Best credit cards for authorized users
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When you add an authorized user to a travel credit card, there are plenty of perks they won’t get — the most glaring is that they won’t have the opportunity the valuable welcome bonus.
There are very specific and strategic scenarios for adding an authorized user. The card should come with outstanding benefits for both of you if you’re going to add one. And perhaps most important ofs all, you must implicitly trust your authorized user. You are responsible for their spending, they are not. If they run up a large balance on your card, the bank will glare at you, not them.
Let’s take a look at the top credit cards for authorized users in 2020.
Best credit cards for authorized users in 2020
- Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®
- The Platinum Card® from American Express
- Chase Sapphire Reserve®
- Southwest® Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card
Authorized user or joint credit card?
Ever heard of a joint credit card? It’s exactly what it sounds like — a credit card equally owned by you and someone else. You each have your own login credentials, and you’re both responsible for the balance. In other words, your partner won’t spend frivolously because they are just as culpable for the repercussions (not so with authorized users, as stated above).
Joint credit cards have lost a lot of steam over the years, and only a couple obscure points credit cards now offer the option. If you’re in the miles and points game, you should be looking at more lucrative travel cards, all of which offer the option to add an authorized user. Only the primary cardholder can access the account and make changes. Your authorized user can’t see your balance, transaction history, or any other sensitive information. When they swipe the card, you’ll get the points!
Best credit cards for authorized users
Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®
Earn 50,000 American Airlines miles after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening. We estimate American Airlines are worth at least 1.4 cents each, making this bonus worth $700 (though it can be worth exponentially more if you know the best ways to use American Airlines miles).
This is hands-down one of the best deals in travel. When you add an authorized user, they will receive access to the American Airlines Admirals Club airport lounge. That means as long as they have a same-day boarding pass for eligible American Airlines or partner flight, they can access Admirals Clubs, and even bring along immediate family or up to two guests.
You can add up to 10 authorized users to the card, though they won’t have access to partner lounges. Just note that only the primary cardholder gets a full Admirals Club membership, which includes access to certain partner lounges (you can see the list of lounges here), while authorized users get Admirals Club access, but aren’t able to enter partner lounges, or get discounts on meeting rooms or other promotions.
The best primary cardholder benefit also happens to be Admirals Club access. However, you’ll also receive:
- Priority check-in
- Priority airport screening (where available)
- Priority boarding
- First checked bag free for you and up to eight companions traveling with you on the same reservation
- Statement credit for your TSA PreCheck or Global Entry application fee, which is worth up to $100
The Citi AAdvantage Executive comes with a $450 annual fee.
An Admirals Club membership can cost up to $650. While Admirals Club access isn’t as comprehensive as Admirals Club membership, adding up to 10 authorized users means you could gift hundreds and hundreds of dollars in lounge access. After all, a day pass at Admirals Club locations costs $59 a pop. Read our Citi AAdvantage Executive review for all the details.
You will receive $650 in value for Admirals Club membership, and your authorized user can mentally bank $59 per visit to Admirals Club lounges. It’s not hard to save hundreds and hundreds as an authorized user.
Tack on the value of the welcome bonus (which we peg at $700), and you’re effortlessly saving $1,500+ the first year you have the card. That’s not even counting the money you’ll save on checked bags, which cost $30 each way per person!
The Platinum Card® from American Express
You’ll earn 100,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $6,000 on purchases on the Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership.
This card is jam-packed full of airline, rideshare and shopping credits (we’ll cover those in just a second) — all of which your authorized user WON’T get. However, an authorized user will receive the following:
- Access to Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts
- Complimentary Gold elite status with Hilton and Marriott (upgrades to bigger rooms where available, late checkout, more points for paid stays, etc.)
- Statement credit for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry
- Complimentary elite status with Avis, Hertz and National
- The most comprehensive airport lounge access of any card, including American Express Centurion Lounges, Priority Pass, Delta (when you have a same-day Delta boarding pass), and more
- Enrollment required for select benefits.
The caveat is that you’ll pay $175 per authorized user (see rates and fees). If they value top-notch airport lounge access, the card is a no-brainer.
The Amex Platinum card comes with a load of benefits and perks, such as an annual airline incidental fee credit of up to $200 on your selected airline, up to $200 in Uber credits per year and up to $100 in credit for Saks Fifth Avenue per year. Enrollment required for select benefits.
You’ll also receive the previously stated benefits which make this card a home run — especially the lounge access perk. No other card competes with Amex Platinum lounge perks.
The card also has no foreign transaction fees (see rates and fees).
The Amex Platinum comes with a $695 annual fee(see rates and fees).
Each year with this card you can get up to $500 total in credits for Uber, Saks Fifth Ave. and airline incidental fees. The Amex Platinum card is worth the annual fee if you manage to use those credits each year. If the other ongoing benefits of this card are worth more than $50 to you, you’ll come out ahead.
The card’s statement credits (up to $500) and welcome bonus ($1,800 based on our Amex points value estimation) equal over $2,000 in value.
Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. We estimate that Chase points are worth an average of 1.7 cents each, making this bonus worth $900 — though you can squeeze lots more out of your points with little effort. Read our post on the best ways to use Chase points.
Authorized users cost $75 each with the Chase Sapphire Reserve. But here’s what it’ll get you!
Authorized users will receive a full Priority Pass lounge access membership, meaning they can access 1,300+ airport lounges around the world. They can even bring in two guests for free. The most comparable purchasable Priority Pass membership costs $429 annually, meaning $75 is a small price to pay for this perk alone.
