How Do Joint Credit Cards Work?
Whenever you apply for a new credit card, you’re usually asked if you want a supplementary card (often referred to as a ‘joint credit card’) to go with your primary card. Getting this additional card can be beneficial for a variety of reasons, such as pooling points earned with a spouse, providing your child with a credit card in case of emergencies, and sharing benefits that come with the card.
You would naturally assume that adding an authorized user to a credit card ensures the added user with all the same benefits as the primary cardholder, but that’s not always the case. Aside from familiarizing yourself with which benefits transfer over, there are a few other important factors to consider before you decide to apply for a joint credit card, such as how your credit score is affected. In this article we’ll cover everything you need to know about joint credit card accounts.
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Depending on the credit card you have, a fee may or may not be charged for supplementary cards. For example, the Scotiabank Passport™ Visa Infinite* Card does not charge a fee for the first supplementary card, but you’d have to pay $50 for each additional card.
Let’s say you decide to apply for that card and you want to add two joint cards. You would pay the regular annual fee of $139, plus $50 total for the two additional cards. That’s a total of $189 in fees that would be charged to the account each year.
Earn and Redemption Rates
Rewards and cashback earn rates are usually exactly the same for supplementary cardholders as they are for primary cardholders. For this reason, many families prefer to use joint credit cards so that all the family’s combined spending will be directed toward one loyalty program and pooled into a single account.
When it comes time to redeem points, note that rewards and cash back earned across all cards in a joint account are managed by the primary cardholder. That said, depending on the credit card, you might be able to redeem your points toward travel purchases made by any joint account holder.
Credit Score Impact
Credit history for a supplementary credit card is reported to the credit bureaus, but only for the credit profile of the primary cardholder, not the supplementary cardholders. This could end up being a big issue for young adults who have been using a supplementary credit card for years with one of their parents as the primary cardholder. When the young adult goes to apply for their first credit card, mortgage or loan as the primary accountholder, they might get denied because they have no credit history.
Having joint credit card accounts can be useful, but supplementary card users should always have their own separate credit cards so that they can build their credit history and improve their credit score.
When it comes to benefits, supplementary cardholders don’t automatically get everything that the primary cardholder is entitled to. Let’s take a look at The Platinum Card® as an example. American Express’s product page clearly states that joint cardholders are entitled to the following benefits:
- Platinum Concierge and Global Dining Collection
- The American Express Global Lounge Collection™
- FINE HOTELS & RESORTS Program
- Toronto Pearson International Airport Benefits
- Hertz and Avis Car Rental Benefits
- Platinum Card Travel Service
- American Express Invites, including Front of the Line
The card also has a very generous travel insurance policy, covering the following:
- Both the primary and supplementary cardmembers
- Spouses of the primary and supplementary cardmembers
- Dependent children of the primary and supplementary cardmembers
Seems like most of the card’s perks are extended to supplementary cardholders, right? But those who are not familiar with the card might not realize that some of its top-tier features are reserved for primary cardholders only. For instance, the $200 CAD annual travel credit is not given to supplementary cardholders, which makes sense considering the fee for each supplementary card is $175. Furthermore, supplementary cardholders don’t get any hotel status benefits, which is one of the card’s most popular features.
When you look at the welcome kit for the Scotiabank Passport™ Visa Infinite* Card, one would naturally assume you would get all the benefits that the primary cardholder gets since a cardmember is defined as the following:
“Cardmember means the Primary Scotiabank Passport™ Visa Infinite* Card Account Cardmember and any supplemental Cardmember who is a natural person resident in Canada to whom a Scotiabank Passport™ Visa Infinite* Card is issued and whose name is embossed on the card. The Cardmember may be referred to as “You” or “Your”
However, if you keep reading the fine print, you’ll quickly realize that one of the most popular benefits of the card, its Priority Pass lounge access, is not included for supplementary cardholders.
Regardless of which credit card you have, if you’re a supplementary cardholder, you should always read the cardholder agreement’s fine print to find out what you are or are not entitled to. If the fine print is confusing or unclear, call customer service to get an exact answer.
Primary cardholders won’t want to hear this, but you’re responsible for any purchases that the supplementary cardholder makes. Presumably, your joint cardholder won’t be abusing the card, but primary cardholders need to remember that it’s their credit score that’s on the line if payments aren’t made.
The good news is, primary cardholders can monitor the purchases made by the supplementary cardholder by logging into their account or reviewing their monthly statements, which should separate the purchases by each cardholder. In a worst-case scenario, the primary cardholder can have authorized users removed from the account.
Is It Worth Adding Supplementary Users?
Based on the above, it may sound like adding a supplementary user is a bad idea, but that’s not necessarily the case. Yes, supplementary cardholders won’t always get the same benefits as the primary cardholder and their behavior with the card won’t affect their credit score, but remember that a joint card isn’t meant to be your only credit card.
By having supplementary cards, you can more easily manage your family finances and provide someone you trust with access to purchasing power. Best of all, rewards earned are all pooled into a single account, so you can quickly rack up points or cash back.
This post was not sponsored. The views and opinions expressed in this review are purely my own.
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Recommended read: Should My Partner and I Keep Our Money in The Same Account?