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Getting a joint credit card
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Getting a joint credit card

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Joint credit cards are cards were there are two parties who are responsible for paying off a credit card.  This is a relatively rare operation as even when there are joint transaction accounts or mortgages, many consumers who are married keep separate credit cards.

The way in which a joint credit card works is that the credit card is issued to both credit card holders and they are both liable for any debts that are built up on the card.  The usual way in which the cards are made liable is under “joint and several liability”.  Joint and several liability means that both the card holders are liable for the whole debt, so if one does not pay then the other holder is due to pay the whole debt, no matter which party built the debt up.  Many people think that under a joint credit card, the credit card holders are only due for the debt that they incurred, or half of the total debt.  This is not actually the case and they are due for the whole of the debt.

Many couples who are perfectly happy to have the same transaction account or the same mortgage account will often maintain separate credit card accounts.  The main reason for this is that the credit cards can allow a person to bring up a significant amount of debt.  While a mortgage is also debt, this is done before the loan is agreed to, rather than after as is the case with a credit card.

An alternative to joint credit cards are co signatory credit cards.  These are credit cards that go under one name but are also backed by a second person, known as a co signatory.  This co signatory has the right to see statements and has to agree to any rise in the credit limit on the card.  These cards are often a useful way that parents of students can grant their children some independence while not having an inexperienced student drowning in debt.  They can also be very popular with students who can “borrow” their parent’s credit card rating.

Joint account credit cards versus additional card holders

Another alternative is to have subsidiary cards.  This is a card that is tied to another account, but often with its own credit limit.  Unlike a joint credit card there are not two borrowers who are liable for this card, but a main card holder.

Two individuals who wish to consolidate and manage their money together have two viable, but distinct choices. Setting up an existing card and allowing for authorised users is perhaps the quickest and easiest way to achieve this, whereas joint account credit cards, while more labour-intensive and prone to more restrictions, can produce more profound results for the both account holders. Below is a summary of joint account credit cards versus additional card holders on a credit card.

Joint account credit card holders open a new line of credit

When two people apply for a joint account credit card, whether it is a husband and wife or two friends or family members, they must do so together and with each other’s consent. It also establishes both account holders as mutually exclusive, yet responsible parties, who are both accountable for a shared pool of credit. While this means that each party can build up each other’s credit, it also means they can damage it just as quickly, through irresponsible and reckless spending.

Joint account credit card holders are on equal footing

The two people arranging for the joint account credit card are on an equal footing, both with one another, and in terms of how they can interact with the bank. If one party wishes that their card has a lower interest rate, they can appeal to the creditor without approval from the joint account holder. Likewise, if one party wants to make a payment or update contact information, they may do so without requiring a signature or the presence of the other account holder. In this respect, having a joint account credit card is just like having a single account credit card.

Additional card holders employ primary account holder’s credit

Whereas joint account credit card holders work in tandem to build up one another’s credit, additional card holders are simply employing the primary account holder’s credit. Because of this, they cannot make any changes to the account, nor do they have any authority other than to make standard purchases. This is often the method that parents use to expose their teenagers to credit management. Additional card holders, however can negatively influence the credit score of the primary account holder by compiling large purchases and maxing out the credit limit lest the primary account holder sets a spending limit for them.

Additional card holders do not build credit

Many couples simply add their spouses to their credit card accounts out of convenience, as do many parents with their teenage children. While this grants them access to the primary account holder’s funds, it does not help the additional card holders to build their own credit. The only way for two credit card users to concurrently build separate credit is to apply for a joint account credit card.

Photo source: Shutterstock

Pauline Hatch

Pauline is a personal finance expert at, with 8 years in money, budgeting and property reporting under her belt. Pauline is passionate about seeing Aussies win by making their money – and their credit cards – work smarter, harder and bigger.

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