Q&A: Removing myself from credit card I share with my ex

It can have mixed effects on your score, depending on account's standing and history

The Credit Guy columnist Todd Ossenfort
Todd Ossenfort has been chief operating officer for Pioneer Credit Counseling since 1998. He writes our weekly "The Credit Guy" column, answering reader questions about credit counseling and debt issues.

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Question

Dear Credit Guy
I have been divorced for 19 years. My ex still has a credit card with my name on it. I have been trying for years to get him to remove my name. If he takes my name off the card, will it change my credit score? Thank you. – Patricia

Answer

Dear Patricia,
The answer to your basic question is yes, removing your name from a credit card account is probably going to affect your score. What I cannot tell you is if it will change your score for better or for worse.

The credit scoring model takes many factors into consideration for its calculations. These are basically length of credit history (in other words, the age of your accounts), payment history, credit used, credit available, credit mix, recent inquiries and new accounts.

Potential positive, negative effects on score
The fact that you have been divorced for 19 years leads me to believe that the account in question is an old one.

  • Therefore, removing yourself from the account is eventually going to affect your credit history, or the overall age of your accounts. However, accounts in good standing will stay on your credit reports for up to 10 years.
  • In addition, if this account has available credit you will also lose that piece from your score. Both things will likely affect your score negatively, at least in the short term. If you have other cards with zero or low balances, the impact shouldn’t be too bad.
  • However, if the account is close to its credit limit, your score has already been negatively affected because of the high percentage of credit used (credit utilization is the second most important factor in calculating scores, after on-time bill payments). In that case, removing yourself should improve your score somewhat, provided you have other active accounts in good standing.
  • Also, if the account has late payments, this will also have affected your score in a negative way. Therefore, removing yourself from the account will help in the long run as negative account information falls off credit reports after seven years.

Many things are going to come into play if this account is removed from your credit file, maybe in a positive way or maybe in a negative way.

It might also be that when all is said and done, the positives and negatives will cancel each other out so that your score stays about the same.

Joint cardholder versus authorized user
What I see as a bigger issue here is actually getting yourself removed from the account. A big question I have is whether you are a joint cardholder or simply an authorized user.

Because you have been dealing with this for so long, I am inclined to think this must be a joint account, one that you and your ex-husband opened together.

For one thing, if you were simply an authorized user you could easily remove yourself with a phone call to the credit card company without your ex-husband’s assistance. But you cannot do that if this is a joint account.

Looking at it from the viewpoint of the credit card company, you must understand that credit was applied for and granted to both of you.

A divorce decree does not change the obligation to the creditor. They will be very reluctant to let one party out of a contract signed when the account was opened.

The best way to handle this problem is to pay off the balance and close the account.

  • One option might be for your ex-husband to obtain a loan to pay off the credit card.
  • Or he could transfer the balance to another credit card that he qualifies for on his own.

Both options will require cooperation from your ex-husband, of course.

  • You could help by researching 0-interest balance transfer credit cards.
  • The appeal of saving on interest may be just the enticement he needs to make this switch, assuming he can qualify for a 0-interest card with a high-enough limit.

If you can make this happen, you will not have to worry about this credit card and how it might affect your credit score again.

Take care of your credit!

See related: Ex still charging on old joint card account, Think you’re a joint account holder? Think again

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Updated: 11-21-2017