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Applying for a credit card with a co-signer—that is, another person who agrees to share responsibility for charges made on the card—is a good way to build a positive credit history.
In the past, applying for a credit card with a co-signer was a common way to increase your approval odds. Unfortunately, most major credit issuers have phased out this option. However, Bank of America allows you to add a co-applicant to your credit card after your application has been approved—and a few credit cards, including the Apple Card, allow you to create a joint credit account with another person.
Here’s what you need to know about co-signers, co-applicants and joint credit cards, as well as other options for people who want to build their credit quickly.
Credit card issuers that allow co-signers
As of January 2022, none of the major credit card issuers we contacted allow co-signers.
In the past, it may have been possible to apply for a credit card with a co-signer if you were applying with Bank of America, USAA or U.S. Bank. However, we reached out to these issuers in January 2022 and confirmed that Bank of America, USAA and U.S. Bank no longer allow co-signers on credit cards.
That said, people who apply for Bank of America credit cards have another option. Once you have been approved for a Bank of America credit card, you can request to add a co-applicant to your newly-issued credit account. If the co-applicant is accepted, the two of you will share legal responsibility for all charges made to the card. This is not the same thing as applying for a credit card with a co-signer, but it still allows you to share a line of credit with another person.
Issuers that don’t allow credit card co-signers
None of the major credit card issuers we contacted allow credit card co-signers.
We contacted each of the following credit card issuers in January 2022 to confirm that they did not allow people to apply for credit cards with co-signers:
- American Express does not allow co-signers.
- Bank of America does not allow co-signers.
- Capital One does not allow co-signers.
- Chase does not allow co-signers.
- Citi does not allow co-signers.
- Discover does not allow co-signers.
- Wells Fargo does not allow co-signers.
- USAA does not allow co-signers.
- U.S. Bank does not allow co-signers.
Alternatives to finding a co-signer
Since most credit issuers no longer allow people to apply for credit cards with co-signers, you’ll need to look for alternative ways to access credit.
Become an authorized user
One of the best ways to build credit quickly is by becoming an authorized user on another person’s credit card. When you become an authorized user, you receive authorization to make purchases on another person’s credit account. The account owner is responsible for all payments and any debt incurred.
Most credit card issuers report authorized user accounts to the three major credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax and TransUnion). This means that every time the account owner makes an on-time payment, for example, it shows up as a positive record on your credit report, which boosts your credit score.
Becoming an authorized user is an easy way to piggyback on someone else’s good credit while building your credit score, especially if you are a student or young person who isn’t old enough to open a credit card of your own.
Apply for a joint credit card
In some cases, you may be able to apply for a joint credit card. Joint credit cards are exactly what they sound like: a credit card issued jointly to two people (spouses, for example), both of whom are legally responsible for any debt incurred on the card. All activity on the card is reported to both cardholders’ credit reports, which means that if you both use your joint card responsibly, you could both receive a credit boost!
Only a few credit cards, such as the Apple Card, allow joint accounts. If you are considering becoming a joint cardholder, make sure you are prepared to take full responsibility for any charges made on the card. Also, make sure that every payment is on time, regardless of who makes the payment.
Apply for a secured credit card
If you want to apply for a credit line of your own—without becoming an authorized user or looking for a joint credit card—consider applying for a secured credit card. These credit-building cards require a small security deposit in exchange for a small credit limit, allowing you to prove that you can handle credit responsibly.
Once you’ve demonstrated your ability to make on-time payments and manage your small line of credit, most credit card issuers will return your security deposit and graduate you to an unsecured credit card. Secured credit cards can be rewarding—especially if you choose a card that offers cash back rewards, such as the Discover it® Secured Credit Card.
Consider credit cards for people with bad credit
Many of these cards are secured credit cards, but these lists also include unsecured cards designed for people who are hoping to build or rebuild their credit—such as the Petal® 1 “No Annual Fee” Visa® Credit Card, which may use factors like income and bill payment history to determine eligibility, offers cash back rewards on select purchases and allows cardholders to earn a credit limit increase after six months of card ownership.
The bottom line
Even though most major credit card issuers no longer allow credit cards with co-signers, there are still ways to build credit—even if you have a low credit score or a limited credit history.
Consider becoming an authorized user, applying for a secured credit card or looking for a card designed to help people build credit. Once you have a line of credit of your own, make sure you practice responsible credit habits to establish a positive credit history and build your credit score.