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I have a Fico score of 700. My spouse has a Fico score of 780. We are applying for a new home mortgage during the next couple of months. If I get added as an authorized user to one of her credit card accounts how will that affect my credit score in the short term?

e.g. Will my credit score take a ding for a month or two because of a credit check to get added to her credit card? Should I choose her oldest credit card even if it has a low credit line?

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Experian has a number of useful articles about being an authorized user; this search on their site lists them.

In general, being an authorized user should not require a credit check. You are not truly responsible for the debt; if the debt goes into arrears then only the owner or a co-signer could be sued. Of course, you're married, so this doesn't really help you, but it's explaining how the system works.

Being an authorized user may not help your credit substantially, but it shouldn't hurt. You should be aware that it isn't guaranteed that the particular credit card company reports authorized users; Experian reports that some do and some don't.

They also suggest rather than adding you as an authorized user, adding you as a joint account holder if your wife is willing to do that; that will have a more significant impact on your credit. Of course, there are drawbacks there, particularly that you will be responsible for your wife's decisions with that card - don't ignore this even if you're sure you'll never divorce, as most people are sure at some point. A joint account holder would be liable for the other holder's actions, while an authorized user wouldn't, while she would be liable for your actions in either case.

If they do report authorized users, it seems like which one you're going to add will depend on the weaknesses in your particular credit report. FICO doesn't disclose how they calculate their scores, so you can't know for sure, and they almost certainly do not fully value 'authorized user' status identically to a regular account, so this is hard to answer completely. I would wonder if a larger account would be better than a longer open account in most cases, as long as your utilization isn't great (ie, if one of the 'weaknesses' of your report is too high of a % of credit used); an authorized user clearly has access to the funds in the credit card, and while the 'good payment history' part isn't very telling, the access to funds is.

  • That is VERY helpful thanks! Do you have any insight into whether or not I should utilize that card for a couple of months after receiving it? – ShawnLane Mar 2 '15 at 21:36
  • I don't know if it would have any impact or not, but my gut would be not much. – Joe Mar 2 '15 at 21:53

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