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Summary: Recently, we conducted a nationwide survey of U.S. adults aged 20-29 to learn about their credit education, their awareness and use of “lesser-known” credit-building strategies such as the authorized user strategy, and how these correlated with their credit score.  

🎯 Study Goals

The scope of our survey widely aims to segment the credit scores of authorized users on credit cards against non-authorized users on credit cards among 20-29-year-olds. We also segmented authorized users against adults of various income levels, ethnicities, and education levels. The resulting report delivers insights into the incredible impact being an authorized user on a credit card has on credit scores. In most of our findings, being added as an authorized user had a more significant impact on credit scores than income, ethnicity, or education.

Please feel free to use the quick skip links below, or browse the data at your own pace.

Report Key Findings

Credit Score Statistics

  • 1 in 5 Americans aged 20-29 didn’t know their credit score.
  • 38.1% had a 639 or lower credit score.
  • 1 in 16 have no idea what credit is.
  • 1 in 3 admits to having a very poor understanding of credit and scores.
  • 35.5% of Americans who taught themselves about credit had a 680 or higher credit score, compared with 30.5% who learned from friends/family, or college-taught 24.4%.

Authorized User Statistics

  • Only 13% of authorized users had a credit score under 600, compared to 24.6% who had not been added
  • 46.4% had a 680 or higher credit score, compared to 27.7% who weren’t added
  • 27.5% had a 639 or lower credit score, compared to 39.9% who weren’t added
  • Only 10.1% didn’t know their credit score, compared to 21.8% who weren’t added
  • 78.6% said they had a solid understanding of what affected their credit score, compared to 68.1% who had not been added

Declined Credit Application Statistics

  • 45.61% of 20-29-year-old Americans have been declined credit in the past 2 years.
  • 27.7% got denied a credit card in the past 2 years.
  • 14.2% got denied a cell phone purchase in the past 2 years.
  • 13.3% got denied a car loan in the past 2 years.
  • 10.7% got denied a property rental application in the past 2 years.
  • 51.2% of Americans renting property had no idea they can report rent and utility bill payments to improve their credit scores

Authorized User Credit Statistics

The “Authorized User Effect” explained in 30 seconds:

You can ask a family member, friend, or use a service to add you as an “authorized user” on their credit card. By doing so, the card holder’s credit limit and long-standing payment history is adopted into your credit file. Your credit history does not impact the card holder’s score in any way, and with this life hack, you don’t have to ever use or touch the credit card. In a matter of weeks, most new authorized users will see a substantial, positive increase in their own credit score.
Learn more about the authorized user strategy.

How Does Getting Added as an Authorized User Affect Credit Scores?

When analyzing respondents’ data further, we found a direct correlation with people who had been added as authorized users and good credit scores. In addition, there appears to be a direct correlation between credit awareness of those individuals who were added as an authorized user and those that had not been added.  

Of the respondents that had been added as an authorized user:

  • Only 13% of authorized users had a credit score under 600, compared to 24.6% who had not been added
  • 46.4% had a 680 or higher credit score, compared to 27.7% weren’t added
  • 27.5% had a 639 or lower credit score, compared to 39.9% weren’t added
  • Only 10.1% didn’t know their credit score, compared with 21.8% weren’t added
  • 78.6% said they had a solid understanding of what affected their credit score, compared to 68.1% who had not been added
Credit scores by people added as authorized users
Credit scores by people added as authorized users

Comparing Authorized User Effect to Credit Scores by Ethnicity

Out of our respondents aged 20-29, the data below illustrates how ethnicity plays a role as an indicator of young Americans’ credit scores:

Credit score by ethnicity (US 20-29-year-old)
Credit score by ethnicity (US, 20-29-year-old)

It has already been widely studied and reported that Black and Hispanic Americans’ credit scores are disproportionately lower, on average than White and Asian Americans’ scores.

☝️ However

The remarkable statistics that the survey uncovered was how this scoring data looked when segmented by respondents that had been added as an authorized user on someone else’s credit card.

As you can see above, White and Asian respondents had a higher credit rating overall. However, 52.4% of non-white or Asian individuals that have been added as an authorized user on a credit card had a credit rating of 680 or more. Comparing this to white and Asians who had not used the authorized user effect, only 30.5% of them had a credit score of 680 or above.

See below how being added on someone’s card with a good credit rating can tip the pre-defined race averages vastly in the other direction.

