Are you looking to join financial forces with your partner? Beyond shared bank accounts, some couples open joint credit cards together.
With a joint credit card, both of you can access the account and use the card. Because of this shared responsibility, you’ll need to fill out a joint credit card application together.
But sharing a credit card can get complicated. Find out what the benefits and drawbacks are — and even some alternatives to a joint credit card.
Pros of a joint credit card
1. Shared financial responsibility
With a joint credit card, you and your partner merge your financial choices. You’ll both make charges to the same account, and you’ll both be responsible for paying off the card each month. If you’re savvy about credit card rewards, then you can work together to maximize your points.
All of this shared responsibility is a big commitment. To use a joint credit card responsibly, you and your partner need to be on the same page about your finances. Have an open discussion about expectations, and keep transparent records of your financial moves.
2. Better credit card terms
Before you can open a credit card, you must get approved. Banks and lenders grant approval based on your salary and credit score. When opening a joint credit card, both you and your partner file the joint credit card application.
With a joint account, one person can help the other get better terms than they would alone. Let’s say you your salary and credit score are a lot higher than your partner’s. By applying together, you can help them get a lower interest rate and higher credit limit than they would on their own.
3. Ability to improve credit score
Do you have strong credit, but your significant other has a low score? By responsibly managing a joint credit card, you can help your partner build up their credit score. Of course, you’ll both need to spend within your budget and pay off the balance in full every month.
Cons of a joint credit card
1. Joint liability
Couples often open joint credit cards to share responsibility. But that also means that both people are liable for any debt.
There’s no way to separate out who made what purchase. If you fail to make a payment, then both of you are on the line to take care of it.
This complicated situation is probably why many banks have stopped offering joint credit cards. They’d prefer to have one clear owner of an account, in case there are any disputes.
2. Both credit scores are vulnerable
Both of you file a joint credit card application, so both of your credit scores are affected by the account. If one of you spends over the limit, then both of your scores will take a hit.
Similarly, if you need to close the account, then both of you will see your credit scores go down.
3. You could break up or get divorced
If you and your partner are married, then you’ve already merged some of your assets. Adding a credit card on top of everything is one more complication in the event you get divorced.
Plus, if it turns into a messy situation, you could get hurt financially. Presumably, your partner would never charge a first-class ticket to Australia on your joint credit card out of spite. But you wouldn’t be protected if they did.
Alternatives to opening a joint credit card
Today, your options for joint credit cards are limited. Only three major banks — Bank of America, U.S. Bank, and PNC Bank — offer joint credit cards.
So instead of going with a joint account, it might be easier to choose a card based on its terms and rewards. Here are two alternatives to opening a joint credit card:
1. Open an account with a co-signer
If you need help opening a credit card due to a low credit score or lack of credit, you could apply with a co-signer. Often, young people sign up for their first credit cards with a parent so they can start building credit.
Co-signers don’t have full access to an account, but they do assume responsibility for the debt. If the account holder fails to pay, then a co-signer must step in and take care of the bill.
If you need help opening a credit card, then asking your partner to co-sign could be the way to go. Just make sure that the co-signer understands the risks of this commitment.
2. Add an authorized user
If you and your partner are mostly interested in sharing access to a credit card, then one of you could become an authorized user. Authorized users get their own cards in the mail, and they can use the card on the account as much as they’d like.
However, authorized users are not responsible for the account. If your partner goes on a massive shopping spree, you can’t make them pay for it.
That being said, an authorized user’s credit score can be affected. Adding an authorized user makes sense when you want to share a credit card and trust each other to use it well.
Should you open a joint credit card?
Joint credit cards have certain benefits, but you must also be realistic about their drawbacks. For many couples, it makes more sense to add a co-signer or authorized user than to merge their credit.
Plus, then you’ll have more options for credit cards and access to better rewards programs. Before filing a joint credit card application, make sure that the joint credit card itself is the best card for your lifestyle.
Are you searching for the best credit card? Check out this guide to learn which credit card is right for you.
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