Credit Advice

The difference between an authorized user and a cosigner


Have a question?

Do you have a question about consumer credit? You may find an immediate answer by using the search engine. If you can't find what you're looking for, please fill out the form, being as specific as possible.

Please note: The Ask Experian team cannot respond to each question individually. However, if your question is of interest to a wide audience of consumers, the Experian team will include it in a future column.

Our policies
The information contained in this column if for educational purposes only and is not legal advice. You should consult your own attorney or seek specific advice from a legal professional regarding your particular situation.

Please understand that Experian policies change over time. Column responses reflect Experian policy at the time of writing. While maintained for your information, archived responses may not reflect current Experian policy.

Credit Advice

The difference between an authorized user and a cosigner

Dear Experian,

I am wondering about the difference in liability between a cosigner and an authorized user on a credit card. I understand that if I am a cosigner on my ex-wife’s credit card, I am responsible for the debt if she defaults or declares bankruptcy. Is this also true if I am not a cosigner but an authorized user? Also, if I am an authorized user, can I have my name removed from the account?


Dear URY,

You are most often known as a joint account holder with a credit card, rather than as a cosigner, but your obligation is the same as with any other kind of debt. If the other person does not pay, you are responsible for repaying the entire amount.

An authorized user has permission to use the credit card, but is not responsible for any of the debt. So, if you are only an authorized user on your ex-wife’s account, you are not responsible for the debt in any way, and you can have your name taken off the account. The account then will be removed from your credit history.

However, marriage may complicate the issue. You should carefully review the credit card contract to be certain it shows you are an authorized user and not a joint account holder.

Some states have community property laws that automatically make joint any accounts entered into during marriage. If so, the only way to be removed as a responsible party for the debt is to contact the credit card provider and negotiate with it to change the contract.

Thanks for asking.

- The "Ask Experian" team

  • © 2016 Experian Information Solutions, Inc. All rights reserved.