Having a family member add you as an authorized user is one of the quickest, most effective strategies for consumers who are looking to establish and build credit, whether you’re new to the U.S. or just starting out. In fact, it’s the first strategy many experts recommend for young adults that are just starting out.
If a parent or relative is willing to add you as an authorized user to one of their own accounts, and the account is an older, well-established account with a high credit limit, low balance and positive payment history, it essentially allows you to “piggyback” on their credit and establish great credit right out of the gate. It saves them from the more time consuming, tedious and often more expensive alternatives: secured cards, student cards or retail store cards, all of which generally carry higher interest rates and less than stellar terms.
But what should you do if your credit has benefited from being an authorized user on someone else’s account, and the primary cardholder wants to remove you from it? We recently received this question from a reader:
Having lived in Europe for 35 years, I could not get a credit card when I returned about eight years ago. About four or five years ago, my sister used her accounts to get me an American Express Blue Sky card, and a Citibank Drivers Edge charter MasterCard. I’ve used the cards daily, and also financed a new car, and now have a Experian 800 score, and the other two are in the 790s.
My sister has asked me to get a card in my own name, as she doesn’t want the responsibility of checking the accounts each month. The AmEx card has an available credit of $18,200 and the MasterCard has $22,800 total credit.
As I have no debts, other than my auto finance, and have no credit history other than that of these two cards, I have asked my sister if I can keep the accounts open, but I will send her the cards, to relieve her of all responsibilities. If I understand correctly, this will be the best way to preserve my credit score.
I would like to ask, should I open up one, or rather two new cards in my own name, and is it possible to know what credit limits the cards offer before applying for one? Is there anything else I should consider before applying for new cards in order to do as little damage to my score as possible?
To be an authorized user, or not?
Because your sister’s accounts have such high credit limits with long, well-established credit histories, it would be better to keep them open and in your name if possible. If she’ll agree to your proposal and allow you to remain on the accounts in exchange for sending back the cards, it’ll allow you to continue to benefit from a credit perspective. Having said that, your sister is the one who’s carrying the full burden of risk at this point, which may explain why she’s asking that you obtain cards in your name now that you’ve had time to establish credit on your own.
Although it’s not ideal from a credit building perspective, if your sister decides that she’s uncomfortable with keeping you on her accounts, all is not lost. Thanks to her kindness and generosity, your credit is in great shape so you shouldn’t have any trouble qualifying for a credit card on your own.
Assuming she’ll allow you to remain on the accounts until you’re able to open a new card in your name, it would be best to start with one card rather than trying to replace both cards at once. Applying for multiple credit cards in a short period of time can actually backfire and hurt your score, at least initially, until the account has time to mature and age. If you manage the card as you’ve managed your sister’s cards during the past five years, your credit scores will continue to thrive and you’ll have no problem obtaining a second card later on down the road.
Here are a couple of resources that may be helpful:
- The First Thing to Do Before Applying for a Credit Card
- Why You Need a Credit Card Account in Your Own Name
- The Ultimate Guide to Credit Scores
Image: Wavebreak Media