Finding a single reward card for the whole family
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Dear Cashing In,
For my business, we use American Express and really appreciate the statement that shows the transactions and balance for each separate card. I would love to have a rewards card for my family with a similar approach. My wife and I each have a card, and my two teenage sons have cards. Four credit card relationships in order to track individual spending seems a little excessive. Any ideas? -- Mac
It seems surprising that we don't seem to hear much from card issuers about tracking spending for individual users. With corporate cards, banks tend to do a good job of organizing monthly statements to show which employee charged what.
But when it comes to personal accounts, you don't really hear that feature advertised as a selling point. My guess is that's because that arrangement -- multiple people charging on the same account -- is much more common for business cards than for personal cards.
In your case, though, you're right. It does sound like a lot to manage: four cards, four statements, four due dates, four payments. I can see that it would be beneficial to consolidate those, while still maintaining the ability to examine individual charges -- especially those of your teenage sons.
Fortunately, there is a way to accomplish this goal. Instead of having four separate accounts for the four of you, you could establish a single account with four cards by adding your wife and sons as authorized users.
An authorized user has his or her own card, but the charges on it feed into a single account. The holder of the account -- in this case, you -- has the responsibility for paying each month.
On the monthly statements, many banks will list the charges from each user separately.
I checked with several of the biggest card issuers to see how they list charges from authorized users. Customer service representatives from American Express, Capital One and Barclaycard said they group charges from each user separately. Chase and Citi said they do not.
If that is a feature that is important to you, check before opening a new account or adding users to an existing account. You might also want to be sure that you can add three authorized users, as some issuers might have caps on the number you can have. For instance, Discover places a limit of five authorized users per account.
Also, before adding authorized users, consider some of the other pros and cons related to credit scores, account access, financial responsibility and rewards. Most of the problems related to authorized users arise when somebody is financially irresponsible.
This approach should help you cut down on the payments and paperwork of separate accounts, while giving you an all-in-one statement that allows you to know who is buying what -- just as it is with your business.
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