couple making an online purchase
LWA/Dann Tardif/Getty Images
With a joint credit card account, two people share a credit card. Both people can use the card to make purchases and both parties are equally responsible for paying off the balance, no matter who racked up the charges.

If the account is delinquent, both people listed on the card will suffer the consequences, which could include a significantly damaged credit score.

It’s worth mentioning that joint credit cards aren’t as popular as they used to be, and not many lenders offer them, so you may have difficulty finding a credit card company that will let you open a true joint account with another person.

Establishing credit with a joint account

Joint accounts are useful to help one of the two cardholders establish or improve his or her credit score. For example, if someone has a poor credit score or a short credit history, applying with another person who has stronger credit can boost their chances of being approved. Then, if the account remains in good standing, they’ll benefit from a gradually rising credit score, even if she never uses the card themselves.

Consequences of a joint account

Once a joint account is established, it remains a shared instrument regardless of what happens between the two parties. If a married couple obtains a joint credit card but then divorces, they both remain equally responsible for repaying the debt even though they’re no longer legally bound.

The credit card company can take legal action against both ex-spouses if no one pays the debt, and they will both suffer a negatively impacted credit rating.

Whether opening up a joint account or a personal one, make sure you’re getting the most out of your card.

Closing a joint account

You can’t remove one person’s name from a joint account, so once it’s opened you’ll be responsible even if your relationship deteriorates, and there’s no way around that except for closing the account. The credit card issuer may require you to pay off any balance first before it will close the account.

If you have no choice but to pay off the entire balance yourself, you can also transfer it to a card that’s only in your name, and then close the joint account. If you do close the account, ask the credit card issuer to permanently close the account and not allow it to be opened again by either of you.

The final word

A joint credit card can be an effective way to enable two people to share financial responsibility and resources, but it also comes with risks for both people involved. If one cardholder doesn’t pay, or maxes out the card, this could negatively affect the other cardholder. Joint credit cards are best suited to specific circumstances, such as helping one person build credit, or in situations where you’re sure you can trust the other person.

More From Bankrate