Credit scores of non-white and Asian's that have been added as an authorized user
Credit scores of non-white and Asian’s that have been added as an authorized user

Comparing Authorized User Effect to Credit Scores by Education

Out of our respondents aged 20-29, the data below illustrates how education plays a role as an indicator of young Americans’ credit scores:

Credit score by education level
Credit score by education level

As you can see from the data above, education proved to be a leading indicator of someone’s credit score in our study.  From analyzing the data, 38.6% of all individuals who had a vocational, university, or post-graduate education had a credit score of 680 or higher.  However, this number dropped to 33.4% when the respondent had never heard of the authorized user strategy.

Where being added as an authorized user on someone’s credit card made the most significant impact was with individuals whose highest attained education was high school.  Only 19.3% of them had a credit score of 680+. However, as you can see below, these figures shifted dramatically to 36.0% for individuals that got added on someone’s card.

Impact of being added as an authorized user by education level
Impact of being added as an authorized user by education level

Comparing Authorized User Effect to Credit Scores by Income

Out of our respondents aged 20-29, the data below illustrates how income plays a role as an indicator of young Americans’ credit scores:

Credit scores by income levels
Credit scores by income levels

It’s commonly known that, where income is not directly used as a component of your credit score calculation, it is a leading indicator as you can see from the data above. Typically, income is only used by lenders as a ratio to work out if you can afford to pay back the debt.

Again, the authorized user effect was shown to trump income level effects in our study as well.  Overall, for individuals who earned $49,999 or less, only 24.6% of them had a credit score of 680+.  When we compare this to people from the same income-level group who got added as an authorized user, 52.6% of them had a credit score of 680+.

Impact of being added as an authorized user by income level
Impact of being added as an authorized user by income level

Knowledge of the Authorized User Effect

We also surveyed our respondents regarding their knowledge of the authorized user effect and whether they had implemented it. Over a third wanted to use it but either didn’t know anyone to ask or were turned away by friends or family – all of which were unaware of services they could have used to be added to a card or tradeline, showing a large void in consumer awareness.

  • 48.4% of Americans had never heard of the authorized user effect
  • 12.1% got successfully added on a friend or family member’s credit card
  • 9.5% tried but couldn’t get anyone to add them to a card
  • 30.0% didn’t have anyone to ask
How many people asked to be added as an authorized user
How many people asked to be added as an authorized user

Note: The 39.5% that got turned down or had no one to ask were unaware some services could help if their friends or family have bad credit history too.

Awareness: Paying to be an Authorized User

How many people know that you can pay to be added as an authorized user
How many people know that you can pay to be added as an authorized user

When asking individuals if there were aware that they could pay to be added to a card as an authorized user, 82.46% of respondents had never heard of it. We have seen the authorized user effect providing sensational boosts to credit scores in every demographic in this study. By raising the awareness and educating America’s youth about its incredible impact and availability to all through paid services, they can start unlocking the doors to better credit.

U.S. Credit Score Statistics 2019

U.S Credit Score Statistics by Age 20-29

In the U.S. the well-known credit score system is FICO, which ranges between 300 (being very poor) and 850 (being exceptional). Most scores in the U.S. would typically fall between 600 and 750 as an average – the higher the score, the more likely lenders will accept credit decisions as they know you’re more likely to repay your debt. This score is typically made up of credit utilization, credit mix, credit inquiries, payment history, and age of credit data.

Out of our respondents aged 20-29, here is the current credit score distribution:

  • 38.1% of 20-29-year-old Americans had a 639 or lower credit score.
  • 29.8%  had a 680 or higher credit score.
  • 20.4% didn’t know their credit score.
Credit scores distribution among 20-29-year-olds in the US
Credit scores distribution among 20-29-year-olds in the US

U.S. Average Income Level by Age 20-29

In addition to the standard components that build up your credit score, lenders will also want to learn your income, which is not a direct component in credit scoring. Lenders will, however, use your income as validation in terms of denying applications based on a debt-to-income ratio. Below, we looked at how credit scores of Americans aged 20-29 correlated to their annual income.

