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What you need to know about being an authorized user on a credit card
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.
How much does it cost to be an authorized user?
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?
Split payments: Using two cards for one transaction
You’re shopping online and find the perfect wedding gift for your friends, and it’s on sale. You quickly click it into the shopping cart.
Since your credit card balance has grown uncomfortably high, you decide to split the payment between that card and the debit card from your bank, where the balance is uncomfortably low. Seems like a good solution, right?
Most online merchants won’t allow you to split your payment this way. Internet stores may allow you to combine a gift card with a credit card when you make a purchase, but they rarely let customers use two credit cards, or a credit and debit card mix, to do the same. Of the 10 e-tailers CreditCards.com spot-checked, we were only able to find one that did (see box).
“In the 17-plus years I’ve been involved with online payments, I’ve never seen a single shopping cart offer me the option to use multiple credit cards at checkout,” said Rey Pasinli, executive director at payment processing company Total-Apps, in an email.
While retailers accept a growing array of payment forms, and some brick-and-mortar stores do accept multiple cards for one transaction, shoppers are hard-pressed to find online stores that will allow them to combine two or more cards for one sale. Technology, security and expense are among the probable stumbling blocks preventing e-commerce sites from supporting multiple-card payments, experts say.
Online retail giant Amazon states on its website: “Payment may be split between one of the accepted credit or debit cards and an Amazon Gift Card, but payment can’t be split among multiple cards.” Amazon also prevents customers from splitting payment between credit cards and prepaid Visa, MasterCard and American Express cards.
While Target stores allow customers to use more than one credit card per sale — “Our checkout registers can process multiple credit cards in one transaction,” among other “multiple payment method sales,” the company’s website says — the e-commerce site Target.com “only accepts one credit card payment per order.”
Target.com, however, does allow customers to combine a credit card with up to four Target GiftCards or eGiftCards for one order, the website says.
A company spokesman confirmed that Target.com doesn’t accept multiple credit cards for online transactions and does support use of a Target GiftCard plus a credit card, but had no other comment on the subject. Amazon didn’t respond to requests for comment about its split-payment policies.
Gift cards don’t require the same verification that credit cards do, according to Pasinli. “The primary inhibitor is a technical issue. Merchants typically use a third-party shopping cart vendor to help facilitate the checkout process. Invariably, these shopping carts are configured to only accept a single credit card at checkout,” Pasinli said.
Pasinli said another challenge involves Address Verification Services (AVS), an anti-fraud tool that allows merchants to see if the submitted billing address matches that on file with the card issuing bank. If a consumer uses multiple cards, each would need to be validated by AVS. “Coding a shopping cart to dynamically do this would require some pretty sophisticated programming,” he said.
Things can get extremely complicated once you start adding another variable into the checkout process.
|— Rey Pasinli|
Gift cards, on the other hand, don’t require AVS or CVV (Card Verification Value), so it’s easier for online merchants to accept them alongside a credit card, rather than multiple credit cards. In addition, merchants anticipate that people may receive several gift cards and combine them for a large purchase, Pasinli noted. A consumer using 10 separate credit cards with $2,000 limits to buy a $20,000 Cartier watch, however, might raise suspicions, he said.
Using multiple credit cards also could complicate the payment process for the consumer. What happens if a consumer uses three cards at checkout and later returns the item? “Which card gets the refund? As you can see, things can get extremely complicated once you start adding another variable into the checkout process,” Pasinli said.
Don Bush, vice president of marketing at Kount Inc., an online and mobile fraud prevention technology firm, said that many merchants — both online and offline — simply choose not to support split credit cards and multitender transactions because of the various information technology components, operations and systems required.
Many systems — tax, e-commerce, fulfillment, promotion — don’t support it, and when retailers need to involve multiple systems in a transaction, “there’s an increased chance of delay, complications and collisions that can cause headaches for both the company and the consumer,” Bush said via email. “All the systems have to collaborate to make sure criminals aren’t working the loopholes between systems, and working with split cards can complicate this even further.”
As for the practice of some retailers allowing more than one credit card for a purchase at a physical store but not online, Bush noted that in-store systems run on different platforms than online systems. “They don’t collect as much data and can cross between gift and credit cards easier.” In a “card-not-present” environment, i.e., one used in phone or online sales, “the systems are not as easily combined and there is a big window for fraudsters to exploit,” he added.
[myfinance] Restrictions on merchants
Combining credit cards for one purchase also could cause problems if it allows a sale to exceed the authorization limits set by a retailer’s credit card service provider. Merchant accounts have a maximum ticket size, Pasinli explained, “so if a merchant has a $2,000 max ticket, they are prohibited from splitting a transaction using multiple cards” to circumvent that max, he said.
All the systems have to collaborate to make sure criminals aren’t working the loopholes between systems, and working with split cards can complicate this even further.
|— Don Bush|
The blog for Unibul Merchant Services, a credit card acceptance firm for U.S. businesses and nonprofits, warned merchants against trying to get around their ticket max by allowing a split transaction with multiple credit cards, noting that the practice is “explicitly forbidden.”
Retailer authorization limits are part of fraud prevention, the blog notes. And a merchant’s card processing rates are based partly on the risk exposure connected to its authorization limits, Unibul says.
Credit card companies do allow split transactions involving gift or prepaid cards because they can’t be overdrawn, Unibul notes.
Consumers find workarounds
If blogs and Internet forums are any indication, some consumers have found their own ways to work around e-commerce sites’ one-credit-card-only limits, essentially by using credit cards or credit-card-company gift cards to buy retailer gift cards to make a desired online purchase.
