An authorized user on a department store credit card has permission to use someone else's credit card. If you are added as an authorized user, the credit card issuing company won't check your credit or ask for income verification because you have no responsibility to repay the debt. Only the primary account holder does. If you don't have established credit, being added as an authorized user can boost your credit score. You don't even need to have the credit card in your possession or know the number to be an authorized user.
For you to receive the credit benefits of being an authorized user, the department store's credit card issuing company must report you as an authorized user to the major credit bureaus. Although most major credit card companies report to the bureaus, they aren't legally required to do so. The Fair Credit Reporting Act regulates only the accuracy of the information reported.
Checking With the Creditor
As an authorized user, you can contact the credit card company directly to ask if it is including you in the information sent to the bureaus. Since an account holder can add you without providing your personal information, you may just need to provide the credit card company your Social Security number for reporting. If the credit card company doesn't disclose the information to you, the account holder can check the authorized user section of the credit card agreement for information on whether the creditor reports to the bureaus.
Checking Your Credit Report
You can also monitor your credit report to see if the information is being reported. If you have recently been added as an authorized user, it can take at least 30 days for the account to appear on your report. If you don't see the account on your credit report, contact the credit bureau directly. Check your Experian, Equifax and TransUnion reports since the creditor might not report to all the three major bureaus.
Impact on Your Score
Since authorized users are not liable for the charges, an authorized user account is generally reported as a user, rather than as an individual responsible for repaying the balance. You'll still reap the benefits of an account in good standing if the account balance is kept low and the bill is paid on time. The information is factored into your credit score and will improve your rating. However, the opposite is also true. Although the credit card company can't go after you if the account holder stops paying, your score could suffer.
Jeannine Mancini, a Florida native, has been writing business and personal finance articles since 2003. Her articles have been published in the Florida Today and Orlando Sentinel. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Interdisciplinary Studies from the University of Central Florida.