Here’s a question I get on an almost daily basis, though it has occurred to me that I’ve never written a post about it before. If you’re an authorized user on someone else’s credit card, are you eligible for the bonus on that card if you apply outright?
Authorized users are eligible for credit card bonuses
Credit cards frequently offer huge upfront welcome offers, whereby you can earn a lot of bonus points for spending a certain amount within a limited timeframe. While there are different credit card application rules for each bank, there are generally restrictions whereby an existing cardmember can’t apply for a card they already have and receive a bonus.
How does that work in the context of authorized users? If you’re the authorized user on someone else’s credit card, can you apply for the card as the primary cardmember and earn the bonus? The answer is universally yes — being an authorized user on someone else’s credit card doesn’t preclude you from applying for that card yourself, and earning the bonus.
When welcome bonus rules talk about existing cardmembers, they’re specifically talking about primary cardmembers, and not authorized users.
You don’t even need to cancel your authorized user card to be able to do this. For example, say you’re an authorized user on your spouse’s Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card (review). You could remain an authorized user, and still apply outright and earn the welcome bonus on the card.
Should you be an authorized user or apply outright?
For those in relationships, it can sometimes be difficult to decide under which circumstances it makes sense to apply for a card outright, rather than being an authorized user on a spouse’s card (and vice versa). There are pros and cons to each.
The advantage of adding someone as an authorized user is that it minimizes annual fees, since many cards have lower (or no) annual fees for authorized users vs. the primary cardmembers. Meanwhile the advantages of having both people in a relationship apply for a card outright is that many cards have big welcome bonuses, and on top of that some cards pay for themselves.
Just to give a couple of examples:
- The Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard® (review) is a card where I’d absolutely add a spouse as an authorized user, as the card offers an Admirals Club membership for the primary cardmember, and you can add up to 10 authorized users at no extra cost, and each of them gets Admirals Club access as well, making adding authorized users a no-brainer
- The IHG® Rewards Premier Credit Card (review) is a card where I think it makes sense for a spouse to apply separately, given the amazing perks; the card has a $99 annual fee, and offers an anniversary free night certificate, IHG One Rewards Platinum status, a fourth night free on award redemptions, up to $50 in United credits annually, and more
For more on this topic, see my post on the best credit card strategy for families.
Many credit cards have amazing welcome bonuses, though you’re generally only eligible for them if you don’t already have that card. The good news is that across the board, being an authorized user on someone else’s card still makes you eligible to apply for that card outright and receive the bonus (assuming you’re otherwise eligible for the card).
Therefor this really comes down to deciding for each card whether the economics of applying outright make sense.
Have you ever applied for a credit card on which you’re already an authorized user?
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