Can I take over my spouse's airline credit card to use the miles?
Authorized users can't become primary cardholders, but they have options to redeem rewards points
Tony Mecia is a business journalist who writes for a number of trade and general-interest publications. Every week, he answers readers’ questions about credit card rewards programs in his “Cashing In” column.
I'm an authorized user on my husband's card. Can I take over the account and use those miles?
If you are an authorized user on an airline credit card, you can't become the primary cardholder.
If you want to redeem miles from the same frequent flyer program, however, you have options.
The easiest one involves your husband booking a flight for you using his miles. But you can also apply for an airline credit card for yourself and earn your own miles.
Dear Cashing In,
Can we change who the primary account holder is on our credit cards?
My husband is currently the primary cardholder, but he wants me to get the mileage from the joint card we have. – Shelby
One of the most common questions people have about credit card rewards involves the ability to transfer points from one account to another.
This question is a variation of that, as it sounds as though you want to use the points from your shared account with your husband.
The easiest way for you to take advantage of the miles on your husband's frequent flyer account is where he books a flight for you using his miles. However, as you will see, you have other options to earn miles on your own.
Why loyalty programs restrict points sharing
Generally, credit card issuers do not allow you to transfer points from one person’s account to another. That especially tends to be true with airline and hotel reward accounts.
Depending on the card, you might find some flexibility to transfer points to another person’s account if you have a card that gives you bank-sponsored rewards, like Chase Ultimate Rewards.
Typically, when programs allow transfers of points to other people, those transfers are restricted to people in your household.
That prevents you from selling your points to somebody off the internet and making money from them.
Redeeming miles as an authorized user
I don’t know what kind of card you have, but since you talk about “mileage,” it sounds as though you are referring to an airline card.
With airline cards, you cannot transfer miles from one person’s account to another, even if that person is your spouse.
It sounds as though you are an authorized user on your husband’s credit card account. In some cases, authorized users can redeem the awards accumulated in the primary cardholder’s account. But they can’t transfer them to their own account.
Authorized users can’t take over primary holder’s card
So, going forward, what are the options for adding more miles to your account? Can you just call the bank and make your husband’s card your card, with the rewards flowing to your account?
The answer, unfortunately, is no.
- When you apply for a credit card, banks assess the creditworthiness of the person making the application.
- Every adult has his or her own credit history and credit score that banks evaluate.
- Even within the same household, your husband could have excellent credit while yours is not as stellar. Banks reach separate conclusions about different people.
It’s not like a utility bill, where you can just call and have the service switched to a different name.
It’s more like an airline seat, in which after you buy it, you can’t just switch the name of the person flying.
Tip: Two people racking up rewards is better than one. However, deciding who should apply for a rewards card and who should become an authorized user, or when it makes sense to get two of the same card, can be tricky. If you and your partner are interested in upping your rewards game as a couple, read "Strategies for spouses doubling up on rewards cards."
Getting an airline credit card for yourself
That means that if you would like access to the mileage from an airline-branded credit card, you are going to have to open your own account.
- The good news is that most airline credit cards come with big sign-up bonuses, typically 30,000 miles or more, after spending a few thousand dollars in the first three months.
- The downside is that most airline credit cards come with an annual fee, too, so you will be paying for the privilege.
- Many annual-fee airline credit cards, however, waive the fee for the first year, which gives you the option to try the card for free for a whole year.
- Airline credit cards that waive their annual fee their first year include Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard, Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express and United Explorer Card.
- You can also consider a no-annual-fee airline credit card. While these cards are rare and offer more modest sign-up bonuses and perks than more premium cards, you don’t have to pay an annual fee for using them.
- No-annual fee airline credit cards include, American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp Card and Blue Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express.
Using airline miles on your account
Your other option is to leave the current arrangement as it is, with the miles from spending going to your husband’s account, and using his miles for you to fly when his award balances reach a sufficient amount.
The problem there is that if you hardly ever fly, the miles in your own account will eventually expire unless you have some activity in your account – usually at least every 18 months.
It’s easier to keep a frequent flyer account active when you have it linked to a credit card.
- Split travel cost between two rewards cards: Is your trip covered? – If you want to split the cost of a trip between two rewards credit cards, you might, or might not, receive full travel protection from both. To find out, read the terms and conditions of each card, or contact your issuer ...
- Can I be charged a fee for paying a low-fare flight with credit card? – If you buy a low-cost flight through an online travel agency, you might be charged a fee for paying with credit card -- even if the agency claims to have no "hidden" fees ...
- How long should you wait to apply again for an airline card you closed? – Interested in applying for the same airline credit card you closed in order to reap a sign-up bonus? Some card issuers offer no restrictions, but you might want to consider other card options first ...