How To Help Someone You Love Build A Good Credit |

Dear Mary: I’ve heard that adding someone to your credit card will help that person build a credit history, even if they don’t use the card. Is it true? How would I do it? —Pat

Dear Pat: That’s right. You would add this adult (at least 18 years old) as an “authorized user” to your account by calling your credit card issuer’s customer service. (Find the toll-free number on the back of your card.) An authorized user has full privileges to use the account with no liability for reimbursement.

I know it sounds crazy, but that’s how it works. As activity on the account is reported to the credit bureaus, it enters the records of the primary account holder (you) and the authorized user’s record. This means that the authorized user benefits from the addition of your good credit reported on this account. (Surprisingly, perhaps, your authorized user doesn’t need to know you did this. You can add your teen as an authorized user without them knowing.)

Just keep in mind that this could backfire if your authorized user decides to go crazy and runs the balance up to or over the limit. Not only will you be responsible for the full refund, but this negative activity will also be flagged on your credit report. I hope this can help.

Dear Mary: You have written in the past that it is important that we keep our credit cards “active” even when we keep them at zero. How often should we use them to keep them active? Does it matter how much we put on them? Can it be a small purchase that we reimburse immediately? Thanks. —Nancy

Dear Nancy: Using a credit card twice a year is more than enough to keep the account active. The amount of the purchase is irrelevant. Use it to buy an app for 99 cents and you’ll complete the goal. Then pay it back immediately, even the same day. This way you won’t forget or run the risk of allowing one stupid little purchase to create ongoing debt.

The system does not look at the size of the purchase or the time between purchase and refund – only that a transaction is recorded and payment is received under the terms and conditions you agreed to when opening the account.

These days, it’s important for every adult to have a good all-purpose credit card in order to maintain a high credit score. To do this, it is not necessary to carry an ounce of debt (it is NOT a debt score), nor to use the thing in the usual way. You can use your card to buy two apps per year ($1.98 total, paid off immediately) and build up a great credit score. I have a feeling that’s exactly what you’re planning to do. Good for you!

Dear Mary: First of all, thank you for all your wonderful advice. I just moved into my first apartment, having lived in a large house for many years. How do you make those melamine cabinets shine? I cleaned them with Blue Dawn and water, but they still look streaky and dull. To help! — Katie

Dear Katy: I’m guessing this is a rental, so you probably don’t want to start painting these cabinets, although you can do that with a great product: Cabinet Rescue Melamine Cabinet PAINT (available online as well as in stores like Home Depot and Lowes) formulated specifically for melamine (also known as Formica).

Now that you’ve cleaned the cabinets well, I’d try a good furniture polish like Lemon Pledge. This might just do the trick! If you’re still not completely satisfied, invest a few dollars in one of my favorite kitchen products: Johnson’s Jubilee Kitchen Wax. Jubilee (a venerable product that we can still find online) will clean and polish everything in your new kitchen, including melamine cabinets, Formica countertops, and appliances. I love this stuff and I think you do too.

Mary invites you to visit her at, where this column is archived with links and resources for all recommended products and services. Mary invites questions and comments at, “Ask Mary”. This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of, a frugal living blog, and the author of the book “Debt-Proof Living”.