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What is a Joint Credit Card Account?

Last Updated: September 6, 2023
3 min read

Key points about: Joint credit cards

  1. A joint credit card account is shared between two people who share access to the account and responsibility for the balance.

  2. All activity on the account equally affects both parties.

  3. Alternatives to a joint credit card include opening an account with a co-signer, adding an authorized user to an account, or using a secured credit card.

Joint credit card accounts are an option for those looking for a convenient way to share finances with someone else. But it’s important to know what you’re signing up for before you decide to open a joint credit card account. Going into a financial agreement with someone else requires a significant amount of trust and communication.

What is a joint credit card account?

A joint credit card is like a traditional credit card, but instead of belonging to just one individual, there is an additional cardholder who holds equal responsibility. This can make it complicated to predict how responsibly the account will be used.

Opening a joint account comes with risks to you and your creditor, which is why most creditors don’t offer joint accounts. With a joint credit card account, two parties (from couples and business partners to friends and family members) have access to the account and are jointly responsible for the debt.

But there are alternatives. Here are some pros and cons of joint credit card accounts and other ways you may be able to approach sharing and building credit history.

Pros and cons of joint credit card accounts

Pros:

  • If cardholders make on-time payments and keep their balance low, joint credit card accounts may help build credit history.
  • Getting a joint credit card could help the person with a lower credit score secure credit and terms they may not have otherwise.

Cons:

  • Carrying a high balance can negatively impact each cardholder’s credit score, regardless of who did the spending.
  • Both cardholders are equally responsible for the debt of a joint credit card account. If one person runs up a considerable balance, the second person is also accountable for that balance.
  • Disputes about paying the joint debt on the account can arise between cardholders. This can strain relationships and even lead to legal battles.

Alternative ways to share a credit card account

Co-signing for a credit card

While not many credit card issuers offer it, opening a credit card account with a co-signer is an alternative to having a joint credit card account and may help the primary cardholder build credit history.

Unlike joint credit card accounts, the co-signer doesn’t have access to the account but does agree to cover charges should the account holder default on payments.

Adding a user to an existing credit card account

An authorized user agreement is another option worth exploring. In this type of agreement, a user is added to an existing account but is not responsible for repayment of the debt. Clear payment accountability may make this account-sharing method more appealing to credit card issuers.

Authorized users receive their own cards and access to the primary cardholder’s credit limit. And if both parties use the credit responsibly, becoming an authorized user can be an excellent way to build credit history.

How can you build credit history on your own?

If relying on someone else’s habits doesn’t appeal to you, there are ways to build (or rebuild) credit history without involving another person.

Did you know?

If you’d prefer to do it alone, use a secured credit card. The Discover it® Secured Credit Card can help you build credit history with responsible use1. Secured credit cards require a deposit, which acts as your credit limit. If you default on your payments, the deposit serves as collateral. And by creating smart habits, like making on-time payments, you could eventually qualify for an unsecured credit card, which may further strengthen your credit history.

Joint credit cards aren’t for everyone, and their terms vary depending on the credit card company, so it’s essential to be as educated on them as possible before deciding to open one with someone else. You may be ready for a joint account if you're comfortable with the fact that the actions of each joint cardholder affect both cardholders. That means both of your credit scores are impacted by each other's habits. Whatever your decision, just know that you have other options available. 

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  1. Build credit with responsible use: Discover reports your credit history to the three major credit bureaus so it can help build/rebuild your credit if used responsibly. Late payments, delinquencies or other derogatory activity with your credit card accounts and loans may adversely impact your ability to build/rebuild credit.
  • Legal Disclaimer: This site is for educational purposes and is not a substitute for professional advice. The material on this site is not intended to provide legal, investment, or financial advice and does not indicate the availability of any Discover product or service. It does not guarantee that Discover offers or endorses a product or service. For specific advice about your unique circumstances, you may wish to consult a qualified professional.