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Getting a joint credit card account with someone you love can be a great idea. Beware, however, it can also be a big problem. You want to think long and hard before you go ahead and get a joint credit card account with someone. The legal ramifications are too serious for you to forge ahead without careful consideration.
What is a Joint Credit Card Account?
Having a joint credit card with another person means that both you and the other person are on the account. This also means that you are both responsible for the account. You can each make purchases and conduct other transactions. You each are responsible for the full debt on the credit card. The information from the credit card company goes on the credit report for both of you.
Credit Cards and Relationship Problems
The biggest problems with joint credit cards is that they introduce the complicated issue of money into your relationship. As a a result, joint credit cards have the power to cause or enhance relationship problems. When you have relationship problems that aren’t related to money, the joint credit card can be used as a weapon or can become a major headache.
The main problem that people with joint credit cards come up against is the fact that the two parties fight over the use of the credit card. Couples who think that they’re on the same page about finances may rapidly realize that they have very different spending styles when both using the same card. One party may try to control or limit the other’s spending. Fighting over who should pay the credit card and how quickly to pay is common.
Couples who have other serious relationship problems may find those problems exacerbated when they use a joint credit card. For example, a major fight might lead one party to run up the debt on the credit card in order to get back at the other person. One person may terminate the credit card in order to prevent the other person from being able to use it. Or they may issue a stop payment on the credit card to impact the other person’s credit score.
If things go from bad to worse and you end up deciding to separate from or divorce the person who you have a joint credit card with then you still have the issue of the credit card. Of course, you would stop using a joint credit card but the shared debt is still there. Repayment of the debt will need to be worked out in separation settlements which can take a lot of time and money.
Notably, it is not only romantic relationships that suffer from joint credit card use. If you were to get a joint credit card with your parent, child or good family friend then you would have to deal with many of the same potential issues. Money complicates most relationships and the joint card takes that to extremes.
Benefits of Joint Credit Card Accounts
So if joint credit cards can cause so many different problems, why would anyone ever get them? Admittedly, there are some benefits to joint credit card accounts.
Some people find that consolidating their bills into a single card together makes it easier to manage household finances. Other people report feeling closer to one another when they know all the details of their partners’ spending. At a more practical level, a well-used joint credit card can benefit credit scores which is great when one party needs help improving their credit.
Beware Before you Get a Joint Credit Card
The joint card is not generally recommended because it just comes along with too many problems. You are legally responsible for all of the debt that the other party accrues on the credit card.
If you are thinking about getting a joint card, consider the real ramifications of the situation. Consider how sharing a card will impact your relationship with the person and how changes in your relationship might affect the card’s use. Make an honest assessment of how well you and your partner communicate about money.
Now is not the time to wear your rose-colored glasses. When considering getting a joint card, you don’t want to give the other person the benefit of the doubt. You want to look at what the worst case scenario could be and imagine how you would deal with that. You may even consider having a legal contract drawn up about the use and repayment of the card if you are going to get a joint card. Taking those precautions now will prevent you from dealing with some major headaches in the future.