What to know about joint credit cards

Learn about joint credit cards and common alternatives.

Joint ownership is common for all kinds of financial products, whether it’s a checking account, savings account, mortgage or auto loan. But what about joint credit cards?

What exactly is a joint credit card anyway? And how is having a joint credit card different from having a co-signer or an authorized user? Read on for all the ins and outs of joint credit cards and their alternatives.

What is a joint credit card?

A joint credit card works just like a traditional credit card, except the account is shared by two people—each cardholder gets their own card that’s linked to the account.

The key difference between a joint credit card and a traditional credit card is that the benefits and responsibilities are shared equally by both cardholders. With a joint credit card, any activity on the card will affect both cardholders. And both cardholders are responsible for paying the balance on the card—even if one cardholder didn’t use the card at all.

Pros and cons of joint credit cards

Joint credit cards have their pros and cons—just like any other financial product.

Pros of joint credit cards

A joint credit card can be convenient if you share your finances with a spouse, partner or loved one. Making payments on time and keeping the balance low can help both cardholders build a positive payment history.

Cons of joint credit cards

If one cardholder maxes out the card, makes a late payment or misses a payment altogether, it could affect both cardholders’ credit scores.

It’s also worth keeping in mind that in most cases a cardholder can’t be removed from a joint credit card account. So if a cardholder decides they no longer want or need to have a joint credit card—for whatever reason—they may only have a couple of options: 

  • Pay off the balance and close the account.
  • Transfer the balance to a traditional credit card that has a single cardholder or primary cardholder.

Before opening a joint account, it’s always a good idea to review the joint credit card’s terms and conditions so that you’ll know your rights and responsibilities.

Joint credit cards vs. co-signers

One alternative to a joint credit card is having a co-signer. Co-signing for a credit card is different from being a joint cardholder.

Instead of becoming a cardholder on the account, a co-signer vouches for someone who’s applying for a credit card. The co-signer is telling the credit card company that if the cardholder can’t pay, the co-signer will.

Co-signing for a credit card is one way to help a loved one improve their chances of being approved—especially if they’re building or rebuilding their credit. A co-signer could also help the applicant get more favorable terms than they might on their own.

But there are also potential disadvantages to being a co-signer. If the responsibilities of the account fall to the co-signer and they can’t afford to pay, their credit score could be impacted. And taking on debt obligations as a co-signer can affect the co-signer’s ability to secure additional loans or credit of their own.

Joint credit cards vs. authorized users

Another alternative to a joint credit card is to add an authorized user.

Adding an authorized user to an existing credit card account gives another person access to that account. The authorized user gets their own card and can make purchases using the account’s line of credit. But unlike with a joint credit card, an authorized user isn’t responsible for the account. Authorized users also can’t make changes to the account, like increasing the credit limit or adding more authorized users.

Many, but not all, issuers report authorized users to the credit bureaus. So if the cardholder has good credit and uses their card responsibly, it could help the authorized user build their own credit history. And it can be a great way for the authorized user to learn how to manage a credit card. Issuers may even let cardholders set authorized user spending limits.

Keep in mind that the primary cardholder is ultimately the one who is responsible for the account. But negative information like late or missed payments could affect both the primary cardholder and the authorized user.

Adding an authorized user to a Capital One account

Some issuers offer joint credit cards or co-signers. But those options are becoming less common. So if you’re interested in sharing a credit card, consider adding an authorized user to a credit card you already have.

Adding an authorized user to your Capital One account can help you earn more rewards and keep track of spending all on one account, at no additional cost. To get them set up, all you’ll need is their Social Security number and date of birth. You will also have the option to choose their level of access. They may be eligible to create a digital profile, which allows them to manage their account online. Once they’re added, they’ll be sent a card to start using right away.

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We hope you found this helpful. Our content is not intended to provide legal, investment or financial advice or to indicate that a particular Capital One product or service is available or right for you. For specific advice about your unique circumstances, consider talking with a qualified professional.

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