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Shedding an ex with bad credit who you authorized to use your card

By Tanisha Warner

Credit Care
'Credit Care' columnist Tanisha Warner
Tanisha Warner is the communications manager for Money Management International, where she manages educational content designed to teach consumers about personal finance topics. She writes "Credit Care," a weekly reader Q&A about debt issues, for CreditCards.com.

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Question for the CreditCards.com expert Dear Credit Care,
My ex-husband is an authorized user on a credit card and has agreed to be responsible for paying off the card. How can I get my name removed from the card and his name be the responsible party if his credit prevents him from being approved? -- JP

Answer for the CreditCards.com expert Dear JP,
Because he is an authorized user, your ex has had a free ride: He's not responsible for paying the debt, but he's entitled to rack it up. It's good that he's agreed to be responsible for paying the debt, but if he doesn't, the card issuer will come after you because you're legally responsible for it, not him.  

When both the original cardholder and the authorized user have good credit, this situation would be no big deal, because the authorized user could open a new account, and then have the old account balance transferred to new account. His bad credit complicates matters.

The creditor will not simply remove your name from the existing credit card account. The original cardholder agreement will remain in effect as long as the account is open or a balance is owed on the closed account. To assure that you have no financial responsibility for the balance on the account or any future charges, your ex-husband should try anyway to apply for a credit card in his name.

Should he not qualify for a credit card in his name only, you do have a couple of other options that will help protect your credit.

First, you can close the account, if it is not already closed, or remove him as an authorized user. With either choice, you're assured that no new charges can be added to the account.

Next, you can keep or establish online access to the account so you can check that your ex-husband is making payments on time and as agreed on the account. This situation is not ideal because the account is still in your name and the activity on the account will be reported on your credit report. But with online access, you will know if your ex does not make a payment and will have the option to make the minimum payment yourself if you want to protect your credit from a late payment item on your credit report. Don't give him the online log-in information, or change it if he has it. 

If you have other joint accounts with your ex-husband where he is responsible for payment, it would be a good idea to close those that you can and put in place an online monitoring system to assure that payments are being made on those accounts as well. Of course, it would be best if those accounts could be transferred to accounts in his name only if possible.

Be vigilant in your monitoring of the accounts. A single 30-day late payment item on your credit report could drop your FICO credit score by 60 to 110 points.

Handle your credit with care!

See related: Ex racks up $40,000 on joint credit cards

Tanisha Warner is the communications manager for Money Management International, the largest nonprofit, full-service credit counseling agency in the United States. She manages educational content designed to teach consumers about personal finance topics. You can find more money management advice on Blogging for Change and MMI's Facebook page.

Credit Care answers a question about a debt or credit issue from a CreditCards.com reader each week. Send your question to Credit Care.

Published: June 25, 2012


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