A site called EasySplitPay contains articles on how to split online payments at several merchants, and the advice essentially boils down to purchasing gift cards with credit or debit cards.
Outside of online shopping carts, there are some industries where multiple cards might be utilized in a transaction, Pasinli noted. A large wedding catering bill could amount to $50,000, and since most consumer credit cards don’t have that size of a limit, the consumer might utilize five different credit cards with a $10,000 limit each, he said, adding that split payments also would be allowed for areas such as legal services, travel, timeshare, wholesale bulk orders, commercial and construction.
|SPLIT PAYMENT TRANSACTIONS ONLINE? PROBABLY NOT|
|It’s hard, but not impossible, to find U.S. e-commerce sites that allow multiple credit cards for one order. CreditCards.com did a spot-check of 10 online retailers and found only one that does allow the customer to use two credit cards for one transaction at checkout.|
|Retailer||Allows split transactions online?|
|Crateandbarrel.com (and affiliated Landofnod.com)||Yes|
|Source: CreditCards.com research, April 2016|
See related: Survey: 5 in 6 Americans admit to impulse buys, Poll finds craziest places people do online shopping
The editorial content on this page is based solely on the objective assessment of our writers and is not driven by advertising dollars. It has not been provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products from our partners.
Dinah Wisenberg Brin is a former CreditCards.com personal finance contributor.
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Why Does My Credit Card Minimum Payment Keep Rising?
If you're carrying a balance on your credit card, the card issuer typically calculates your minimum payment each month as a percentage of what you owe — and that figure will rise if you're charging more to the card each month and growing the balance.
But there can also be other factors at work. Depending on the issuer, your minimum payment may also include interest, late fees, amounts that exceed your credit limit, or installment plan payments.
The point is, a minimum monthly payment isn't a static figure and can in fact be a maddening moving target. Here what to know about it and how to keep yours under control.
» MORE:What to do if you can’t make your credit card payments
Knowing how your minimum payment is calculated offers insight
For starters, it's important to know how your minimum payment is calculated. This varies a bit from issuer to issuer, but often your minimum is determined in one of the following ways:
As a percentage of what you owe (typically 1%-3%).
As a percentage of what you owe, plus interest and late fees you’ve incurred.
Nerdy tip: Most issuers also have a "base" minimum payment of $20-$35. This is what you'll be charged if neither of the two calculations above produces a dollar amount equal to that base minimum. If you owe less than this base figure, that small balance becomes in effect your minimum due for the month.
Other factors at play
Some credit card issuers might also roll any amount over your credit limit into your minimum payment. The same may apply to missed payments. Or if you’ve accepted an installment plan like a Citi Flex Loan, American Express’ Pay It Plan It® or Chase’s My Chase Plan, the amount you owe for those plans could also be added to your minimum payment.
“Every issuer's terms and base minimum payments are different, so it's important to read your cardmember agreement to understand how yours is calculated.”
Sometimes, an issuer will use a combination of these calculations to determine your minimum payment. As an example, a cardmember agreement might state:
"If your balance is less than $25, your minimum payment will be equal to your balance. Otherwise, your minimum payment will be the greater of $25 or 1% of your balance plus new interest and late payment fees."
Every issuer's terms and base minimum payments are different, so it's important to read your cardmember agreement to understand how yours is calculated.
» MORE:Learn about the benefits of paying more than the minimum
Possible reasons why your minimum payment increased
In general, if your minimum payment keeps rising and it becomes more difficult to pay, you should consider it a warning sign to reevaluate your finances. Usually, a minimum payment is growing for one (or possibly some combination of) the following reasons:
You’re charging more: If your issuer is taking a percentage of your outstanding balance to calculate your minimum payment, charging more will cause this figure to rise. For instance, if you usually charge $1,000 to your card each month and your issuer charges 2% of the outstanding balance, your minimum payment will be $20. But if your spending starts to rise and the balance increases to $2,000, your minimum may puff up to $40.
You’re incurring interest: The only way to avoid getting hit with interest is to pay off your balance in full each month. Most credit cards carry double-digit interest rates, so if you’re carrying a balance, these charges are getting tacked onto your minimum every month. Although it probably won’t pinch too much initially, over the course of several billing cycles your minimum could get very high.
You’re incurring fees: Habitually paying your credit card bill late could also cause your minimum payment to skyrocket. Most issuers roll these charges into your minimum until they’re paid off, and will continue to tack them on as you incur them.
You’re behind on your payments: If you didn’t make your minimum payment last month, it will likely be added to your minimum payment the following month. If you continue to miss payments, your minimum will continue to rise.
» MORE:How minimum payments are perfectly calibrated to keep you in debt
Tips for taming your minimum
Paying the minimum on your credit card will delay debt repayment. It’s fine to pay only the minimum in an emergency or crisis. In that kind of situation, it's more important to prioritize essentials like groceries, utilities and the roof over your head. And meeting at least the minimum payment still goes a long way toward preserving access to credit and maintaining an account in good standing.
Outside of such exceptions, though, it’s ideal to pay more than the minimum to climb out of debt faster and save on interest charges. Here are a few strategies for keeping your minimum payment under control:
Pay your bill on time every month, if possible: By paying your bill on time, you’ll be keeping your credit scores in good shape. To ward off forgetfulness, sign up for text or email alerts so that you won’t get hit with a late fee. With a predictable budget, you can also automate payments.
Keep a budget and track your spending: This will prevent you from charging more than you can afford to pay off in one month. If you’re struggling to make your minimum payment, consider how you can lower the cost of your bills or ways to find fast cash.
Consider get-out-of-debt strategies to lower your balance: If you don’t explore options to get out of debt, interest will keep accruing and your minimum payment will keep rising.
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