Credit cards are convenient, and many want to share that convenience with friends and family. There are many ways to share a credit card, but adding an additional cardholder is the most common.
What is an additional cardholder?
An additional cardholder is someone the primary cardholder authorises to use their account. Additional cardholders use supplementary (‘secondary’) credit cards linked to the primary cardholder’s account.
Your credit card provider may use different terminology, sometimes referring to additional cardholders as supplementary, secondary and authorised cardholders. Still, all the terms essentially mean the same thing: someone a primary cardholder has authorised to use their credit card account.
Additional cardholders differ from joint credit card accounts, another arrangement for sharing a credit card. While both provide individual cards for all parties, the structures differ in liability and responsibility. Unlike joint credit cardholders, supplementary cardholders are not responsible for the repayments or anything else associated with the account.
Primary vs additional cardholders
The primary cardholder is the person who opens the credit card account. The account is in their name, and they are liable for all its debt. In contrast, the additional cardholder is simply added to the account and bears no legal responsibility for ensuring proper account use. That means they aren’t liable for debt, even if they’re spending is to blame.
An additional cardholder won’t become the primary cardholder on that particular account. So, to earn the benefits of handling credit responsibly, they must apply for their first credit card independently.
Card providers have different policies regarding what additional cardholders can do, but most allow relatively unrestricted account use. That means they can partake in all or most of these activities:
- Make purchases
- Get cash advances
- Check the account balance
- Report suspicious transactions
- Set up a PIN distinct from the primary cardholder
- Order and activate a replacement card
- Cancel their card
- View the transaction history
- Make payments
- Redeem rewards points
- Access complimentary insurance.
Before you add someone to your card or become an additional cardholder, you may want to check the terms and conditions with the card provider to find out exactly what you’re entitled to do.
» MORE: How to get a credit card
Managing additional cardholders
As the primary cardholder responsible for paying the bills, you are more or less unrestricted in who you choose as an additional cardholder, as long as they are at least 16 years of age (check with your provider because some require the minimum age to be 18).
How to add additional cardholders
You simply fill out an online application with the additional cardholder’s details, such as name, date of birth and contact details, and where you and the additional cardholder agree to the terms and conditions. Once you submit your application, it will usually take five to 10 business days for the additional cardholder to receive their card in the mail.
Additional cardholders are not required to provide income information or undergo credit checks because they bear no responsibility for making repayments. They generally only need to be of minimum age and identifiable, sometimes as Australian citizens or permanent residents.
Many Australian card providers, such as the Commonwealth Bank and Westpac, only allow one additional cardholder on a personal credit card account. Still, some may allow more, so check with your provider. Similarly, most providers will offer this service free of charge, but once again, you’ll need to check to confirm.
How to remove additional cardholders
You can cancel or remove an additional cardholder from your account by calling your provider and requesting immediate cancellation. You should then cut up the card or dispose of it, where possible, or you may need to put a block on the card if you cannot destroy it and want to stop the additional cardholder from using it.
Should you add an additional cardholder?
Before you offer your card to an additional cardholder, you should consider a few things, both good and bad.
Benefits for the primary cardholder
- Saving on fees. Adding someone to an existing account, instead of opening a second credit card account, should save on annual fees and charges.
- Shared access to credit. Providing access to credit could be suitable for your partner or family member who may otherwise struggle to get a card of their own due to their work situation or credit history. It could also be ideal for your teenage child travelling overseas and needing access to credit in an emergency.
- Earning more points and rewards. Having more than one person actively using the account to make purchases means you can rack up points and, hopefully, obtain rewards much faster.
Risks for the primary cardholder
- Account responsibility. On the downside, you are solely responsible for the account. So, you must be sure that the additional cardholder will use it responsibly and not leave you drowning in a sea of debt.
- Credit rating. Overspending on the card could adversely affect your credit score, especially if you often struggle with paying off your card.
- Additional fees. Some card providers charge additional fees, so check with yours before applying.
Considerations for additional cardholders
As the additional cardholder, there are also a few things to consider before you opt for this arrangement.
- A smart lesson on credit. If you’re a teenager or may have just turned 18 and are not yet in the workforce, being an additional cardholder will give you an excellent introduction to using credit wisely. If you have a good teacher, you could learn essential money management skills.
- Shared benefits. Supplementary cardholders get the same benefits as primary cardholders, such as airport lounge access, frequent flyer points and other rewards.
- You’re spending someone else’s money. You need to be aware of your responsibility as an additional cardholder and that you’re ultimately spending someone else’s money. If you don’t control yourself, you could leave someone who’s done you an immense favour in debt or with ugly marks on their credit report.
- No credit rating. As an additional cardholder, you likely won’t be building a credit profile as the spending and repayments on the card only affect the primary cardholder. Consider a joint credit card if you’d like help building or improving your credit.