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Published August 16, 2021

How to Share a Credit Card

Sharing a credit card with a spouse or family member can help you save on fees, build credit scores and more. Just make sure you know the risks and potential benefits of joint credit cards and authorized users.

Have you ever noticed that whenever you apply for a new credit card, the form asks if you want to add an authorized user? This option is promoted as a convenient way to earn additional rewards, so why not, right?

While there’s no denying that sharing a joint credit card with your partner or a family member can be useful, it’s important to be aware of a few things before you add any authorized users.

What is a joint credit card?

A joint credit card is more clearly referred to as a joint credit card account. It’s when a primary cardholder adds an authorized or supplementary user to their account. You can add anyone, including a spouse, family member, caregiver or friend. The authorized user will get their own card with their name on it and can make their own purchases.

Purchases made by all users are consolidated into a single monthly statement, but each user’s transactions are clearly identified. The primary account holder will see all charges on the account, but authorized users can only see their own transactions when they log in. All the rewards, including cash back or points, are pooled into the primary cardholder’s account.

Having a joint credit card can make it easier for households to manage their budgets and expenses. In addition, the annual fee for the supplementary user is typically lower than it would be for a separate primary cardholder, and you may be able to share some benefits.

Advantages of having a joint credit card

Many people prefer to have their own individual credit cards, but getting a joint credit card could be a good idea in many situations, such as:

  • When parents want to introduce their kids to using credit responsibly
  • If households have a caregiver who needs to make purchases
  • When couples begin to manage their expenses together
  • If families want to pool their rewards so they can redeem them for bigger perks

As you can see, if you think carefully about your reasons for getting a joint credit card, adding an authorized user to your account could be a great option.

Disadvantages of having a shared credit card

At first glance, having a joint credit card seems like a good idea, but it’s important to be aware of some disadvantages:

  • The primary cardholder is responsible for all charges made by every user
  • Authorized users can’t redeem any rewards, no matter how many they’ve earned
  • Being an authorized user on a joint credit card may not help your credit score if the card issuer doesn’t report your activity to the credit bureaus
  • Authorized users may not get access to all the benefits offered with the credit card

There’s nothing wrong with being an authorized user on a joint credit card. However, you likely don’t want it to be your only credit card. Getting your own credit card will allow you to build your credit score, which will be helpful if you ever need a loan in the future.

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What is a co-applicant?

An alternative to being an authorized user is being a co-signer/co-applicant. As a co-applicant, you’ll share more responsibility. Since the co-applicant is considered a joint borrower, you’re both responsible for all the charges regardless of who makes the transactions. Co-signers can both earn rewards, redeem rewards and build their credit scores.

Going the co-applicant route may sound like a great idea since the users would be on more even ground, but it does mean that you’re both telling the credit card company that you’ll pay for all the charges if the other person doesn’t. Failure to make payments could impact both your credit scores, so it’s crucial that you both plan to uphold your agreements.

» MORE: How to choose the best credit card for you

About the Author

Barry Choi

Barry Choi is a personal finance and travel expert. His website is one of Canada's most trusted sites when it comes to all things related to money and travel.

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