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A joint credit card account is one that two people share. Both account holders are equally responsible for paying off the balance and any interest or fees incurred on the card. If one account holder fails to make a payment, the other is liable for the missed payment and any resulting fees.
Joint credit card accounts can be a good option for couples or two family members or friends who want to share expenses and build credit together. However, it's important to establish ground rules and communicate clearly about spending habits to avoid any conflicts or financial issues down the line.
How do joint credit cards work?
A joint credit card lets two account owners use the same credit account. Each has the same rights to charge and update the account and equal responsibility to repay the balance on the card, irrespective of who made the charge.
When you apply for a joint credit card, the card issuer (bank) will review the credit histories of both applicants, and approval for the card will depend on the credit scores of both potential account holders. If one applicant has a low credit score, the other applicant's good credit score may or may not be enough to earn approval.
Each owner’s credit report will reflect the payment history on the account, no matter who makes the payment. Therefore, consistent, on-time payments and low credit utilization will reflect favorably on each owner’s credit report. Conversely, missed payments and high utilization will have a negative impact on the credit rating for both.
Who offers joint credit cards?
Many issuers offer alternatives, including adding an authorized user who has access to your account but is not liable for the credit card balance. It’s important to ask your financial institution if it offers joint credit card accounts, if that’s what you want, to make sure it’s not an authorized user account.
Benefits of a joint credit card account
Joint credit card accounts can benefit a couple trying to build their credit rating who want the advantage of keeping finances all in one place.
A joint credit card account allows two people to share expenses and manage their finances together. This can be particularly helpful for couples or two family members or friends who are pooling their resources to pay for shared expenses such as groceries, rent, or household bills.
Build credit together
By making payments in full and on time, both account holders can build their credit scores together. This can be especially beneficial for individuals who are just starting to build their credit history.
The convenience of making purchases and managing expenses all in one account can simplify tracking of spending and following a budget. Both account holders use the same card, which can save time and eliminate the confusion of juggling multiple statements and accounts.
Higher credit limits
By considering the credit scores of both account holders, a joint credit card account may have a higher credit limit than an individual credit card account. This can provide more flexibility for making large purchases or managing unexpected expenses..
Disadvantages of joint credit cards
As desirable as the benefits of a joint credit card account may be, there are downsides to consider as well.
Both account holders are equally responsible for paying off the balance and any interest or fees incurred on the joint credit card. Simply put, if one account holder fails to make a payment, the other is liable for the missed payment and any fees.
Different people have different spending habits and financial goals. This can create problems unless both account holders jointly establish ground rules and communicate with each other clearly to avoid any conflicts or financial issues down the line.
If one account holder has a poor credit history or a history of missed payments, it can negatively impact the credit score of the other one. This can make it more difficult for individuals to get approved for loans or credit in the future.
Difficulty removing account holders
If an account holder wants to be removed from the joint credit card account, it can be difficult to do so without paying off the entire balance of the card. This could create financial difficulties for the remaining account holder.
What to know before getting a joint credit card account
In addition to the pros and cons of being part of a joint credit card account, there are several things both account holders should know before signing on the dotted line.
There is no privacy
As each account holder has full access to the account, your partner will know when you use the card, what you bought, and how much you paid. There is no privacy when it comes to a joint credit card account, and this is something you need to understand before agreeing to be part of one.
Rewards and benefits matter
Many credit cards offer rewards or cash back. It’s imperative for joint credit card account holders to decide between themselves in advance which rewards they want and how they will be shared. This is not something that should be left unsettled. Look for a card that offers rewards and benefits that both account holders can use and enjoy.
A joint credit card can help your credit score or interest rate
If your partner on a joint credit card account has a higher credit score than you do, the joint account might qualify for a higher credit limit or lower interest rate. On the other hand, your lower score might drag down your partner’s score, especially if your spending and payment record are reckless.
Some alternatives to joint credit card accounts
If you're seeking an alternative to a joint credit card account, there are various options worth exploring.
Joint bank account
Opening a joint bank account can be a good option for managing shared expenses, and it doesn’t have to be limited to just two people. This allows you and any fellow account holder(s) to pool your resources and share expenses such as rent, groceries, or utility bills while maintaining separate credit card accounts.
