Credit cards can be a great tool to help you keep track of your spending. Some credit cards even offer lucrative travel or cash back rewards. Unfortunately, they can also cause financial problems if you start carrying a balance.
In most cases, people simply apply for a credit card in their name only and are fully responsible for any balance owed on the card. However, some people decide to open joint credit card accounts which hold both people on the account fully responsible for the balance charged to the credit card.
While opening a joint credit card may be a good idea in some situations, it can be an awful idea in others. Here’s what you need to know before you decide to open a joint credit card account.
Before we get started, we need to clear up a common misconception about how joint credit cards work. Some people mistakenly believe that adding someone as an authorized user on a credit card is the same thing as applying for a joint credit card account or cosigning for a credit card. It isn’t.
As joint credit card account holders, both users will be responsible for any amounts charged to the credit card. If one person can’t pay, the other person is on the hook for the charges.
Cards that have authorized users don’t work the same way. Instead, the primary account holder is solely responsible for all charges on their account whether they were made by the primary cardholder or their authorized users. An authorized user cannot be held responsible for any amounts owed, even if the account holder can’t pay.
Where you can get a joint credit card account
It was a lot easier to find credit card issuers that allowed joint accounts a few years ago. Unfortunately, issuers have been moving away from joint credit card accounts for a while now.
Even so, you can still find a couple of issuers willing to offer joint credit card accounts. They may not offer the lowest interest rates or the most lucrative rewards, but if you’re dead set on getting a joint credit card account, it is still a possibility.
As of this writing, we’ve found that the following banks currently offer credit card applications for joint credit card accounts:
- US Bank.
- PNC Bank.
Sadly, most of the major credit card issuers have moved away from joint credit card accounts in favor of authorized users. If you’re willing to go the authorized user route, most credit cards should work for you including those issued by:
- Bank of America.
- Capital One.
- Credit One.
- Fifth Third Bank.
- Wells Fargo.
Why a joint credit card could be a good idea
It will help build or improve credit
Joint credit card accounts may allow someone with no credit or bad credit to open a credit card account in their name that they may not have been able to open otherwise. This could allow the person with no credit or bad credit a chance to build their credit history and work on improving their credit score.
You can work as a team
Choosing to be joint account holders can help people in a relationship feel a sense of teamwork when managing a couple’s finances. In addition to using a joint credit card account as a credit building tool, a joint credit card account can be used to help build responsible borrowing behaviors while holding both cardholders responsible for their actions.
Having a joint credit card isn’t all good news
Credit scores and relationships could suffer
While joint credit card accounts can help build credit, they can also destroy credit, too. If one person decides to max out the account balance but can’t afford to make the payments, missed payments will damage both cardholders’ credit scores.
In addition to damaging credit scores, those in a relationship that don’t agree on how a joint credit card account should be used could end up damaging their relationship beyond repair.
To minimize the chance of these issues, set the credit limit to an amount that both parties can handle should someone make a misstep and spend more than they can afford to pay off.
A cardholder with bad credit could run up a balance then run off
Joint credit cards may make sense when you’re in a committed relationship, but relationships don’t always last. While no one likes to think about the potential of breaking up, it does happen on a fairly regular basis in today’s society.
In these cases, a vengeful joint account holder may max out the credit card if their credit is already in bad shape, damaging the other cardholder’s otherwise good credit unless they decide to suck it up and pay the balance off on time.
Sadly, as we mentioned earlier, joint credit card accounts are becoming rarer. If you’re looking to maximize your credit card rewards, score a super low interest rate or find an amazing introductory 0% APR offer, you probably won’t get the best possible offer if you must be joint account holders.
If you’re willing to skip the joint account option and instead list the other person as an authorized user, you’ll have more options. Additionally, the authorized user will be able to build their credit, too. Of course, the major downside of adding an authorized user is the fact they aren’t responsible for any charges they make. They can max out your credit card, leave you with the bill and you won’t be able to do anything about it.
While a joint credit card account holds both cardholders fully accountable for the entire balance owed, the main reason to get a joint credit card account is usually to keep both parties accountable for their actions. If you’re not worried about keeping both parties accountable for their spending, an authorized user account may provide the benefits you’re looking for while allowing for a wider selection of credit cards.