards listed above, carryover benefits on mid-tier and no annual fee rewards cards are restricted to those listed in the card's Guide to Benefits. On cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, this includes a powerful set of travel and purchase protection perks like Primary Rental CDW, Trip Cancellation & Interruption Insurance, and excellent Trip Delay coverage.

Potential Downsides to Adding an Authorized User

  • Your credit score is on the line – First and foremost you need to protect your credit score, and adding an AU account can put that at risk if the account is used carelessly or bills are not paid.
  • Additional fees – Additional annual fees put a dent in the profit made from earning points and miles. As an example, if the annual fee for adding an authorized user is $69, and the points are worth 1.5¢ a piece, you’d need to spend an additional $4,600 at 1 point per dollar before you’re in the green, not taking into account perks such as lounge access, etc. It’s crucial to do the math before you add an AU to ensure it’s worth the added cost.
  • Can impact card applications – One of the issues many points and miles fans run into with Chase’s 5/24 policy, is finding AU accounts counted against their personal 5/24 count. While it’s a fairly easy situation to rectify by speaking to a human directly, it’s something to be aware of before becoming an AU on someone else account.

Something else to be aware of is that benefits are not always laid out clearly by the credit provider. The benefits available to AU cardholders may not be fully explained in the benefits guide or card T&C’s, and it’s best to contact your card provider and clarify the cost and exactly what’s included before you add an AU to your card.

Final Thoughts

For carryover perks, it’s hard to go past the Amex Platinum and Business Platinum Card, even with the higher than average annual fees. With the exception of the travel and Uber credits, AU’s gain access to the full suite of Platinum perks including Centurion Lounge and Delta Sky Club access, a full Priority Pass membership, a Global Entry/TSA fee credit for each card, elite status benefits across multiple programs including Hilton and Marriott/SPG, and free Boingo Wi-Fi access. What’s your favorite perk for AU cardholders? Let us know in the comments below.

For rates and fees of the cards mentioned in this post, please visit the following links: The Business Platinum® Card from American Express (Rates & Fees), and The Platinum Card® from American Express (Rates & Fees)

Benefits for Authorized Users on Rewards Credit Cards (Updated November 2018)
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Comments

  • Adding an authorized user benefits young adults trying to establish a good credit rating.

  • There’s definitely a few cards out there where it could be worthwhile, and the benefits of helping build someone else’s credit never hurts if you include them in your travel plans.

  • If the authorized user has terrible credit, would adding the authorized user help re-build his credit?

  • I would add to this analysis that adding an authorized user for free on a card that provides primary car insurance is a big value. For example, the Sapphire preferred card.

  • The Citi AAdvantage executive card gives all authorized users access to the Admirals Club, even if the primary user is not present. Since authorized users are free, it makes the annual fee much more palatable since it is buying membership for all members of my family independently.

  • charles j says:

    I assume that cards that have a ‘airline incidentals’ rebate, rebate ‘airline incidentals’ charged on authorized users cards also. Any experience otherwise?

  • Such a timely article for our family as my grown sons and I recently had a discussion about this regarding how adding their sons as AU could be beneficial.

  • deerseason says:

    This year we got my wife the CSR and opted not to get me as an authorized user (last year I had the card and she wasn’t an authorized user). Just wasn’t worth the extra 75 dollars since we were usually traveling together.

  • building up credit for the AU is actually a good point.
    I haven’t thought about it before.

  • The au will count towards the 5/24 rule

  • I have added authorized users on some of my cards, glad to get the bonuses and points when they make purchases.

  • Just added my niece on my CSR before a 3 week trip to Asia with 2 friends and 5 airport stops with nicer PP lounges. Well worth the 75 fee just on this one trip for 3 people.

  • I love having an Authorized User on my CSR, it really is worth it for the travel perks!

  • I love how chase offers bonus points for authorized users on some of their cards, I wish more banks would do the same.

  • I did not add my wife to my CSR because of the 5/24 rule. Now she will apply for her own card to get the bonus.

  • Having my kids as AUs has given them a great credit history.

  • I never thought of adding an AU to my cards before, the wife has a low CS so this could be a good way of rebuilding it.

  • Good point on adding an AU. Wouldn’t add if they can get their own card though – they can get the sign up bonus and all the other stuff with their own card. If you are paying the 75 fee for CSR AU’s, then assume they getting value out of it and wouldn’t be hard to get another 80 or so their own card would cost them.

  • Rachel Arreola says:

    So if a person had less than stellar credit and a family member wanted to help them, by making them an AU, does the AU have to actually use the card? Could the primary just add them and keep the card as insurance the AU won’t do anything stupid and help raise their credit score?

  • This is how I first got started!

  • We have one card that has all three of our adult children on as au’s. This is in the event that there is an emergency and we need them to pay for something. It also gives them the benefit of American Airlines club access.

  • Useful for those with player 2.

  • I added my child as an AU while they were in college so they could us my high credit limit card as a backup in case they needed to make a large purchase. Child had a couple of individual credit cards, but with fairly low limits – hard to purchase airline tickets and so forth. Gave me peace of mind when child was abroad and raised their credit score a little.

  • oh wow I never thought about this! I always just assumed that the perks are only for me. Good to know my hubby could use some perks too!
    Has it always been a way to build credit history adding an AU? I was an AU on my parents card growing up and when I went to get my own card they said I didn’t have enough history. I was an AU for about 5yrs but this was back in late 90’s. My kid is about a couple years away from getting a prepaid card for kids through my credit union. I’m hoping this will help them build a history and then later get them credit cards once they’re old enough.

  • Can I make my 10 y/o an AU?

  • Michaelj1 says:

    Another way to establish credit for a young person with no credit history is to add them on your account as an additional principal card holder which also makes liable on the account. The resulting benefit is that the young person knows they will be on the if prompt payment is not made. So, they are consequently more responsible with their spending.

  • Thanks for the handy reference.

  • If the AU does not use the card will their credit history still improve

    • All other things considered equal (meaning the primary cardholder pays the bill on time and doesn’t have high utilization), yes, the AU will likely see a credit score increase over time.

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