Some issuers let consumers share accounts, others don’t. Find out which issuers allow it and get all the facts before you decide to take the plunge.
If you’re thinking about sharing a credit card account with someone, pause. All shared card accounts – co-signed, joint and guarantors – aren’t the same. Plus, depending on the issuing bank, your options for sharing accounts may be limited.
Which credit card issuers allow co-signers?
Not too many credit card issuers allow co-signers. In fact, Bank of America is the only one.
Credit card issuers’ shared account policies
Before going over the differences, similarities and credit liabilities associated with each shared account type, review this chart to see what your options may be, based on the card issuer:
|Card issuer||Types of shared accounts||Basics of the accounts||How to end the agreements|
|American Express||Cardholders can have supplemental cards (authorized users) added to the account.||Those with supplemental cards and the original cardholder all have charging privileges on the account. The original cardholder can set spending limits on the supplemental cardholders. The supplemental cardholders are not liable for the balance on the account.||The original cardholder can take the supplemental cardholders off the account at any time.|
|Bank of America||Co-signer/joint account holder; guarantor; authorized user||Co-signers and joint account holders have charging privileges on the account. Both applicants with the co-signer and joint account holder agreement are responsible for the debt. Guarantor is ultimately responsible for the payment of the account if the main applicant does not pay, but does not have charging privileges. Authorized users have charging privileges but aren’t liable for the debt.||With joint and co-signed accounts, both account holders must agree to have one party removed from liability. Issuer would complete a credit review, and the remaining account holder must demonstrate creditworthiness and ability to pay the current credit line. With guaranteed accounts, issuer would complete a credit review, and remaining account holder must demonstrate creditworthiness and ability to pay the current credit line. Authorized users can be removed from the account at any time.|
|Capital One||Authorized user||Authorized users have charging privileges but aren’t liable for the debt.||An authorized user can be removed at any time, even if the account has a balance.|
|Chase||Authorized user||Authorized users have charging privileges, but the original cardholder is liable for the debt.||The original cardholder can take the authorized user off the account at any time.|
|Citi||Authorized user||Authorized users have charging privileges, but the original cardholder is liable for the debt.||An authorized user can be removed at any time, even if the account has a balance.|
|Discover||Authorized user||Authorized users and the original cardholder have charging privileges, but the authorized user isn’t liable for the balance on the account.||An authorized user can be removed at any time, even if the account has a balance.|
|Wells Fargo||Authorized user||Authorized users and the original cardholder have charging privileges, but the authorized user isn’t liable for the balance on the account.||An authorized user can be removed from the account at any time.|
Source: CreditCards.com research, updated Sept. 1, 2020.
What to consider before getting a joint account
Most consumer advocates advise against sharing credit card accounts.
Not only can you be stuck having to pay for a debt you did not incur, but a shared debt could cause a lender to think your debt load is too high, which could hurt your credit score.
“You may not be eligible for a loan because some other person’s credit card balance or loans are on your credit report, and they have to be included in your debt-to-income ratio,” said David Flores, a financial counselor at GreenPath Debt Solutions.
If you’re contemplating the risks of a shared account, make sure you understand these differences among your options.
If you’re looking to share an account, there are four basic options.
1. Two people can become joint applicants.
In this type of agreement, each applicant has charging privileges, and each is equally liable for all of the debt, said Nessa Feddis, a spokeswoman with the American Bankers Association.
If you have this type of agreement, you could be held accountable for charges even if the other person made them.
“You often see this in divorce where you have a joint account, and one person ran up the bill, but they’re both liable,” Feddis said.
2. You can co-sign on an account for another person
In this type of agreement, the co-signer agrees to pay the balance on the account if the other person defaults.
Typically, as a co-signer, you don’t have charging privileges on the account, Feddis said — your job is simply to take over the bill if the other person does not pay.
3. You can become a guarantor for another person
This type of agreement is similar to a co-signing agreement in that you agree to take over the debt if the other person does not pay.
As with co-signing agreements, the guarantor does not get charging privileges on the account but there is also a slight difference when it comes to liability, Feddis said.
A bank must take more steps to get a guarantor to pay the debt than a co-signer, but the lender can come after the co-signer for the debt practically as soon as the bill is overdue.
“The guarantor doesn’t become liable until the bank has exhausted all other means of collection from the original borrowers,” Feddis said.
4. You can add an authorized user to your account
Generally speaking, an authorized user has charging privileges on the account but in the lender’s eyes, the original cardholder is responsible for the entire debt.
However, in some states, authorized users may be held legally responsible for their charges on the account.
There are exceptions to these general rules, as different lenders have their own definitions for the different types of agreements.
At Bank of America, for example, the terms co-signer and joint account holder are interchangeable, in that both describe a relationship in which the two applicants have charging privileges and liability on the account, said spokeswoman Betty Riess.
Also, all lenders don’t offer all options: joint account and authorized user agreements are the options most frequently available, but the ability to co-sign or become a guarantor on an account is not as common.
Card issuers occasionally change their rules, too: Discover, for example, discontinued co-applicants or co-signers on its cards as of Dec. 15, 2016.
Just because you decide to share an account with someone today doesn’t mean you’ll want to share an account with them tomorrow. So it’s important to think hard before you take this step. Now that you’re armed with all the information you need regarding joint accounts, it should make your decision a lot easier.