Is a Joint Credit Card Right For You?

Here are joint credit card pros and cons — and other options.

Some couples or spouses may want to have a joint credit card account to share finances and track expenses, but joint cards are becoming increasingly hard to find. That’s because most credit card issuers offer alternatives.

Take a closer look at the ins and outs of a joint credit card account to decide if commingling your credit with someone is right for you.

How To Share a Credit Card Account

Sharing a credit card has its advantages. For couples who have a household budget (and a checking account), a single credit card account could make tracking expenses and keeping up with your credit card payments easier. There are varying levels of how to combine your finances with someone else. Explore these three options:

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Authorized User

Getting added as an authorized user is the easiest way to share a credit card account. Many credit card providers allow the primary cardholder to add other authorized users. Doing so means they’re sharing their credit limit with someone else. Some cards will require a credit check for an additional card user while others do not.

Only the primary cardholder will be liable for all the debt incurred on the card — including the authorized user’s. Points and rewards earned from all card spending go to the primary cardholder.

Spouses, dependents and employees are typical examples of individuals who may be added as an authorized user to a credit card account. An individual with no credit history or a low credit score can benefit from becoming an authorized user if the primary account holder is responsible for their spending and payments. That’s because the primary cardholder’s account history will be reported on the user’s credit report as well, helping the user build credit.

To add an authorized user, call your credit card issuer or visit the card’s website. In many cases, all you’ll need is the name, phone number, date of birth and address of the additional user.

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When you co-sign for a credit card, you’re applying as the guarantor to let someone piggyback on your credit. Very few financial institutions allow for co-signers.

Both the co-signer and co-signee are legally responsible for the credit card debt, although the bulk of the responsibility will fall on the co-signor or guarantor. If the account holder doesn’t pay the debt, the guarantor will be responsible for the amount plus all the late charges and collection fees.

A co-signer may be required because the person wishing to open a credit card account is a young adult or student under 21 years old without any income. The co-signer who is willing to guarantee the card must complete the card application on behalf of the other account holder.

Joint Account

It’s crucial to trust the person you wish to open a joint account with. Both parties are equally responsible for paying off the joint credit card balance. Each can administer the card to dispute charges, make payments or redeem points.

Joint accounts are most commonly used by spouses or partners who share their finances. Doing so simplifies things for a couple by having only one credit card statement to track and make payments on. 

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The credit history of both applicants is considered. If one spouse has a lower credit score than the other, they could benefit from a boost in the credit line and card terms, thanks to the partner’s credit history. It goes both ways — if one person is an irresponsible spender, both cardholders are liable for the debt. Any mishaps such as a forgotten payment will be reported on both credit histories.

Learn: How To Open A Bank Account Online: Everything You Need To Know

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What Is the Difference Between a Joint Account Holder and a Co-Signer? 

Joint account holders are equally responsible for the credit card debt. In the case of a co-signed credit card, the ultimate responsibility falls on the guarantor or co-signer. In both cases, both parties will be impacted positively or negatively.

Before agreeing to co-sign or enter into a joint account with someone, make sure you’re comfortable with the risk if the other party overspends or doesn’t pay their credit card balance.

Check This Out: How To Use Your Credit Cards To Make Money — and To Save Money, Too

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How Will Having an Authorized User or a Joint Account Impact My Credit?

If you’re weighing how a joint account holder versus an authorized user could impact your credit score, consider these points:

  • Missed Payments: In the case of authorized users or joint card accounts, late or missed payments will affect both parties’ credit history. The only exception is in the case of an authorized user where a credit check wasn’t required.
  • Shared Cost: An authorized user isn’t responsible for the money they spend — the primary cardholder is. In the case of a joint account, both parties are responsible for the debt.
  • Payment history: A credit card’s payment history is reported to the primary cardholder’s credit history, as well as both parties in the joint account. If a credit check was required for the authorized user, they will also see the card’s payment history reported on their account. 

Credit Advice: How To Come Back From 10 Credit Horror Stories

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What Are the Benefits and Drawbacks of a Joint Credit Card Account?

Having a joint credit card account with a partner or spouse has its advantages and drawbacks. If you’re both responsible with your finances, the process of commingling your finances should go smoothly. A joint credit card account could simplify tracking your spending to keep your monthly budget on track.

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A joint credit card gives equal rights and powers to both cardholders. Each person can manage, earn and spend their accumulated credit card rewards or points. The account’s activity will show on both credit histories, potentially boosting the score of the cardholder with the lower credit score.

But if one of the partners is irresponsible with their credit card, both parties will be liable. Any late payments or high card balances will be reported on both people’s credit reports. A joint credit card comes with a single card limit, to be shared by the couple. The limit may not be enough for a couple that uses their credit cards often.

Learn More: Best Cash-Back Credit Cards

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Should You Open a Joint Credit Card?

Think carefully before opening a joint credit card. Your partner’s spending and payment habits could also affect your credit score.

If you already have a joint bank account or other shared accounts, opening a joint credit card with your partner could have its benefits. Tracking your spending as a couple will be easier. You’ll be making payments and pooling your credit card reward points in one place, saving you time. And best yet, you’ll both improve your credit as you work together toward your future financial goals.

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About the Author

Cynthia Bowman

Cynthia Paez Bowman is a personal finance writer with degrees from American University in international business and journalism. Besides writing about personal finance, she writes about real estate, interior design and architecture. Her work has been featured in MSN, Brex, Freshome, MyMove, Emirates’ Open Skies magazine and more.

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