The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, act as legal, financial or credit advice. See Lexington Law’s editorial disclosure for more information.
“For richer and for poorer”—it’s the vow millions of couples across the nation make every year. Every day, partners navigate money issues, from saving and budgeting to managing debt. Joint credit cards offer a great opportunity for couples to build credit and manage their finances together, but they require substantial teamwork and communication.
To better understand how couples navigate their financial journeys together, Lexington Law ran multiple surveys over the past two years. Below are some key takeaways to help you better understand joint credit health:
- Approximately 30 percent of couples talk about finances on a daily basis. (source)
- One in five couples fight at least half of the time they talk about money. (source)
- Half of Americans share debts with their partner. (source)
Couples who make consistent, respectful communication a habit may have no problem with joint credit cards, and they may take full advantage of their benefits. However, credit health is something to take very seriously, and joint credit cards also have the potential to cause problems if not managed properly. Here, we will discuss the benefits, dangers and alternatives to joint credit—and provide actionable tips for success.
Two Ways to Share a Credit Card
If you’re recently married, you may wonder how it affects your credit score—and what the best way to share credit accounts is. First, it is important to understand that you are only directly responsible for your spouse’s credit if you apply for joint lines of credit—like a mortgage, another loan or a joint credit card.
Contrary to popular belief, being an authorized user is not the same thing as having a joint credit card. Here, we will detail the differences.
Adding an authorized user means that your partner will be able to make purchases with your credit card, and the positive payment history will appear on their credit report. It can be a fairly safe way to boost their credit by allowing them to benefit from your positive credit history.
Be careful when adding anyone as an authorized user on your card. No matter how much they use the card, you will ultimately be the one legally responsible for paying the balance—not them. If you are considering adding your partner, have an open and honest discussion about your credit limit and how much you’re comfortable with them charging each month.
Joint Credit Card
With a joint credit card, both people apply for the account together. Both credit reports will be considered during the application process, and this will result in a hard inquiry for you both. Unlike being an authorized user, both people are equally responsible for making payments—and the consequences of success or failure will affect both credit scores.
Potential Perks of Joint Credit Cards
Just like regular credit cards, joint credit cards can offer some wonderful benefits if properly managed. However, there can also be some serious consequences of miscommunication and lack of responsibility that can harm both cardholders. Before applying, make sure you’re aware of all the perks and pitfalls.
Streamline Your Finances
When it comes to budgeting, joint accounts—both checking and credit—help simplify your finances. That’s because both people’s transactions are now under one account instead of separate ones. A joint account can help you both get a view of your financial health as a couple and manage your money as a team.
Potential pitfall: If either person abuses their card privileges, they may add stress and even resentment to the relationship. Additionally, if a couple needs to separate or divorce, dealing with joint credit cards can be complicated.
Tip: Maintain open and honest communication about card use, especially large purchases. This will help you stay on track with your budget and financial goals as a couple.
Pool Your Rewards
A joint credit card gives you the ability to amplify your cash back rewards by pooling them in the same account, rather than scattering them among multiple credit cards. Additionally, since the account is being used by two people, the card may see higher use than a singularly owned one, which will rack up the rewards faster.
Potential pitfall: Options for joint credit cards are very limited, so it may be tricky to find a rewards program that fits your lifestyle and needs.
Tip: Thoroughly research the annual fees, incentives and cash back percentages before applying for a joint credit card. We detail the three most common options in a later section of this article.
Improve Your Score
Joint credit cards have the potential to boost both of your credit scores, as long as you make on-time payments each month. Additionally, if one person does not have good enough credit to apply for a card on their own, they can leverage the other person’s better credit to score a joint credit card with better interest rates and terms.
Potential pitfall: Just as joint credit cards have the potential to increase your score, they also have the potential to harm your credit score—even if it is not directly your fault. If your partner fails to uphold their payment agreement or charges enough on the card to push you past a 30 percent credit utilization rate, your score will likely take a dip.
Tip: Make an agreement on how payments will be made each month to ensure no payments are late or missed. Consider setting up automatic monthly payments to ensure each person contributes to paying off the balance.
Frequently Asked Questions About Joint Credit Cards
Once you have decided to apply for a joint credit card, you may be wondering what’s next. After reading your card’s terms and conditions, you may have additional questions such as the ones below:
How Do I Get My Name Off a Joint Credit Card?
Unlike an authorized user credit card—which is easy to remove yourself from—it is impossible to remove yourself from a joint credit card without completely closing the account. To do this, both parties must agree to pay off the entire balance before closing the account. Keep in mind that this may temporarily lower your credit score, as it will cause your credit utilization rate to increase.
What Happens to a Joint Credit Card When Someone Dies?
Notify your credit card issuer immediately in the event that someone on your joint credit card passes away. Ask if they had set up any recurring charges on the card, and see that they are canceled. You should then be able to continue using the card normally, as the sole cardholder. Keep in mind that you will still be responsible for paying off the balance, regardless of who charged it.
Does a Joint Credit Card Build Credit?
Yes—you may be able to build your credit if the account is managed properly. Just like a regular credit card, consistent, on-time payments will have a positive impact on your credit score—no matter which person pays. In your journey of building credit, remember to check your credit report regularly, as errors are all too common. If you spot any questionable negative items, Lexington Law can help you dispute them. Removing these from your report can typically help you repair your credit and reach your financial goals.
Reviewed by Cynthia Thaxton, Lexington Law Firm Attorney. Written by Lexington Law.
Cynthia Thaxton has been with Lexington Law Firm since 2014. She attended The College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia where she graduated summa cum laude with a degree in International Relations and a minor in Arabic. Cynthia then attended law school at George Mason University School of Law, where she served as Senior Articles Editor of the George Mason Law Review and graduated cum laude. Cynthia is licensed to practice law in Utah and North Carolina.
Note: Articles have only been reviewed by the indicated attorney, not written by them. The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, act as legal, financial or credit advice; instead, it is for general informational purposes only. Use of, and access to, this website or any of the links or resources contained within the site do not create an attorney-client or fiduciary relationship between the reader, user, or browser and website owner, authors, reviewers, contributors, contributing firms, or their respective agents or employers.