Q&A: How to help someone else build credit

Dear Liz: My 30-year-old son lives in Southeast Asia. He has some U.S. bank accounts but no U.S. credit cards. If I add him to my credit card, will that help to establish credit? Or is there another way for him to start getting credit in the U.S.? At some point, he and his wife will move back to the U.S.

Answer: Adding someone to your credit card as an authorized user can be a great way to help them build credit. Your history with the card is typically added to the other person’s credit reports and used in calculating their credit scores. If you can add him to more than one card, even better. As long as you use the cards responsibly — paying the bills on time, using only a fraction of the available credit — his scores should benefit.

You don’t have to give your son access to the cards for this to work. If you do, keep in mind that authorized users aren’t responsible for paying any charges.

Authorized users typically can be added or removed with a phone call to the issuer. You also can add an authorized user online by logging into your credit card account. But removing them may require you to pick up the phone.

Your son can build credit in other ways, including credit builder loans and secured cards, but those may have to wait until he has a U.S. address.