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Who Has to Pay the Credit Card Bill?

Do you share a credit card with someone else? Find out what it means to be a joint credit card holder or an authorized user.

Credit cards are useful tools. They allow you to buy items at times when you don't have cash readily available. They can make traveling easier and provide many other conveniences; however, they're tools that come with responsibilities. Specific responsibilities are generally listed on your cardholder agreement. The cardholder agreement is the document with the fine print that comes with the initial card or arrives with each yearly update. To be a responsible card holder, be sure to:

  • Repay creditors as you agreed to when accepting the card

  • Charge only what you can repay

  • Monitor your monthly statement for accuracy

  • Report inaccurate charges immediately

If you decide to provide access or share credit with anyone, be aware of your options and the pros and cons of taking this step.

Joint Accounts

Joint accounts are accounts in which two people are equally liable (or responsible) for the charges and payments to be made on the account. Joint accounts are usually held by married couples. When accounts are held jointly, the information on repayment is reported to the credit bureaus in each cardholder's name. This means you can be held responsible for your co-cardholder's purchases and cash advances. In a joint account, each person may have their own card and only one name might appear on it, but both parties are still responsible for it.

Authorized User

An authorized user is someone who has the privilege of using a credit card without the legal liability to repay the charges made. Authorized users do not sign the credit card application indicating they accept the credit card and the responsibility of repaying it. The credit card may even contain the authorized user's name.

As the credit card owner, you may designate authorized users at any time. When applying for a credit card, there is typically a blank space on the application for authorized users. If you already have the card and want to add an authorized user, contact your credit grantor. They may accept a telephone request or require a written request. Some security measures will be in place to prohibit strangers from becoming authorized users on your credit cards.

Common examples of authorized users might be business associates, teenage or college-age children, or unmarried partners living together. For example, let's say you have a son or daughter going off to college, working a new job in another town, or on vacation, and you don't want them handling lots of cash. If you have told the credit card issuer that they are an authorized user of your card, they will receive a card with their name on it, but you are the one responsible for paying for everything charged on the account.

If you are an authorized user on someone else's account, using that credit card doesn't help you to establish your credit history. This is true even if you are the only person who sends in the monthly payment. If you're an adult and want to establish a good credit rating, get a credit card in your name only.

Take a look at the agreements for your credit cards to verify the status of any joint credit card holders or authorized users. This ensures you know who's legally responsible for the payments.

For more information on credit cards, see the U.S. Federal Trade Commission article Choosing and Using Credit Cards and the blog article Eight Things Every Credit Card User Should Know. If you are shopping for a credit card, check out the Bankrate.com or the IndexCreditCards websites for offers.

This article is one in a series about credit cards. For further information, read the related articles in our Knowledge Center Library.

Take control of your finances with our debt help tools. Use our calculators and budget planner to help you manage your money.

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