Joint Credit Card Accounts & How They Work

When you take a big step in your relationship – like getting married – it’s natural to merge your finances together. This is known in the financial world as joint ownership.

Joint ownership is very common, especially for spouses or trusted partners. Being joint owners on a checking account, savings account, or home loan is standard fair. But what about sharing a joint credit card?

Joint credit cards are a lesser-known financial product that allows two parties to share the responsibility for one credit card account. If you are curious about opening a joint credit card, keep reading to learn the risks and rewards of sharing a line of credit with another person.

What Is a Joint Credit Card Account?

A joint credit card is exactly like a traditional credit card, except the account is shared by two users rather than one. Each joint cardholder receives a credit card that is linked to the same account, and any activity on the credit card is reflected on that account.

The major difference between a joint credit card and a regular credit card is that both people are responsible for repaying the credit card debt.

Whenever someone makes a purchase with the joint credit card, it will link back to the joint account. Each person will be responsible for paying the balance on the credit card, even if the card is only used by one person.

How Do Joint Credit Cards Work?

Just like other joint financial accounts, joint credit cards allow two people to benefit from the same credit account. Both parties will enjoy the same benefits and responsibilities that come with having a credit card. This can be convenient for people who want to share their finances with a spouse or family member.

Because two parties share control of the credit card, the credit card issuer will review both credit histories before approving the joint account. If both parties have excellent credit, this shouldn’t be an issue. However, if one person has a lower credit score, it can jeopardize the chances of being approved for a joint credit card.

Joint credit cards are risky for banks and credit unions, so they aren’t offered as much these days. Financial institutions are counting on two people to use their credit cards responsibly. Because it can be all too easy to swipe and forget, joint credit cards are considered a risk to collect on. If you are interested in opening a joint credit card, be sure to do your research on which companies offer them.

Factors To Consider Before Applying

Opening a joint credit card is a big decision, and there are several points to consider before you take the leap. Here are some important details to discuss with your co-applicant before opening a joint credit card account.

1. Joint credit cards affect both party’s credit history.

Because two people have access to a single line of credit, having a joint credit card will impact the credit scores of both account holders. This can be a good or bad thing depending on how both people use the shared credit card.

Joint credit cards can be a great way to boost the credit score of someone with a poor credit history. People with lower credit scores may have a hard time qualifying for credit cards on their own, so applying for a joint credit card can help them gain access to a new line of credit. As long as both parties keep their credit utilization low and pay the balance on time, a joint credit card can be a way for both people to improve their payment history.

However, joint credit cards are a double-edged sword. In the same way that using the card properly can boost your credit, maxing out the card or making late payments can be detrimental to both account holders’ scores. Remember that both people are responsible for using the card wisely, so consider the total effect on both cardholders’ credit when using the card.

2. Joint credit cards can offer better interest rates.

Joint credit cards are attractive to people with poor credit history for a number of reasons. Not only do they offer a way to improve your own credit score, but they also grant you access to rates and benefits that you wouldn’t otherwise qualify for.

Some credit cards are better than others. If you have higher credit, you can qualify for credit cards with lower interest rates, higher credit limits, and perks like earning travel points with each purchase. Applying for a joint credit card with someone with good credit lets you take advantage of the best credit card features.

3. Joint cardholders can’t be removed from the account.

No one wants to think about the fallout of a relationship, but it can be an important consideration when applying for a joint credit card.

It is extraordinarily difficult, and sometimes impossible, to remove an account holder from a joint credit card. If you and your spouse divorce, you will need to work together to pay off the balance and close the account. You may also choose to transfer the balance to a traditional credit card and pay it off separately. If the joint cardholder passes away, you will be solely responsible for repaying the balance.

4. Joint cardholders are responsible for repaying the balance – regardless of who did the spending.

Perhaps the biggest point of contention with joint credit cards is that both account holders are responsible for paying the card balance. It doesn’t matter whether only one person uses the account or not. Credit card companies view both parties as 100% responsible for the account, which can make repaying the balance a sticking point for couples or relatives.

If there is one thing to consider before opening a joint credit card, it is to make sure that the joint account holder is someone that you trust. A joint credit card will affect both of your credit histories, which can impact the rest of your life. Make sure that your counterpart is someone with good spending habits and understands the responsibilities of a credit card. Otherwise, you may find yourself in a difficult situation.

Best Joint Credit Cards for 2023

Joint credit cards are not as common as other financial products, but there are several banks that offer them. Here are some credit cards to consider if you’re interested in opening a joint account.

1. PNC Cash Rewards Visa Credit Card

The PNC Cash Rewards Visa Card is a great option for those looking for cash back across a variety of categories. With this card, you can earn:

  • 4% cash back on gas station purchases.
  • 3% cash back on dining purchases.
  • 2% cash back on grocery store purchases.
  • 1% cash back on all miscellaneous purchases.

In addition to these cashback opportunities, you will also earn $100 when you make over $1,000 worth of purchases during your first three billing cycles. You will not be charged an annual fee with this credit card.

2. Bank of America

Bank of America is a goliath in the financial space, and their joint credit card proves it. When you open a credit card through Bank of America, you can earn:

  • 3% cash back on travel, gas, dining, home improvement, online shopping, or drug store purchases.
  • 2% cash back on grocery store or wholesale purchases.
  • 1% cash back on all miscellaneous purchases.