Chase Sapphire Reserve cardholders and authorized users are also eligible for at least 12 months of complimentary DoorDash DashPass memberships. You must activate your free membership by March 31, 2025. DashPass regularly costs $9.99/month and comes with lower service fees and free delivery on orders of $12+. That’s a $120 value per cardholder.
Perhaps the best part is that authorized users will receive identical travel insurance as the primary cardholder. The Chase Sapphire Reserve has some of the absolute best insurance in the game, with primary rental car coverage, trip delay insurance, baggage delay insurance, and much more. It ranks highly on our list of the best travel insurance credit cards.
This card is top of the line, so expect plenty of Chase Sapphire Reserve perks. You’ll receive:
- One $300 statement credit for travel purchases each account anniversary year ($300 is split between you and authorized users)
- Statement credit for up to $100 for Global Entry
- Complimentary Lyft Pink membership (normally costs $19.99/month – activate by March 31, 2025), which comes with perks like 15% off all rides, priority airport pickups, etc. This benefit goes to you or your authorized user, whoever signs up first
- 10 Chase Ultimate Rewards points per dollar on Lyft rides (through March 2025)
- 3 points per dollar on travel (excluding the $300 travel credit) and dining at restaurants
- 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases worldwide
Read more about what the card offers in our review of the Chase Sapphire Reserve.
The card comes with a $550 annual fee.
The Chase Sapphire Reserve is one of the overall best rewards credit cards. While it leaves some of the best perks for its primary cardholders only, there are a few benefits it extends to authorized users that are too good to pass up.
We estimate the card’s 60,000 point bonus to be worth at least $900. Add that with other card benefits, such as a complimentary DoorDash DashPass, Lyft Pink membership, Global Entry credit and two Priority Pass memberships costing $429+ each, and you’re looking at a value of ~$2,200 after you pay the $550 annual fee.
Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business Credit Card
The Southwest Performance Business offers 80,000 Southwest points after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening.
Southwest points are worth around 1.5 cents each toward Southwest flights. That means you’ll receive $1,200 from this bonus. But that’s just the beginning. After you complete spending requirements, you’ll have earned 125,000 Southwest points, which automatically qualifies you for the Southwest Companion Pass!! I’ll explain what that means in just a minute.
You can only earn the bonuses on these cards every 48 months. But because the Companion Pass is valid for up to two years (depending on when you earn it), you can alternate earning the Companion Pass between you and your partner. This strategy ensures you’ll have the Companion Pass for the foreseeable future.
Adding an authorized user to a personal credit card usually counts against their Chase 5/24 rule amount. But because this card is a Chase small business card, it won’t count against the Chase 5/24 rule for you or your authorized user, so you can add them guilt-free. And employee cards are free!
The Southwest Companion Pass is the best deal in travel. Once you earn it, you can bring a friend or family member with you on every single Southwest flight through December 31 of the following year. In other words, if you earn it any time in 2020, your Companion Pass will be valid until December 31, 2021. I used my pass to reserve flights for my wife and me to various destinations like Mexico, Chicago and Philadelphia — we saved $1,000+ last year alone, and we barely used it.
The card also comes with:
- Up to $100 in TSA PreCheck or Global Entry credit every four years
- Four upgraded boarding certificates per year (worth up to $200)
- $8 per day inflight Wi-Fi credits
- 9,000 Southwest points after renewing your card each year
The card comes with a $199 annual fee.
Cards with big spending requirements are a good reason to add authorized users. This card’s $25,000 spending requirement can be daunting if you have meager small business expenses. Adding an authorized user can make it much easier to achieve your minimum spending — and there’s no better reward than the Southwest Companion Pass to reward your joint effort!
You’ll receive ~$1,875 in free flights from 125,000 Southwest points. But with the Companion Pass, you’ll get double that value by taking a friend along for nearly free! That’s a whopping $3,750 in free flights. And the Companion Pass works for paid flights, too, so you could save thousands more depending on how often you fly.
How we chose the best credit cards for authorized users
Similar to the way we search for the best travel credit cards, we’re examining cards that offer ongoing benefits vastly more valuable than the annual fee you’ll pay for an authorized user.
But just because it’s possible to receive amazing value from a card doesn’t mean it makes sense for your lifestyle. For example, many of the above cards come with lounge access extended to authorized users, including the ability to bring two guests for free. If you and your authorized user travel together all the time, there’s no need for you to both have lounge membership, because you can use your guest privileges to get them in for free anyway!
However, if you’re a traveling family of six, it would be wise to add your partner as your authorized user, and you can both use guest privileges to get your entire family into an airport lounge.
We’re not as concerned with huge bonus offers, because authorized users don’t get their own intro offer. They’ll have to apply for the card themselves if they want it.
Should I add an authorized user to my card?
Adding an authorized user doesn’t come without a few repercussions, both to you and your partner.
As mentioned earlier, you as a primary cardholder should only add an authorized user if they are financially responsible. Don’t provide your credit line to someone you don’t trust! Every penny of their spending is ultimately your responsibility.
The other side of the coin is that authorized user cards often appear on the credit report of the one authorized. That can really muck with the Chase 5/24 rule if you both open lots of cards. See, Chase won’t approve you for many of their cards if you’ve opened five or more cards in the past 24 months. Adding an authorized user is detrimental to your partner getting all the Chase cards they want.
You can read our post on how to count how many open credit cards you have from the past 24 months.
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For rates and fees of the Amex Platinum card, click here.
Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)