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Published March 14, 2024
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3 Questions to Ask Before Sharing a Credit Card With Your Partner

Getting a joint credit card can make spending easier, but there are important things to consider before taking the leap.

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Becoming a joint user on a credit card with your spouse or partner is a convenient way to manage shared expenses. However, this convenience sometimes comes at a significant cost. If both parties aren’t on the same page when it comes to managing the credit card, it can lead to debt accumulation, missed payments, damaged credit scores and more. 

Here’s what you need to know about sharing a credit card with your significant other and the questions you need to ask before applying.

What it means to have a shared credit card

When you opt for a joint card, you and your partner are signatories on the credit card application and agreement. This means that you’re both equally responsible for all charged purchases. So, if one of you racks up debt, you’ll both experience the consequences. 

What kind of consequences? A high credit utilization ratio, meaning you’re spending too much of your available credit, is seen as untrustworthy by lenders and can lower both of your credit scores. You can also be denied credit limit increases or new lines of credit, and even have trouble finding housing or employment.

To avoid serious financial stress, it’s important that you completely trust your partner’s spending habits and money management skills before signing up for a joint credit card. 

Did you know? A joint user is different from an authorized user. With the latter, you add a user to an already existing credit card. That means the primary user remains responsible for all purchases.

Questions to ask before getting a joint credit card

A good way to decide if a joint credit card makes sense for you as a couple is by asking yourselves three crucial questions:

1. What is our current financial situation?

Before applying for a joint card, it’s critical to have a discussion about your individual personal finances. Strive for an honest talk about how differences in income, existing debts and credit health could influence how you shop with a credit card. Compare your individual monthly cash flows and discuss whether or not there should be a cap on what you each charge to the card. Do either of you have costly money habits? If one of you is more of a saver while the other spends freely, it’s worth discussing whether you will each be responsible for paying off your own charges or would you share the balance equally. 

Make sure you both feel comfortable with your combined financial profile and individual money management styles before proceeding.  

2. How will we manage potential conflicts over spending?

A 2024 report by BMO Financial Group found that more than 30% of couples fight over spending at some point in their relationship. To avoid these kinds of conflicts, it can be wise to put some spending guardrails in place. For instance, you could agree to communicate about any large purchases ahead of time. You can set a specific cost, like anything over $100. You may also want to set a monthly cap on overall spending that feels reasonable for both of you. 

Most importantly, you should make a promise to address any conflicts that do arise calmly and without judgment. Handled well, working through money issues can bring couples closer together. 

If you feel it could be helpful, discuss the possibility of turning to an objective arbitrator when arguments can’t be easily resolved. Sometimes couples may share a friend that they both see as clear headed and objective. You may want to agree ahead of time that you’ll turn to that person for advice if you can’t resolve a money disagreement on your own. Or, you may want to get the advice of a financial advisor

3. Do we have a plan for separation or divorce?

While no one gets a joint credit card thinking that they’ll one day have to deal with ending a relationship, it’s advisable to consider this scenario before applying. After all, according to a 2022 post from Merchant Law Group LLP, about 40% of marriages end in divorce. 

Untangling shared finances can get messy. Cancelling a credit card held in both your names means you’ll have to pay any balance in full or agree to transfer an existing balance onto one of your personal cards. Then, you’ll both have to agree to close the account, which can have a negative impact on your credit.

There is nothing wrong with being optimistic about the longevity of your relationship. But addressing how you’d navigate a hypothetical breakup before getting a joint card will make the financial repercussions much easier to handle if the time ever comes.

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