Why you can trust ZDNET : ZDNET independently tests and researches products to bring you our best recommendations and advice. When you buy through our links, we may earn a commission. Our process

'ZDNET Recommends': What exactly does it mean?

ZDNET's recommendations are based on many hours of testing, research, and comparison shopping. We gather data from the best available sources, including vendor and retailer listings as well as other relevant and independent reviews sites. And we pore over customer reviews to find out what matters to real people who already own and use the products and services we’re assessing.

When you click through from our site to a retailer and buy a product or service, we may earn affiliate commissions. This helps support our work, but does not affect what we cover or how, and it does not affect the price you pay. Neither ZDNET nor the author are compensated for these independent reviews. Indeed, we follow strict guidelines that ensure our editorial content is never influenced by advertisers.

ZDNET's editorial team writes on behalf of you, our reader. Our goal is to deliver the most accurate information and the most knowledgeable advice possible in order to help you make smarter buying decisions on tech gear and a wide array of products and services. Our editors thoroughly review and fact-check every article to ensure that our content meets the highest standards. If we have made an error or published misleading information, we will correct or clarify the article. If you see inaccuracies in our content, please report the mistake via this form.


Four reasons to add your teen as an authorized credit card user

The advantages could outweigh the risks.
Written by Holly Johnson, Contributor
Reviewed by Evan Zimmer

While naming your teen as an authorized user on your credit card may sound scary, there are some distinct advantages to this arrangement. But first things first -- what exactly are you authorizing, anyway?

What is an authorized user?

In the context of your credit card, an authorized user is someone to whom you've granted financial access. When you add an authorized user to your account, they get their own credit card with their name on it. However, only the primary cardholder (you) will receive the bill.

Depending on your card issuer, you may have access to account settings that let you limit the amount of money your authorized user can spend each day or each month. Generally speaking, you should also be able to set other stipulations on your authorized user's account, such as limiting or denying cash advances made with the card.

Also: The best credit cards for good credit

By adding your teen (or anyone else) as an authorized user, you are taking full responsibility for any purchases they make. In other words, it's up to you to set the ground rules to make sure everything goes as planned.

While it's easy to assume that teens and credit cards don't mix, adding your teen as an authorized user on your account comes with four benefits:

1. It's convenient

Teen social lives are more active than ever, which means the need for pocket money is real. If you forget to give your teen money for a bus ride home, a quick bite to eat between sporting events or practices, or a movie with their friends, they can use their authorized user card to pick up the tab.

2. It can help them build credit

Once your teen is an authorized user, your card issuer will begin reporting your credit details to the three credit reporting agencies: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. Furthermore, because of the Credit CARD Act of 2009, adults under the age of 21 may not qualify for a credit card without a co-signer or proof of income. By making your teen an authorized user early on, you can let them build credit they couldn't build on their own.

3. It will teach them to use credit responsibly

Teens who haven't had access to credit in the past may be in for a rude awakening once they come of age and apply for their own cards. If they have no idea how credit works -- or how easy it is to rack up a huge balance -- they could be in for a world of hurt.

Also: The most exclusive credit cards

Letting your teen ease into using credit as an authorized user, on the other hand, with your watchful guidance, allows them to learn about credit in a relatively safe, low-risk environment.

4. Emergencies happen

While it's convenient for your teen to have money for necessities, it's important for them to have access to emergency money as well. If your teen goes out of town for a school field trip, gets a flat tire on the side of the road, or gets stuck in an uncomfortable situation, it would be nice to know they have access to emergency credit if they need it.

But keep in mind...

While adding your teen as an authorized user can make a lot of sense, you should still tread carefully. Here are some factors to consider as you ponder this move:

  • All liability is yours: When you add an authorized user to your credit card, you take all liability for their purchases -- whether those purchases were authorized by you or not.
  • Potential credit damage: If your teen gets out of hand and runs up a balance you cannot repay, any late or delinquent payments will go on both of your credit reports. That's why it's a smart move to put a cap on how much they're allowed to charge or use a card with a lower credit limit.
  • Possible drama: If your teen has trouble with spending limits, uses their credit without your permission, or is otherwise unreliable, you can expect some bumps along the road.

While these disadvantages are real, the easiest way to avoid a sticky situation is to set account limits on how much your teen can spend -- and when. By adding these limits, you can save yourself the headache of finding out that your teen overspent.

[This article was first published on The Simple Dollar in 2020. It was updated in March 2022.]

Editorial standards