Whether you decide on joint finances as a couple or you think keeping your money separate seems safer, there are plenty of reasons for both people in a relationship to have access to a credit card.
Not only can you use cards to earn rewards on your spending, but you can also enjoy consumer protections like extended warranties or purchase protection against damage or theft. And travel credit cards, in particular, offer a range of perks that can make travel more comfortable for both parties in a relationship.
Managing credit is part of the experience of navigating your finances as a couple, and determining a method that works for you both can help you maximize savings and keep up your financial health.
Best credit card strategies for couples
There are many different ways for couples to use credit cards in a cohesive manner. Here are a few of the ways couples can plan their use of plastic together, including some of the advantages and disadvantages to consider.
Joint credit cards
Many card issuers no longer allow joint credit card accounts through co-applicants in which more than one person is listed as the primary borrower. Instead, you can be on the same account as your partner after they apply for a credit card, but you have to go about it in a different way.
Add each other as authorized users
The most common way to be on the same account as your spouse or partner is by having them add you as an authorized user on their credit card account, or by adding them to your account. Only the person who signed up for the account is the primary borrower in this case, but you’re both borrowing against the same line of credit and earning the same rewards.
The downside of authorized user accounts is that you won’t earn a sign-up bonus on an authorized user credit card, whereas you could double up on bonuses if both spouses opened their own card. Many premium travel credit cards also tend to charge a fee to add an authorized user to the account.
However, adding an authorized user can make a lot of sense if one spouse has much better credit, and the other spouse may not be approved for their own card. Being added as an authorized user could even help boost a lower credit rating over time, provided credit is used responsibly by all parties.
Keep credit card accounts separate
Many couples also choose to keep their credit card accounts separate, and this is not always due to keeping finances separate. Having separate cards means both spouses can earn their own sign-up bonuses and rewards categories.
Since many rewards programs like Chase Ultimate Rewards let you combine points with a spouse or partner living at the same address, being able to double up on initial bonus rewards is a huge benefit.
It’s important to note that you can include household income in your credit card application per federal law. This means that a stay-at-home parent can include their spouse’s income and all other household income on their application, thus making it easier for them to get approved for their own credit card.
Bankrate’s picks for the best credit cards for couples of 2020:
- Best for flexibility: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
- Best for no annual fee: Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card
- Best for groceries: Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express
- Best for earning cash back: Chase Freedom®
Best for flexibility: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
- Earn 60,000 points (worth $750 in travel) when you spend $4,000 on your card within three months of account opening
- Earn 2X points on travel and dining and 1X points on other purchases
- Earn 5X points on Lyft purchases through March 2022
- $95 annual fee
Why it’s the best for flexibility
The Chase Sapphire Preferred is a solid option if you want some flexibility in your redemption options through the Chase Ultimate Rewards program. Using this type of rewards currency and this card, you can transfer points 1:1 to airline and hotel programs, book travel through the Chase portal and get 25 percent more value out of your points. You can also redeem your points for cash back, statement credits, gift cards and more.
Chase lets you combine all your points with a spouse or partner who lives at the same address, so it makes sense for couples to each have their own card and earn their own sign-up bonus early on.
Other cardholder benefits couples might use include trip cancellation and interruption insurance, primary auto rental insurance coverage, purchase protection against damage or theft, extended warranties on eligible items and baggage insurance coverage.
Best for no annual fee: Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card
- Earn 20,000 bonus points when you spend $1,000 on your card within three months of account opening
- Earn 3X points on dining, gas stations, ridesharing, transit, flights, hotels, homestays including Airbnb, car rentals and popular streaming services, plus 1X points on other purchases
- No annual fee
- Zero percent intro APR on purchases and qualifying balance transfers for 12 months, followed by a variable APR of 13.99 to 25.99 percent
Why it’s the best with no annual fee
The Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card earns a high rewards rate across a variety of popular categories including dining, most types of travel and popular streaming services like Hulu and Netflix. The fact you can earn 3x points in these categories without an annual fee is worth considering, and the 20,000 bonus points you’ll earn when you spend $1,000 within three months of account opening is worth $200 in cash redemption value alone.
If you and your spouse need to make a large purchase, you can also save money with the intro zero percent APR offer on purchases for 12 months. Just remember, that rate won’t last forever; your card’s APR will reset to the higher variable rate of 13.99 percent to 25.99 percent once 12 months are up.
The information related to the Wells Fargo Propel American Express card has been collected by Bankrate and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer or provider of this product or service.
Best for groceries: Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express
- Earn a $250 statement credit when you spend $1,000 on your card within three months of account opening
- Earn 6 percent cash back on up to $6,000 spent each year at U.S. supermarkets (then 1 percent) as well as select streaming services, 3 percent back on U.S. gas stations and transit and 1 percent back on other purchases
- $95 annual fee
- Zero percent intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 12 months, followed by a variable APR of 12.99 to 23.99 percent
Why it’s the best for groceries
The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express is best for couples who spend a lot on groceries, but you may want to consider opening your own separate card accounts.
Not only can both partners earn the $250 bonus after spending $1,000 within three months, but they can each earn 6 percent back on up to $6,000 spent at U.S. supermarkets each year (then 1%). Considering the average couple with two kids under age 5 spends $889.80 per month, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), couples could alternate cards when paying for groceries and earn $640 in rewards each year in this category alone.
This card does charge an annual fee, but you can quickly earn back the $95 by maximizing rewards categories. You can use your rewards for statement credits, cash back or gift cards as well, so you’ll have some flexibility in terms of how you and your partner decide to cash them in together or separately.
Best for earning cash back: Chase Freedom®
- Earn $200 when you spend $500 within three months of account opening
- Earn 5 percent back on $1,500 spent each quarter in combined bonus categories (then 1 percent) and 1 percent back on other purchases
- No annual fee
- Zero percent intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months, followed by a variable APR of 14.99 to 23.74 percent
Why it’s the best for earning cash back
The Chase Freedom® is another good choice for couples since you can both earn 5 percent back on up to $1,500 in combined rotating categories each quarter, then 1 percent. If some of the bonus categories are particularly useful to you, you can max out the benefit on up to $1,500 in spending each quarter on both of your credit cards. For April through June of 2020, the 5 percent bonus category includes grocery spending, fitness clubs and gym memberships and select streaming services.
You’ll also earn 1 percent back on regular spending, and there’s no annual fee. Chase lets you combine all your points with a spouse or partner at the same address, so both partners could get individual cards and earn a sign-up bonus, then combine rewards later.
If you want to save money on purchases, you’ll also love the fact this card offers zero percent intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months, followed by a variable APR of 14.99 to 23.74 percent. If you decide to transfer over high interest balances from other cards or loans, a 3 percent balance transfer fee (minimum $5) applies for the first 60 days. After that, the balance transfer fee goes up to 5 percent with the same $5 minimum.
The information about the Chase Freedom has been collected independently by Bankrate.com. The card details have not been reviewed or approved by the card issuer.