What You Need to Know About Joint Credit Card Accounts
Joint credit card accounts work just like any other credit card, but two people share the ability to charge purchases to the account as well as the responsibility of paying the balance each month. Ultimately, that means if the other person on your account doesn’t pay, you’re liable for the total balance – not just half of it, as some people might assume. In addition, information about joint credit card accounts is listed the same way on both accountholders’ credit reports. On-time payments and low credit utilization will help both people’s credit scores, while mistakes will hurt both equally no matter who ultimately deserves the blame.
The only major bank that currently offers joint credit card applications is U.S. Bank. You can’t directly apply for a joint account with U.S. Bank, however. You can only add a joint owner to an existing U.S. Bank credit card account. All U.S. Bank cards are eligible for joint owners except those for students.
Joint credit cards initially became popular because they allow couples to simultaneously build their credit and easily share their finances. However, joint credit card accounts have become rarer in recent years, with people instead opting to add an authorized user to an existing account or to simply apply for credit cards separately.
While joint credit cards may not be as common anymore, it’s still helpful to understand how they work and what their benefits are, along with some other key facts.
How to Apply for a Joint Credit Card
The first step in getting a joint credit card is to apply for a U.S. Bank credit card, if you don’t have one already. U.S. Bank is the only major credit card that offers joint credit card ownership. But you can’t apply for a joint account directly. You can only request the addition of a joint owner to a U.S. bank credit card account that’s already open.
To add a joint owner to a U.S. Bank credit card account, go to the Manage My Account: Add a Person to Account page. From there, download the Joint Owner Form and fill it out. The required information is similar to what you’d fill out for a standard credit card application. You can then submit it by mail or fax, and the addresses for both options are included on the form. The U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve Visa Infinite Card has a separate joint owner form that you must be signed into your account to access. Once your form has been submitted, U.S. Bank will contact you with a decision or a request for additional information.
U.S. Bank only allows one person to be added as a joint owner, and once added, the joint owner can never be removed.
More Joint Credit Card Tips & Info
- Joint credit cards and miscommunication – how to avoid painful consequences: You should set up automatic monthly payments or reach an agreement with your partner about who is responsible for making payments on time each month. If lines get crossed and payments are missed, both you and your partner will see your credit score suffer.
- Joint credit cards after divorce – both owners still liable for all shared debt: A divorce court cannot alter the terms of a joint credit card account by splitting up amounts owed between the two parties involved. So if you get divorced, you and your former spouse are still completely liable for all shared debt. That’s why it’s best to take one of the following steps prior to filing divorce papers: a) Pay off joint debts, b) Ask your lender if they’d be willing to take one person’s name off of the account with both account holders’ consent, or c) Use balance transfer credit cards to divvy up the debt onto two individual credit cards.
- Joint credit cards after death – surviving owner still owes: Not only is the death of a loved one a traumatic experience, but the way debt from a joint account gets handled may increase your financial liability. Unlike debt from an individual account (which is the purview of one’s estate and will be paid along with other amounts owed), an outstanding joint account balance falls on the shoulders of the surviving accountholder. So if you have a joint credit card with your spouse and they pass away, you are solely responsible for the balance owed.
Alternatives to Joint Credit Card Accounts
Co-signer Accounts: These are accounts that involve a primary account manager and a co-signer. The co-signer merely provides financial backing, agreeing to cover any unpaid debts. This enables the primary accountholder to get approval where their own credit standing and/or income would not ordinarily merit it. The co-signer doesn’t get access to funds or, in most cases, account information as part of this arrangement. However, if the primary accountholder misses a payment, it could affect the co-signer’s credit report.
Authorized User Accounts: An authorized user is basically the opposite of a co-signer in that he or she can access account funds but isn’t liable for unpaid debts. Because authorized users are not liable for payments, you should be able to successfully dispute any negative information that you may find on your credit report from an account you’re an authorized on.
Separate Credit Card Accounts: By getting your own credit card accounts, you and your would-be co-owner will each be legally responsible for paying off your own balances. And how you each manage your respective accounts will only help or hurt your own credit standing. Plus, you can each pick a credit card geared toward the types of purchases you spend the most money on. That will help you save even more, thanks to optimized rewards, rates and fees.
You can check out WalletHub’s latest picks for the best credit cards on the market to compare the top offers right now.
Image: Sergey Peterman/Shutterstock
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