Joint credit cards: Definition, benefits and 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, plus some helpful alternatives.

Key takeaways

  • A joint credit card is just like a traditional card, except that the account is shared by two people.
  • Joint credit cards can have several benefits, including simplified money management and credit-building opportunities for both cardholders. 
  • If a joint credit card isn’t used responsibly, it could affect both cardholders’ credit scores or leave one person on the hook for the other cardholder’s debt. 
  • Not all banks or credit card issuers offer joint cards, but you may be able to add an authorized user or co-signer on a credit card account instead.

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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 joint credit and traditional credit is that the benefits and responsibilities of the credit account, and any debt incurred, 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 when one cardholder didn’t use the card at all.

Pros and cons of joint credit cards

Like any other financial product, joint credit cards have their pros and cons. Consider the following before making a decision:

Pros of joint credit cards

Some potential advantages of joint credit cards include:

  • Streamlined account management: A joint credit card can be convenient if you share your finances with a spouse, partner or loved one. Both you and the other cardholder can manage balances, make payments and share other responsibilities associated with your credit card account.
  • Shared opportunity to build credit: Opening a joint credit card account can give you and your  joint account holder the chance to build your credit with responsible use. Habits like making payments on time and keeping your credit card balance low can help both cardholders establish a positive payment history.

Cons of joint credit cards

Some possible disadvantages of joint credit cards could include: 

  • Potential negative impact on credit: If one cardholder maxes out the card, makes a late payment or misses a payment altogether, it could affect both cardholders’ credit scores.
  • Difficulty reverting to a non-joint account: 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 be able to pay off the balance and close the account or transfer the balance to a traditional credit card with a single or primary cardholder.
  • Liability for joint cardholder’s debt: Both cardholders are responsible for paying off credit card balances, no matter which cardholder incurred the debt. So if one cardholder splurges on a big purchase they can’t afford, the other may be on the hook for paying it off.

Joint credit card alternatives

Not sure if a joint credit card account is right for you? Here are a few alternatives to explore before applying for a joint credit card:

Add an authorized user

Adding an authorized user to an existing credit card account gives another person access to that account. The authorized user typically 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 credit card 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.

Consider a co-signer

Another alternative to a joint credit card is having a co-signer. 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 credit from scratch or rebuilding their scores. A co-signer could also help the applicant get more favorable terms than they might get on their own.

But there are 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.

Can I get a joint credit card account with Capital One?

Some issuers offer joint credit cards or co-signers, but those options are becoming less common. Capital One, for example, doesn’t offer joint credit cards or co-signers on credit cards. So if you’re interested in sharing a Capital One credit card account, consider adding an authorized user to a credit card you already have.

How to add an authorized user to a Capital One credit card account

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 add an authorized user, all you’ll need is their name and date of birth. 

You will also have the option to choose their level of access. Your authorized user 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.

Joint credit card FAQs

Still learning about joint credit cards? Check out these frequently asked questions for more information:

Do banks offer joint credit cards?

Some banks and credit card companies may offer joint credit cards. However, joint credit card accounts aren’t always easy to find. As an alternative, you may consider adding an authorized user to your account instead. You can contact your financial institution for more information about its joint cardholder policies.

Do joint credit cards build credit for both people?

A joint credit card can be a useful tool to help both cardholders build credit—as long as it’s used responsibly. That means doing things like prioritizing timely monthly payments and monitoring your credit utilization.

Will a joint account hurt my credit?

Like any credit card, a joint credit card could hurt your credit if it’s used irresponsibly. Applying for a joint credit card account could also temporarily lower your credit scores. That’s because most credit card issuers run a hard credit inquiry while reviewing your application. 

A hard inquiry may show up on your credit reports and cause your scores to drop—usually by just a few points.

Joint credit cards in a nutshell

A joint credit card can be a useful tool for making money management simpler or to help a loved one build credit. And other options may be available as well, like co-signing on a credit card or adding an authorized user to an existing account.

Like with any credit card, it’s critical to use a joint card responsibly. Consider checking your balances regularly to avoid a high credit utilization rate, and prioritize timely payments. You may even consider enrolling in automatic payments to reduce the risk of a late or missed payment.

And as you put in the work to use your credit card responsibly, you can monitor your credit—and see your hard work pay off—with CreditWise from Capital One. It’s free for everyone, even if you don’t have a Capital One credit card—and using it won’t hurt your credit.

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