Replacing a credit card after husband's death


Your Business Credit
Elaine Pofeldt is a journalist whose articles on entrepreneurship and careers have appeared in Fortune, Working Mother, Money and many other publications. She is a former senior editor at Fortune Small Business magazine and an entrepreneur herself, as co-founder of, a website for independent professionals. She writes "Your Business Credit," a weekly column about small business and credit, for

Ask Elaine a question or read her prior answers in the 'Your Business Credit' archive.

Question Dear Your Business Credit,
My husband, who just died, became the primary cardholder somewhere during our 42-year marriage so I had to turn in my MasterCard. Now I need to choose another. I have an American Express card through Costco and a MasterCard through Sears but I want the one I had with a $36,000 limit. I have a small business but no employees (I own nine properties) so perhaps I should get one just for the business expenses, as well. Thoughts? -- Jean

Answer Dear Jean,
My condolences for the loss of your husband. After a 42-year marriage, this must be a very challenging time for you. Replacing your MasterCard is probably the last thing you want to deal with.

It sounds like you have built a personal credit history even though your husband was the primary cardholder on your MasterCard. If that's the case, as long as your credit is good and your financial situation is stable, I can't see any reason you would not be able to get another MasterCard.

You mentioned you are looking for a personal card with a $36,000 credit limit. The most direct route to see if you still qualify is to apply for that same card. Call the bank that issued the card, explain your situation and ask how to do that.

Bear in mind that your credit limit may not be the same as it used to be if your household income has changed dramatically. If your husband was working and your household income declined, that might limit how much you can borrow. But since it sounds like you are still running your business and may have income from your properties, this may not be an issue.

If, for some reason, the card your husband had is no longer available, there are a number of other options from MasterCard. Take a look at the list of MasterCards that publishes to see what other options are available.

I think you're right that you should get a small-business card for your business. Separating your business and personal expenses can make it easier to keep records and also offers some liability protection. offers a listing of small-business credit cards that you can use to compare and contrast the perks the cards offer and their interest rates.

You didn't mention what your typical business expenses are. Take a look at the records from your business to figure out which category of expenses eats up the biggest portion of your budget. Is it gasoline, travel, office supplies or something else? Choose a card whose rewards match your purchases and you'll be surprised how fast the points add up.

Given your recent loss, you are more vulnerable than you normally would be to making financial decisions you might regret later, whether they have to do with how you use your credit cards, investing or other matters. If you don't have a financial planner, contact a trade group such as the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors, which can help you find a professional with a good reputation.

A good financial planner will be attuned to the financial issues that tend to come up after the loss of a spouse and provide a sounding board if you're treading into financial areas that your husband had been handling. There's no need to navigate everything on your own when you're going through the grieving process.

See related: Business card benefits outweigh limitations for most businesses, How to find the best credit card for your business, Is a widow liable for using dead husband's card?

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Published: October 6, 2014

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