In the past, most banks offered customers the ability to apply for a credit card jointly, which was mostly geared towards couples or parent-child duos.
Even though these types of credit cards are becoming more rare, there are still ways to build and access credit in a similar fashion. That’s one of the reasons why most banks have discontinued joint credit cards.
In this guide, we’ll investigate the merits of jointly applying for a credit card. First, we’ll go over what it actually means to jointly apply for a credit card. Then, we’ll walk you through why you should and shouldn’t apply jointly for a credit card. We’ll close out by going over some of the financial institutions that still offer joint credit card applications, as well as why banks are increasingly choosing not to offer joint credit cards.
What Does It Mean To Jointly Apply for a Credit Card?
If you’re on the younger side, you might not know what it means to jointly apply for a credit card. Not to worry, as this “old-fashioned” concept dates back to the pre-Internet era when financial services and products were less evolved.
Simply put, a joint credit card is a credit card in which financial responsibility is equally shared by 2 cardholders. Any balances or charges that are incurred on the credit card will be the responsibility of both individuals. And that also means that failure to pay off any debt will result in adverse action against both individuals, whether it’s collections efforts or negative credit history showing up on both credit reports.
How Is Applying Jointly Different From Adding an Authorized User?
If you’re already savvy with credit cards and credit overall, you might be wondering what the difference is between a joint credit card and an authorized user credit card.
When you apply for most credit cards, you can usually add an authorized user to that credit card. In doing so, the authorized user can get a credit card with his/her name on the card, but the account still sits with the primary cardholder.
Authorized users can spend on the credit card, but the primary cardholder is still solely responsible for charges and balances on the card.
If the primary cardholder doesn’t pay off bills, the financial responsibility still falls on the primary cardholder only, not the authorized user.
As such, the primary cardholder holds all of the responsibility, while the authorized user doesn’t hold any legal or financial accountability.
In contrast, joint credit cards require both borrowers to share financial responsibility equally.
Bottom Line: Authorized users do not share any financial responsibility for charges made on the credit card, while joint credit card holders share equal financial responsibility for all credit card charges.
Why Would You Jointly Apply for a Credit Card?
In the past, jointly applying for a credit card was a viable strategy if:
- You had poor/no credit and needed someone else to help you get approved for a credit card application
- You wanted to simplify and integrate 2 separate sets of finances into 1 credit card
- You wanted to build credit along with a significant other or partner
- You wanted to earn credit card rewards by combining spending
However, the success of a joint credit card is dependent on the success of your relationship with your partner.
Why You Shouldn’t Jointly Apply for a Credit Card
In today’s day and age, joint credit cards offer very few advantages. There are tons of reasons why you want to stay away from joint credit cards:
- You can end up being responsible for your partner’s debt if he/she can’t pay
- Your credit score can plummet from the actions of your partner if he/she has bad credit practices
- Everything can get more complicated if your relationship with your partner suffers, including charges you may be on the hook for or major credit blunders
If your partner has a history of maxing out credit cards or just biting off more than he/she can chew, you should definitely reconsider applying jointly for a credit card.
Similarly, if your partner frequently misses payments, that can cause your credit score to drop significantly with a joint credit card.
Lastly, if you and your partner get into a major argument, divorce, or if there’s a huge, unexpected expense, you may see adverse consequences on your credit report if this isn’t properly handled.
This is why we favor adding authorized users instead of looking for joint credit cards. If your relationship with your partner sours, you can simply cancel the authorized user card to cut off any mishandling of shared finances as soon as possible.
Which Banks Allow Joint Credit Card Applications?
Nowadays, there aren’t many banks that allow joint credit card applications. As of writing, U.S. Bank and PNC both offer joint credit cards.
In the case of U.S. Bank, you’ll want to apply for a point-earning or cash-back card as normal and call the number on the back of your credit card to add the other joint owner to that credit card account. You’ll be sent a form to complete, and after the form is submitted successfully, the account will appear on the joint owner’s credit report shortly thereafter.
PNC allows you to submit joint credit card applications without adding a joint owner after the fact, but it requires both applicants to either call 800-762-2265 or visit the nearest PNC branch to process the joint application.
In addition to U.S. Bank and PNC, certain smaller financial institutions such as regional banks and local credit unions might offer joint credit card applications.
Some examples of these smaller institutions include:
- Alliant Credit Union
- AllSouth Credit Union
- Baxter Credit Union
- Credit Union of Denver
- Golden 1 Credit Union
- Interra Credit Union
- Suncoast Credit Union
- Veridian Credit Union
Why Joint Credit Cards Are a Dying Breed
Joint credit cards are getting harder and harder to find, and it’s easy to see why, especially when you think about it from the bank’s perspective.
It’s much more difficult to recover debt if there are multiple individuals involved.
For example, let’s say 2 people have a joint credit card together and one of those individuals racks up a bunch of unpaid debt on the credit card. Going after 2 people, especially when there’s a lot of finger-pointing involved, is a much more difficult task than collecting debt from just 1 person.
That, combined with the attractiveness of adding authorized users in lieu of applying jointly for a credit card, makes it almost completely useless to apply jointly for a credit card in today’s day and age.
Adding an authorized user still accomplishes most of the same goals that joint credit cards offer:
- Building credit history for both individuals
- Allowing both individuals to make purchases on the card
- Streamlining and integrating finances under 1 umbrella
- Allowing both individuals to use most or many of the same credit card benefits
Hot Tip: Consider our guides to the best credit cards for authorized users and the best credit cards for couples.
Overall, joint credit cards have lost their luster over time.
In the distant past, joint credit cards were one of the only ways for individuals to build credit history together through credit cards. Since joint credit cards are built on the pillar of sharing equal financial responsibility for any charges and balances, over the years, this has presented a major problem for financial institutions when attempting to collect debts or trace financial accountability. As such, joint credit cards have been almost completely discontinued in favor of authorized users.
The main institutions that still allow joint credit cards are U.S. Bank, PNC, and some regional banks or credit unions.
All in all, you can almost certainly accomplish what you need by adding an authorized user to your credit card instead of taking out a joint credit card. By going the authorized user route, you can access a vast universe of credit card products, including fabulous rewards cards from issuers, including Chase, American Express, Capital One, and Citi.