Joint credit cards explained

Should you share a credit card with someone else?

Unlike other financial products – such as mortgages, bank and savings accounts – you can't take out a credit card in joint names. Instead, the credit card remains the responsibility of one person, with an additional cardholder granted permission to spend on the card. This short guide takes you through how they work and what to watch out for.

What is a joint credit card?

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Here in the UK, there's no such thing as a joint credit card. If you want to share a credit card with another person (or up to three other people), you'd either need to take a card out in your name, and add them as an additional cardholder – or vice versa.

Either way, only the main cardholder is responsible for the debt. So the additional cardholder can spend, but it's legally the debt of the main cardholder. 

These therefore work very differently to other joint financial products, such as joint bank accounts or mortgages held in two names, where all parties are jointly responsible for the entire debt.

Are additional cardholders credit checked?

Full credit checks are usually only run on the main cardholder, as any debt on the card will belong to them and they'll be responsible for paying it back. As a general rule, additional cardholders will only need to undergo standard identity checks.

Therefore, the credit limit and other borrowing terms (such as the interest rate), will be based on the credit profile of the main cardholder, and won't be influenced by an additional cardholder. 

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Should I get a joint credit card?

Important. Never rush into joint finances. Deciding to add an additional cardholder to your credit card is  never a step to be taken lightly, or early, no matter how well you think you know the other person.

 

Even if you have an informal agreement between you that they will make the payments, the credit has been provided to you, so it's your responsibility to pay it off.

 

So never do it if you feel pressured. See financial abuse help below for more. 

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Add someone to your credit card and you're granting permission for them to spend up to your credit limit (they get their own card and PIN).

So, in the worst case, they could max out the card and leave you with the bill to pay – which could also lead to charges if they bust the credit limit and/or expensive interest on top if you can't clear the debt in full.

However, if you're comfortable with that risk – for example you're in a long-term, trusting relationship and share other finances – having the ability to add an additional cardholder can be useful. Here's a couple of examples: 

  • Gets you both access to better and cheaper credit, if one of you has poorer credit. Joint credit cards could help where one person is finding it difficult to get approved for a credit card, or isn't eligible for the top deals.

    As only one person needs to be approved for the card, if one of you has better acceptance odds than the other, that person could apply and then add the other as an additional cardholder. 

    This also works if the poorer credit scorer has existing credit card debt, as certain cards allow you to shift your partner's debt to your card. So if you can get a better 0% balance transfer offer than them, this could help cut costs significantly. See full warnings and which cards allow this in transferring your partner's debt

    However, this won't help improve or repair the credit history of the additional cardholder, as activity is only reported to the main cardholder's report. If this is what you're after, see Credit cards for bad credit and how to improve your credit score

  • Channels both of your spending to one card, which can max cashback and rewards. If you're debt-free and can afford to clear your credit card IN FULL every month, a top reward credit card that pays you to spend can be lucrative.

    These offer a variety of cashback, points and airmiles, often with large introductory bonuses if you spend a certain amount (for example, 20,000 reward points if you spend £3,000 in the first three months). There can also be extra perks or a better rate of rewards if you spend over a certain amount on the card each year (for example, 0.5% cashback up to £10,000/year spent, 1% above).  

    These should never be used as an excuse to overspend, but combining both of your spending could mean you're more likely to benefit from the best rewards. 

How do I apply for a joint credit card?

As a joint credit card is just a standard card with an authorised user, one of you will need to kickstart the process. Here's how:

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  1. Decide who will be the main cardholder. You'll need to decide which one of you will be responsible for the card, and if that person has an existing credit card that can be used (if so, skip to step three).

  2. Use our Credit Card Eligibility Calculator to see your acceptance chances, then apply for a card. Our free tool allows you to see you personal best-buy table, showing many of the top cards and if they're likely to accept you, without impacting your credit file. (Not sure what card to go for? See our full guide to the different card types).

    If you're both happy to be the main cardholder, you could each use the calculator and compare to see if one of you has better acceptance odds than the other.

    Once you've chosen a suitable card, it's then a case of submitting an application. See How to apply for a credit card for full help, though in most cases you should get a decision within a few minutes. 

  3. Request for additional cardholders to be added. If accepted, or if you're using an existing credit card, you can request additional individuals to be added to the account. You can usually do this via your online account, or by calling the card provider.

    The main cardholder can also remove any additional cardholders at any time, you'd just need to contact the card provider to request this.

Joint credit cards and financial abuse

Financial abuse is defined as someone controlling another adult's access to their finances or ability to earn money, in order to reduce their independence and force reliance. It's classed as a form of domestic abuse.

As we've mentioned, a joint credit card doesn't really exist. One person is the cardholder and owns the account, the second cardholder just has access to a card to use it – but it's not their debt. This could sadly become a tool in a financially abusive relationship.

If someone has a second card and you don't want them to have it, you can contact the card firm to remove them – it's your debt, so it's your right.

And be wary of shifting your partner's debt onto your card. It then becomes your debt so you'll be responsible for clearing it. Even if you've made an agreement that they'll pay their share, that's not the card firm's business. If push comes to shove, you'll need to go to court.

See Martin's financial abuse blog for more help. 

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