The FEC, which voted unanimously in Obama's favor, and experts suggest the decision could help salvage the dying public-funding option.
Obama and other candidates will be able to raise private contributions during their party's nominating process and would be required to return the contributions within 60 days of accepting public funding.
The Illinois Democrat has entertained the idea of forging a pact between party nominees to use public funding in the general election, but he wants the private funds available in case that fails.
Obama will have to keep the general-election funds in a separate account, accessible only by the campaign treasurer and chief operating officer. It is not to be to be used for any purpose prior to the general election.
The FEC urged other candidates who might seek a different way to raise private money while keeping open the public-funding option to seek similar opinions from the commission.