When you make $1,000 in purchases during your first 90 days, Bank of America will reward you $200. They also do not charge an annual fee for using their credit card.

Although Bank of America does not allow co-applicants for credit cards, you are permitted to add an additional user to the account after you’re approved. All you need to do is call their customer service team and request that a joint owner be added to your account.

3. U.S. Bank

U.S. Bank is another tried-and-trusted joint credit card issuer. They offer some cash back rewards that are slightly weaker than the other two cards, including:

  • 5% cash back per quarter on two chosen categories on up to $2,000 in purchases.
  • 2% cash back on one chosen category.
  • 1% cash back on all miscellaneous purchases.

While their cash back rewards are less competitive, U.S. Bank does offer the best bonus cash offer. You can earn $200 in bonus cash when you make $1,000 of eligible purchases in your first 120 days. Like the other cards, they do not charge an annual fee.

4. Apple Card

Apple is a recent addition on the joint credit card scene, but they have proven that they should be taken just as seriously as the other guys.

Unlike other financial institutions, Apple will allow you to add joint credit card holders right away. They will even let you set up an Apple Family account, which lets primary cardholders set limits for and monitor the activity of authorized users. Anyone is eligible to apply for an Apple Card, not just Apple device owners.

As far as cash back rewards go, the Apple Card offers:

  • 3% back on all Apple purchases and select merchants when you pay with Apple Pay or your Apple Card.
  • 2% cash back on all purchases made with Apple Pay or your Apple Card.
  • 1% cash back on all miscellaneous purchases.

Apple does not charge an annual fee to use the Apple Card.

How To Choose the Best Joint Credit Card

Choosing the best joint credit card for you and your family depends on what your goals for the account are. Here are some steps to take to find out if a joint credit card is the best option for you.

Discuss your spending habits and credit usage.

The main reason that joint credit cards are a bad idea for some people is that one party has drastically different spending habits from the other. Be sure to have an open discussion about your consumption habits and how you plan to use the line of credit.

Make a plan for payments and rewards.

Before you even apply, have an open discussion about how each person plans to pay the balance on the credit card. You should also discuss what you plan to do with the rewards if you choose to apply for a rewards card. Making a plan for these inevitabilities will prevent conflict down the road.

Be open to other options.

Having a joint credit card isn’t the only option for a family or married couple. You can choose to list each other as authorized users on one person’s account, or you may choose to simply have separate credit card accounts. There is no right or wrong answer when it comes to credit card authorizations. You simply have to find one that works for you, your family, and your financial goals.

How To Apply for a Joint Credit Card

Applying for a joint credit card is relatively similar to applying for an individual account. You and your partner/family member will need to submit a joint application.

The financial institution will review the credit histories, financial backgrounds, and any other pertinent details of both parties before issuing the credit cards. Once they have determined that both people qualify for a joint account, they will issue cards to both parties and authorize the line of credit.

It is once again important to remember that your credit card issuer does not distinguish activity between users. When your bank or credit union issues a statement, they will send a complete account of the card’s activity for the billing period. Both card holders will be responsible for paying the entire balance on the card, not just their portion.

Authorized User vs. Joint Credit Account

Not sure what the difference between an authorized user and a joint account holder is? Here are some of the main differences between these two shared accounts.

Authorized User

The difference between an authorized user and a joint credit card holder is that an authorized user is not considered a primary account holder. Rather, they are a user that is permitted to use a card linked to the account, but they don’t need to submit a credit card application.

Adding a loved one to your credit card account as an authorized user is a great way to help them improve their credit report. An authorized user’s credit is not considered by a credit card issuer when opening an account.

In fact, they can be added to an existing account by the primary cardholder at virtually any time. Because many credit card companies report authorized users to credit bureaus, adding someone to your account can help them build their credit score without opening a line of credit.

Authorized users get their own credit card that is linked to the account’s line of credit, but they are technically not obligated to repay the debt. For this reason, many primary account holders set spending limits for the authorized user.

Many parents choose to add their children to their credit card accounts as authorized users because of the ability to set limits on the account. Because authorized users have little control over the account, many parents view this as a great tool to help teach their children how to responsibly use a credit card.

Joint Cardholder

A joint cardholder is an equal account holder for a line of credit. They are considered a co-account holder and are equally liable for any debts or balances accrued.

Unlike an authorized user, a joint cardholder must apply for the account at the same time as the other cardholder. In the eyes of the bank, there is no primary account holder. Both people are responsible for maintaining the account.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do banks offer joint credit cards?

Joint credit cards are becoming less common as many financial institutions view them as a collection risk. However, there are still some banks and credit unions that offer them to customers who want to improve their credit.

In addition to Bank of America, PNC, U.S. Bank, and Apple, there are many regional banks and credit unions that offer joint credit cards to their members.

Will my credit score go down if I open a joint account?

Potentially. Credit card issuers report the activity of the card to credit unions regardless of which party does the spending. Responsible credit usage will result in both party’s scores improving, while poor credit usage will be detrimental to each person’s credit score.

Do joint credit cards help build credit?

Joint credit cards can be a tool to help people improve their credit score. Using the joint credit card responsibly can help you boost your credit score over time. However, you may be denied a joint credit card if your credit score is too low, even if the other party’s credit score is excellent.