Adding an authorized user to your individual credit card account can be a good alternative to a joint credit card account. An authorized user can make purchases with the card, but they are not responsible for paying off the balance or any fees incurred on the card. Again, though the number allowed will vary depending upon the card issuer, you are usually not limited to only one authorized user on the account.
Prepaid or reloadable debit card
A prepaid debit card or a reloadable debit card can be used in the same way as a credit card, but does not require a credit check or credit history. Keep in mind that these types of debit card will not help raise your credit score like a separate or joint credit card account would.
Another alternative to a joint credit card is having a cosigner. Instead of becoming a cardholder on the account, a cosigner vouches for someone who's applying for a credit card. The cosigner is telling the credit card company that if the cardholder can't pay, the cosigner will.
If you need to finance a large purchase or an unexpected expense, a personal loan may be a good option. With a personal loan, you can borrow a lump sum of money and make fixed payments over a set period of time.
How do I get a joint credit card?
Obtaining a joint credit card is a five-step process.
Step 1: Find a credit card issuer that offers joint credit card accounts
Not all issuers offer joint credit card accounts, so you'll need to do some research to find one that does. Among financial institutions that issue joint credit cards are U.S. Bank, PNC Bank, BCU credit union, and Alliant credit union.
Step 2: Apply for the credit card
Once you've found a credit card issuer that offers joint credit card accounts, you and your co-applicant will need to apply for the credit card at the same time. You can typically do this online or by phone.
Step 3: Provide personal information
When you apply for the credit card, you'll need to provide personal information for each account holder, including name, address, Social Security number, and employment information. The bank will check the credit score and history of each applicant.
Step 4: Agree to the terms and conditions
Before the credit card is issued, both account holders will need to agree to the terms and conditions of the card. This includes agreeing to the interest rate, credit limit, and fees associated with the card.
Step 5: Receive the credit card
Once your application is approved, each account holder will receive a credit card in the mail.
Can I add someone as a joint account holder?
Yes, you can, but only if your credit card issuer offers such an option. To add someone as a joint credit card account holder, you'll typically need to follow these steps:
Contact your credit card issuer
You'll need to contact your credit card issuer to request to add a joint account holder. You can typically do this by phone or online.
Provide personal information
You'll need to provide personal information for the person you want to add as a joint account holder, including their name, address, Social Security number, and employment information.
Agree to the terms and conditions
Before the joint account is added to your credit card, both you and the joint account holder will need to agree to the terms and conditions of the card.
Receive the credit card
Once the joint account is added, the joint account holder will receive a credit card in the mail.
However, it is worth mentioning again that both account holders are equally liable for any debt accrued on the account. Therefore, it is advisable to carefully consider the financial implications of adding someone to a joint account before doing so.
TIME Stamp: Joint credit cards aren’t very available—and advantages don’t necessarily outweigh downsides
The number of banks and other financial institutions that offer joint credit card accounts is small, because banks generally prefer to have one person responsible for an entire account, including paying off the balance.
While joint credit card accounts can serve a valuable purpose for a couple just starting out or two family members or friends who want to build credit together, it’s important for both account holders to understand that they can be held individually responsible for paying off the balance on the account.
Alternative options—including adding an authorized user or opening a joint bank account—can and should be considered when weighing the potential drawbacks of a joint credit card account before deciding to open one.
Frequently asked questions (FAQs)
Can two unmarried people have a joint credit card?
It's worth noting that joint accounts can make it difficult to separate finances in the event of a breakup or separation, so it's important to carefully consider the long-term implications of opening a joint account with someone who is not a spouse or partner.
How do joint credit cards impact credit scores?
Joint credit cards have the potential to affect the credit score of each account holder both positively and negatively. When the account is managed responsibly, it helps to build a positive credit history for both cardholders. Conversely, when payments are delayed or missed, or when the account is overdrawn, it adversely affects both of their credit scores.
How old do you have to be to have a joint credit card?
The age requirements for opening a joint credit card account differ depending on the state and credit card issuer. Typically, credit card issuers mandate that applicants should be at least 18 years old to apply for a credit card. However, the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility, and Disclosure Act of 2009 makes it difficult to get an unsecured credit card before you’re 21. Until then, unless you can prove a steady source of income, you’ll need a cosigner on your card.
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