What Is a Credit Card Co-Signer and Is Getting One a Good Idea?

Having a co-signer could benefit applicants with poor credit.

If you are applying for a credit card and have bad credit or a low income, you might be considering a co-signer. A co-signer is another person who takes full responsibility to pay back the loan in the event that you are unable to. Having a co-signer on your credit card gives the lender additional assurance that the money lent to you will be repaid.

Keep reading to find out why it might be a good idea to get a co-signer if you are applying for a credit card and want to get approved.

Which Credit Card Providers Accept Co-Signers?

Not every credit card provider gives you the option to open a credit card with a co-signer. Take a look at which credit card providers will allow you to open an account with a co-signer or have joint credit card offers, and which ones won’t:

Credit Card Providers That Do and Do Not Allow Co-Signers
Allow Co-SignersDo Not Allow Co-Signers
  • Bank of America
  • Capital One
  • U.S. Bank
  • American Express
  • Barclaycard
  • Chase
  • Citi
  • Discover
  • Wells Fargo

Find Out: Best Credit Card Offers, Deals and Bonuses

Credit Card Co-Signer vs. Authorized User

A credit card co-signer or joint account holder agrees to share responsibility with the cardholder for making payments on the balances owed and to abide by the card’s agreement terms. That means that if the cardholder makes a late payment, the credit card issuer could report this late payment on the co-signer’s credit report as well. The co-signer is legally responsible for all of the debt accumulated on the credit card, even though they are not the primary user of that card.

Conversely, an authorized user of a credit card is not legally responsible for balances that the primary cardholder accumulates. Authorized users are typically a child or spouse who has permission to use the primary cardholder’s account.

Related: 10 Best Credit Cards for Students

Who Might Need a Credit Card Co-Signer

If you do not meet a lender’s requirements for a credit card based on your credit history or income, the provider might require a co-signer to approve your application. People who might need a credit card co-signer typically fall into three groups:

  • Little or no payment history: Credit history length affects 15 percent of your credit score, according to myFICO. If you have never opened a credit card before and don’t have any loans, it could be difficult to be approved for a new credit card. It’s important to build credit history when you have no credit.
  • Poor credit score: Your credit score affects how likely a lender will be to allow you to open a new line of credit. If your credit score ranges from 300 to 579, this is considered a “very poor” score, which could make a credit card provider hesitant to offer you an account.
  • Low income: Having a low income could be a red flag to credit card providers, who want to ensure you will be able to pay your credit card bills on time.

See: This Company Is Issuing Credit Cards to People Without Credit Scores

If you fall into the above criteria but do not want or are unable to use a credit card co-signer, you could consider applying for a secured credit card, which helps to establish, strengthen or rebuild credit. A security deposit is typically required to open this type of credit card. Many of the best credit cards for poor credit are secured credit cards.

Risks of Being a Credit Card Co-Signer

Before you agree to co-sign a credit card for a friend or relative, consider the responsibilities you are taking on:

  • You are being asked to guarantee that any credit card debt the primary cardholder accumulates will be paid off. If the cardholder does not pay the debt, you will have to. Be sure that you are willing to take on this responsibility, and can afford to take on his or her credit card debt if need be.
  • You can be responsible for paying the cardholder’s full amount of debt if he or she does not pay, and you might also have to pay late fees and other applicable fees.
  • In certain states, the credit card provider can collect debt payment from you without first trying to collect from the primary cardholder.

Since this is a large financial responsibility, make sure you are willing to take this risk for the person you are co-signing for, and that you are financially able to take on this accountability.

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