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Being an authorized user is an easy way to get a new credit card without the credit check. One problem is that some credit cards charge an annual fee for authorized users. Of course, that doesn’t mean every authorized user gets charged a fee. Even if you pay a fee, the benefits can be worth the cost.
If you have (or are) a spouse, child, or friend wanting to be added as an authorized user, there are are a few things you should know about adding authorized users.
Who Pays the Authorized User Annual Fee?
Expect the credit card company to charge the additional card annual fee to the primary cardholder’s account. The primary cardholder is always responsible for paying the authorized user’s spending each month.
You can link different bank accounts to pay the monthly balance. Even if the annual fee is charged to the primary card, this fee can be paid from the bank account you plan on using to pay the additional card purchases with.
Credit Cards That Charge Authorized User Annual Fees
Although this list isn’t exhaustive, you are more likely to pay additional user annual fee if you own a premium credit card with a $450+ annual fee for the primary cardholder.
Don’t plan on paying an additional card fee if the primary account has an annual fee of $100 or less. Of course, there are always exceptions.
Platinum Card from American Express
The Platinum Card® from American Express charges a flat $175 on the first 3 additional cards. Whether you get one, two, or three additional cards, you only pay $175 each year plus the $550 primary account annual fee (See Rates & Fees). A family of four would pay $725 annually but a family of five pays $900 annually.
American Express requires $175 for each additional card starting with the 4th extra card if each authorized user has a Platinum Card. Complimentary Platinum benefits for additional users include:
- Global Lounge Collection airport lounge access
- Earning 5x points booking flights through an airline or Amex Travel
- 5x points booking hotel rooms through Amex Travel
- Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee reimbursement
- Hilton Honors Gold Status and Marriot Bonvoy Gold Elite status
In regards to the $200 airline fee credit, this credit applies to the entire account. Amex reimburses the first $200 in qualifying fees whether it’s the primary or additional user that has the charge.
Also, an authorized user must be at least 13 years old and have never defaulted on an American Express account.
This can be an affordable way for the entire family to own a Platinum Card without paying a $550 annual fee for each individual.
Free American Express Gold Card
If you don’t want to pay the $175 annual fee, authorized users can get an American Express Gold Card for free instead. Having a Gold Card still lets the authorized user earn 5x points on flights booked directly through the airline or on amextravel.com. Plus they earn 5x points on hotels booked on amextravel.com as well. Finally, Amex still credits the Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee every 5 years as well.
However, they also won’t be able to access the Global Lounge Collection partner lounges unless traveling with the Platinum cardholder. Still, the American Express® Gold Card is not a bad option.
Chase Sapphire Reserve
There is a $75 annual fee for each additional user for the Chase Sapphire Reserve®. The primary cardholder pays $450 annual fee. It doesn’t appear that authorized users can have a Chase Sapphire Preferred for free.
Authorized users can enjoy these complimentary benefits:
- Priority Pass Select lounge membership
- Earn 3x points on travel and dining purchases
The annual $300 travel credit applies to the first travel-related purchases made by the primary or secondary cardmembers. Unlike the American Express Platinum, Chase only reimburses the Global Entry or TSA PreCheck fee for the primary cardholder only.
Although you don’t get all the Sapphire Reserve benefits as an authorized user, it’s still cheaper than owning your own Sapphire Reserve or Sapphire Preferred. It’s also an easy way to dodge the infamous Chase 5/24 rule if you have at least five new credit cards within the past two years.
The Citi Prestige® Credit Card charges $450 for the primary user and $75 for each additional user.
Additional users will enjoy free Priority Pass Select lounge membership. They will also earn up to 5x points on every purchase:
- 5x points on air travel and restaurants
- 3x points on hotels and cruise lines
- 1x points on everything else
Like the other premium travel credit cards, the first $250 in combined travel purchases from the primary and additional users apply to the $250 travel credit.
One upcoming negative change to this card is the 4th hotel night free when booking through ThankYou.com. Starting September 1, 2019, this benefit can only be used twice a year versus the current unlimited redemption option.
Cards That Don’t Charge An Annual Fee for an Authorized User
If paying a second annual fee is out of the question, you may choose these alternatives instead.
Chase Sapphire Preferred
The Chase Sapphire Preferred costs $95 annually for the primary user and $0 for each authorized user. Although Chase no longer awards 5,000 bonus points for adding your first authorized user, new cardmembers can qualify for a 60,000-point signup bonus (worth $750 in award travel!) by spending $4,000 in the first 3 months.
Although you don’t get the $300 annual travel credit, Priority Pass Select membership, or free Global Entry, you still get these recurring card benefits:
- 25% travel redemption bonus when booking travel through Chase
- 1:1 airline and hotel point transfers
- 2x points on travel and dining purchases
- Primary rental car collision damage and theft protection
American Express Gold Card
Although the American Express® Gold Card benefits aren’t as lavish as the Platinum Card from American Express, the annual fee is only $250 (See Rates & Fees) for the primary card and $0 for authorized users. Card benefits include:
- $100 airline fee credits
- $120 in annual dining credits
- 1:1 Membership Rewards airline and hotel point transfers
- 4x points at restaurants worldwide
- 4x points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per year in purchases, then 1x)
- 3x points on flights booked directly from an airline or amextravel.com
- 1x points on all other purchases
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
The Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card earns flat rate rewards. The annual fee is $0 for the first year then $95 for the primary account and always free for the authorized user. You earn unlimited 2 miles per $1 on every purchase. Plus, all Hotels.com/venture purchases earn 10x miles through January 2020.
Miles are worth 1 cent each when redeemed as a travel statement credit or future travel. You can also transfer miles to select airline partners including JetBlue. Also, the Venture is considered to be one of the best travel credit cards. You can read our comparison of the Capital One Venture vs Chase Sapphire Preferred here.
Some, but not most, credit cards charge authorized users an annual fee. Paying this fee can be worth the fee if you can benefit from the card benefits. It also saves you from having to apply for a new credit line if you have too many recent inquiries or less-than-perfect credit.
For rates and fees of The Platinum Card® from American Express, please click here.
For rates and fees of the American Express® Gold Card, please click here.
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Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided by any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.