Home > Credit 101 > Are Joint Credit Cards a Good Idea?

Comments 0 Comments

It’s exciting for a couple to move in together. All of the sudden, their facilities and utilities are being shared, and it is not uncommon for couples to explore sharing their finances. While most joint bank accounts are a straightforward arrangement, a joint credit card account can be much more complicated.

What Are Joint Credit Card Accounts?

A joint credit card account is one that has two primary account holders of equal status. That means that both joint account holders have access to the line of credit, and all other credit card functions such as disputing charges, transferring a balance, reporting a card lost or stolen, requesting a credit limit increase or closing the account. Joint account holders are also able to redeem any rewards available.

In addition, joint credit card account holders have equal responsibility to repay any debts charged to their cards.

Joint Account Holders Vs. Authorized Cardholders

An authorized user is someone who has a credit card from someone else’s account, with the ability to use that card to make purchases, and possibly cash advances. The authorized cardholder has no responsibility to pay the debt, which becomes the sole responsibility of the primary cardholder or joint account holders. In addition, an authorized cardholder cannot make any changes to the account or redeem any rewards.

The Benefits of Joint Credit Cards

When someone is unable to qualify for a credit card on his or her own, that person may be able to be approved for a joint account, along with another person with better credit. And so long as the account is managed responsibly, the credit history of both joint account holders will benefit. (An authorized user can be approved regardless of credit. His or her credit history would also benefit from a responsibly managed card, but the impact would be smaller.)

So a joint account with someone with a high credit score could help a partner with a weaker credit score improve his or her score. (You can find out what your scores are for free from Credit.com.)

A joint account can be a good idea for couples who want to share completely in the management of a single account. For example, when one person is just an authorized user, instead of a joint account holder, he or she will be unable to make any account inquiries or directly access many of the card’s benefits.

Drawbacks of Joint Accounts

A joint credit card account obligates both cardholders to pay back the debt, and any delinquency or default will be reflected on both account holders’ credit histories. As you may imagine, this can become a big problem in the event the couple separates, divorces or otherwise splits up, and the parties do not agree on how the debt should be divided. In such a case, the card issuer will not care about either’s obligations, and will assess interest and penalties that become the responsibility of both account holders. Finally, if one of the account holders dies, the other will still be responsible. But if two people have separate accounts, the debts of the deceased may only be the responsibility of that person’s estate, depending on their relationship and the laws of their state.

Which Banks Offer Joint Credit Card Accounts

Not all credit card issuers still offer joint credit card accounts, and some have stopped doing so in recent years. Currently, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, U.S. Bank and Discover still allow customers to open joint credit card accounts, while in 2013 Chase announced it was discontinuing the practice. HSBC and Capital One have also discontinued them.

Should You Open a Joint Account?

In most cases, opening up two accounts, or making someone an authorized user on another person’s account, will allow two people access to the credit that they need. But if you are looking to open a joint account with one of the remaining card issuers that allows that practice it is vital that both parties understand the risks of doing so, and have some plan to split their debts in the event that their relationship ends.

Opening up a joint account is an important financial decision, and couples will need to make the best choice for their individual needs.

More on Credit Cards:

Image: iStock

Comments on articles and responses to those comments are not provided or commissioned by a bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by a bank advertiser. It is not a bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

Please note that our comments are moderated, so it may take a little time before you see them on the page. Thanks for your patience.

Credit.com receives compensation for the financial products and services advertised on this site if our users apply for and sign up for any of them.

Hello, Reader!

Thanks for checking out Credit.com. We hope you find the site and the journalism we produce useful. We wanted to take some time to tell you a bit about ourselves.

Our People

The Credit.com editorial team is staffed by a team of editors and reporters, each with many years of financial reporting experience. We’ve worked for places like the New York Times, American Banker, Frontline, TheStreet.com, Business Insider, ABC News, NBC News, CNBC and many others. We also employ a few freelancers and more than 50 contributors (these are typically subject matter experts from the worlds of finance, academia, politics, business and elsewhere).

Our Reporting

We take great pains to ensure that the articles, video and graphics you see on Credit.com are thoroughly reported and fact-checked. Each story is read by two separate editors, and we adhere to the highest editorial standards. We’re not perfect, however, and if you see something that you think is wrong, please email us at editorial team [at] credit [dot] com,

The Credit.com editorial team is committed to providing our readers and viewers with sound, well-reported and understandable information designed to inform and empower. We won’t tell you what to do. We will, however, do our best to explain the consequences of various actions, thereby arming you with the information you need to make decisions that are in your best interests. We also write about things relating to money and finance we think are interesting and want to share.

In addition to appearing on Credit.com, our articles are syndicated to dozens of other news sites. We have more than 100 partners, including MSN, ABC News, CBS News, Yahoo, Marketwatch, Scripps, Money Magazine and many others. This network operates similarly to the Associated Press or Reuters, except we focus almost exclusively on issues relating to personal finance. These are not advertorial or paid placements, rather we provide these articles to our partners in most cases for free. These relationships create more awareness of Credit.com in general and they result in more traffic to us as well.

Our Business Model

Credit.com’s journalism is largely supported by an e-commerce business model. Rather than rely on revenue from display ad impressions, Credit.com maintains a financial marketplace separate from its editorial pages. When someone navigates to those pages, and applies for a credit card, for example, Credit.com will get paid what is essentially a finder’s fee if that person ends up getting the card. That doesn’t mean, however, that our editorial decisions are informed by the products available in our marketplace. The editorial team chooses what to write about and how to write about it independently of the decisions and priorities of the business side of the company. In fact, we maintain a strict and important firewall between the editorial and business departments. Our mission as journalists is to serve the reader, not the advertiser. In that sense, we are no different from any other news organization that is supported by ad revenue.

Visitors to Credit.com are also able to register for a free Credit.com account, which gives them access to a tool called The Credit Report Card. This tool provides users with two free credit scores and a breakdown of the information in their Experian credit report, updated twice monthly. Again, this tool is entirely free, and we mention that frequently in our articles, because we think that it’s a good thing for users to have access to data like this. Separate from its educational value, there is also a business angle to the Credit Report Card. Registered users can be matched with products and services for which they are most likely to qualify. In other words, if you register and you find that your credit is less than stellar, Credit.com won’t recommend a high-end platinum credit card that requires an excellent credit score You’d likely get rejected, and that’s no good for you or Credit.com. You’d be no closer to getting a product you need, there’d be a wasted inquiry on your credit report, and Credit.com wouldn’t get paid. These are essentially what are commonly referred to as "targeted ads" in the world of the Internet. Despite all of this, however, even if you never apply for any product, the Credit Report Card will remain free, and none of this will impact how the editorial team reports on credit and credit scores.

Your Stories

Lastly, much of what we do is informed by our own experiences as well as the experiences of our readers. We want to tell your stories if you’re interested in sharing them. Please email us at story ideas [at] credit [dot] com with ideas or visit us on Facebook or Twitter.

Thanks for stopping by.

- The Credit.com Editorial Team