Are joint credit cards a good idea?
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With a joint credit card, two people are actually on the same credit card account together. Whether it’s a good idea for you depends on your financial circumstances—and theirs.
If you think about it, there are numerous similar ways that people share their financial lives. For example, it’s very common to take out a mortgage that lasts up to 30 years with a partner or spouse. Many people also open a joint checking account or joint savings account with another person, in which case all the money in those accounts is shared.
Either way, you may be wondering if joint credit cards are a good idea. While there is no such thing as a “right” answer to this question, it’s easy to see scenarios where having a joint credit card makes sense.
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 of 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. For example, there are differences in who is ultimately responsible for repayment with either option, and joint credit cards have the potential to have a greater impact to your credit score than an authorized user account.
Other nuances come into play when you choose an authorized user account as well. The chart below shows the main differences to be aware of when you’re considering either option.
|Authorized user accounts||Joint credit cards|
|Responsibility for repayment||Primary cardholder is responsible||Account holders are equally responsible|
|Reporting to credit bureaus||Not all card issuers report authorized user accounts to credit bureaus||Activity reported to both users’ credit reports|
|Spending limits||Spending limits can be set on authorized user accounts||Both users 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:
- 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 issuer 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.
The three main banks that offer the joint account option are Bank of America, U.S. Bank and PNC Bank. Meanwhile, one popular credit card from Goldman Sachs also fits the bill.
Best credit cards for joint cardholders
- Earn 3 percent back on everything you buy from Apple and from select merchants when you pay with Apple Pay and your Apple Card; 2 percent back each time you pay using Apple Pay and Apple Card; and 1 percent back on all other purchases
- No annual fee and no hidden fees
The Apple Card is unique because it allows joint credit cards right off the bat. You can even set up an Apple Family account, which lets primary cardholders earn rewards and monitor spending across authorized user accounts set up for other family members.
Rewards can be redeemed for purchases through Apple Pay, transferred to a bank account or sent to friends through Messages. You do need an Apple device to have this joint credit card.
Bank of America® Customized Cash Rewards credit card
- Earn 3 percent cash back on a category of your choosing (travel, gas, online shopping, dining, drug stores and home improvement/furnishings); 2 percent at grocery stores and wholesale clubs for up to $2,500 in combined choice/grocery/wholesale category purchases quarterly; and 1 percent cash back on all other purchases
- Earn $200 in online cash rewards after $1,000 in purchases during the first 90 days of account opening
- No annual fee
This is a great card for a joint account because each month you have the opportunity to change your 3 percent cash back category. This will allow both cardholders to choose categories that fit their shopping habits.
Bank of America doesn’t take co-applicants for new credit cards. However, once you’re approved for a card, you can add a co-applicant to your account by calling the customer service number on the back of your card. In this instance, a co-applicant and a joint owner are the same thing.
U.S. Bank Cash+® Visa Signature® Card
- Earn 5 percent cash back per quarter on two categories of your choosing on up to $2,000 in purchases; 2 percent cash back for one category of your choosing (gas stations, EV charging stations, grocery stores or restaurants); and 1 percent cash back for all other qualifying purchases
- Earn $200 bonus cash back with $1,000 in eligible purchases in the first 120 days of account opening
- No annual fee
Having the ability to rotate categories each quarter gives you and your joint cardholder the ability to maximize your cash back rewards based on your spending habits. You also get to choose one permanent cash back category.
To add a joint cardholder, you simply have to call the number on the back of your credit card or 1-800-285-8585. U.S. Bank allows you to add a joint owner for all cards except College Cards.
PNC Cash Rewards Visa Credit Card
- Earn 4 percent cash back on gas station purchases; 3 percent on dining; 2 percent at grocery stores (up to $8,000 per year in combined purchases in these categories annually); and 1 percent on all other purchases
- Earn $100 bonus cash back after $1,000 in purchases during the first 3 billing cycles after account opening
- No annual fee
This cash back card will have you and your co-applicant covered in a variety of categories for your household. You can use your cash back credit towards something you both want or distribute it evenly for each person to make their own purchases.
The information about the PNC Cash Rewards Visa Credit Card has been collected independently by Bankrate.com. The card details have not been reviewed or approved by the card issuer.
How to choose the best joint credit card
Choosing the best joint credit card will come down to what meets the needs of you and your joint applicant. It’s important to have clear communication going into this process, especially since you will both be responsible for making payments on the card. Here are a few tips to help you along the way.
- Check both your credit reports. Many joint credit card accounts are looking for credit scores in the good to excellent range (670-850). If you or your partner have a lower credit score, you may want to take some time to improve your scores before you apply.
- Discuss your spending needs. Talk with your partner about how you think you will use your joint credit card. If you’re interested in very different rewards categories, you may be better off applying for a card with rotating rewards categories.
- Have a plan for making payments. Make sure you and your partner have a plan for how you will manage purchases on the card and their repayment. Will you each pay off the purchases you make or will you handle the bill with a 50/50 split? Or will you only use the card for household purchases that you make together?
- Decide how you will handle rewards. You may decide that you want to pool rewards on the card to use towards things you will do or use together or distribute points individually based on what each of you has earned.
- Be open to the ‘authorized user’ route. If one of you doesn’t qualify for the card, choosing to add the second person as an authorized user could help you accomplish the same goal of being on one credit card together as an authorized user won’t have to undergo a credit check.
- Have an exit plan. There are numerous reasons a joint credit card account may need to be closed, the card may not work out or perhaps the relationship won’t. Be sure you understand the credit card terms and conditions for canceling a joint account, including whether one joint owner can maintain the 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 sign-up bonuses and ongoing rewards on your spending.
You may be better off adding an authorized user to your account if you want to help someone else build credit or if you want to earn rewards on all of their purchases. Another good reason is if you want your child or dependent to have access to your credit limit for emergencies.