Out of our respondents aged 20-29, this was the income-to-credit-score correlation:

  • 42.5% of America’s youth earning $49,999 or less per annum had a 639 or lower credit score, with only 24.6% reaching a score of over 680.
  • 26.0% of America’s youth earning $50,000-$99,999 per annum had a 639 or lower credit score, with a significant jump of 42.3% reaching a score of over 680.
  • 19.4% of America’s youth earning $100,000 or more per annum had a 639 or lower credit score, with a massive 48.4% reaching a score of over 680.
Income level distribution among 20-29-year-olds in the US
Income level distribution among 20-29-year-olds in the US

U.S. Credit Education Statistics

U.S. Credit Education and Knowledge by Age 20-29

We asked respondents to rate their current knowledge of credit and the scoring system behind it. The report surprisingly uncovered that most young adults in American thought they had a solid understanding of credit. In fact, almost half of these respondents had low scores or no idea of their score – furthermore, they were unaware of the authorized user effect and their ability to utilize bills they’re currently paying to boost their scores.

Out of our respondents aged 20-29, people with a self-proclaimed ‘strong’ credit knowledge polled:

  • 39.5% had a credit score of 639 or lower, while 10.66% didn’t know their credit score (potentially almost half suffering from bad credit).
  • 77.52% of respondents with a solid knowledge of credit had never heard of authorized user effect services.
  • 41.2% of respondents with a solid understanding of credit had no idea they can use bills like utilities and rent to improve their score.
Knowledge of credit and credit scores
Knowledge of credit and credit scores

U.S. Sources of Credit Education for Ages 20-29

We asked respondents how they had acquired their current knowledge of credit. The report surprisingly uncovered that self-taught Americans had the highest credit scores, on average, compared to those who had received their credit education from other sources.

Out of our respondents aged 20-29, this was the credit score data by credit education source:

  • 14.8% of Americans with zero credit education had a 680 or higher credit score.
  • 24.4% of Americans with high school or college credit education had a 680 or higher credit score.
  • 30.5% of Americans learning from friends and family had a 680 or higher credit score.
  • 35.5% of self-taught Americans had a 680 or higher credit score.
Credit scores by method of credit education
Credit scores by the method of credit education

U.S. Credit Application Statistics

U.S. Credit Applications Declined by Age 20-29

It can be disappointing and frustrating at times to have credit denied by a lender. For almost half of our young adult respondents, this was a common occurrence.  In fact, nearly half had been denied some form of credit application in the past 2 years. As we can see from the credit education data previously, many also have a poor understanding of credit.

Out of our respondents aged 20-29, below is the percentage of credit declines in the past 2 years:

  • 45.6% of 20-29-year-old Americans have been declined credit in the past 2 years
  • 27.7% got denied a credit card in the past 2 years.
  • 14.2% got denied a cell phone purchase in the past 2 years.
  • 13.3% got denied a car loan in the past 2 years.
  • 10.7% got denied a property rental application in the past 2 years.
Declined credit applications by type of lender
Declined credit applications by type of lender

Most Popular Bills Paid by American 20-29-Year-Olds

With almost half of our respondents failing credit applications in the past 2 years and similar numbers having a poor understanding of credit, we wanted to highlight a door that could get opened for a considerable proportion of these young adults.

Below we can see that the majority of our young respondents had many active bills that were being paid on a regular basis. These people are, in most cases, navigating life with low credit scores that could receive an almost instant boost from reporting this data to credit bureaus using a variety of services.

Active bills being paid by 20-29-year-old in the US
Active bills being paid by 20-29-year-old in the US

Awareness: Rent & Utility Bills Helping Your Credit Score

Many of the services our respondents selected above are forms of rent or utility bills they pay regularly.  Unfortunately, their bill payments (even if timely &consistent) have NO impact on their credit score because these bills are not generally reported to the bureaus.  However, they can easily be reported to credit bureaus via rent reporting services.

Reporting of this additional data (known as “alternative data” in the credit space) could help the bureaus to get a better understanding of their reliability as potential borrowers.  Half of our respondents that rented and 1 in 3 with a low credit score had no idea they can use this data to boost their credit score.

  • 51.2% of Americans renting property had no idea they can report rent and utility bill payments to improve their credit scores
  • 35.8% of people that had a credit score of 639 or lower didn’t know they can improve it with rent and utility bill reporting services
  • 1 in 4 people that didn’t know about utility reporting services also didn’t know their credit scores
Awareness of rent reporting services
Awareness of rent reporting services

Report Methodology and Downloads

Data Source And Methods

  • This nationwide survey was conducted via Pollfish on 2019-04-30
  • All respondents were United States residents
  • We had 42.98% male and 57.02% female respondents aged 20-29

Copyright Information
All the data included in this study is available via public domain. This means all statistics may be copied without permission, we do however appreciate citation as the source via a link.