Most people share their financial lives with someone else in some way, shape or form. It’s very common to take out a mortgage that lasts up to 30 years with a co-borrower, for example, and you may have a joint checking account or joint savings with a partner or spouse.
You probably share living expenses with at least one other person, and maybe you even cosigned on a child’s student loans.
When it comes to credit cards, however, joint cards aren’t really “a thing” anymore — at least, they’re not widely available. But there are other ways to share a credit card with another person.
Two ways you can share a credit card
For the most part, there are two main ways to share a credit card with another person.
- You can add an authorized user to an existing credit card (or become an authorized user on someone else’s account)
- You can open a joint account with a co-signer or co-borrower
By adding an authorized user, you’re adding another person to a card account that is already in operation. Authorized users will get their own credit card with their name on it, but their purchases and other transactions will post to the primary card holder’s account.
Also note that authorized users don’t have to go through a credit check to be added as an authorized user. The primary cardholder is taking all the responsibility, so a hard inquiry on the authorized user’s credit report isn’t required.
With a joint account, on the other hand, you’ll apply with a credit card together with another person similar to how you would if you apply for a mortgage or a car loan. This means you’ll both have a hard inquiry on your credit report when you apply, and that both of your financial situations will be considered for approval.
Authorized user vs. joint cardholder — which is better?
It’s hard to say whether joint accounts or authorized users are better for anyone in particular, but there are some distinct differences to be aware of.
With joint cardholders, for example, both parties are equally liable for repaying any purchases made to the credit card. And if both parties fail to meet their responsibilities, both will sustain damage to their credit scores. On the flip side, adding an authorized user to an existing credit card doesn’t make the second party liable for repayment. Only the primary cardholder — the person who had the card to begin with — is responsible for repaying all charges on the card, plus interest and fees.
Another difference is one that probably matters to someone trying to build credit. While credit bureaus will note the payments and credit movements of all cardholders on a joint account, not all credit card issuers report payments for authorized user accounts to the bureaus.
Also be aware that, if you add an authorized user to your account, you may be able to set a spending limit that applies to their card only. This won’t be the case with a joint credit card where you’ll both have access to the entire line of credit.
With these differences in mind, there are some things that work the same with joint accounts and authorized user accounts:
- With joint accounts and authorized users, any rewards you earn will all pool in the same place.
- Having more people on a single account can help you rack up rewards faster.
- Both types of accounts can help you both improve your credit scores, although whether or not your card reports authorized user activity will make a difference.
Which banks offer joint accounts?
If you specifically want a joint credit card account, you’ll need to find a card issuer that offers this option. Unfortunately, joint credit cards aren’t easy to find at all.
None of the major card issuers seem to offer information on joint credit card accounts you can apply for online, with the exception of U.S. Bank. With that in mind, you could consider getting a joint account with a card like the U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card or the U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card.
Major banks and credit unions that offer credit cards may also be more likely to offer joint accounts, so make sure to check with reputable institutions in your area.
What you should consider before opening a joint credit card
Before you open a credit card as a joint borrower or add an authorized user to your account, there are plenty of issues to think over. Remember that, with either of these options, you’re intermingling your finances with another person, and that doesn’t always end well.
Some questions to ask before you open a joint account include:
- Do I want to be jointly liable to repay a debt with this person?
- Do I trust my cosigner to be financially responsible and pay their share of the bill?
- Do I want to share any rewards earned with another person, or do I want to earn my own?
Questions to ask before you add an authorized user to your credit card account include:
- Do I want to be responsible for authorized user purchases if they don’t pay them off?
- Do I trust my authorized user to be financially responsible and pay their share of the bill?
- Do I want my authorized user to have access to the rewards I earn? Or do they belong to me?
- Will my authorized user be able to build their credit score with this account?
The bottom line
Getting a joint credit card may sound like a good idea, but there’s a reason these accounts are falling out of fashion. Having your own card means you’ll never have to stress over another person’s purchases, and you’ll be able to earn your own credit card signup bonuses and ongoing rewards on your spending.
Adding an authorized user to your account can make sense if you want to help someone else build credit or if you want to earn rewards on all their purchases. If you want your child or dependent to have access to your credit limit for emergencies, that’s another good reason to consider it.
Can you get a joint credit card? The scenarios we described above show that, yes, you absolutely can. But, should you? At the end of the day, only you can decide.