In days of old, a credit card company may have only reported the credit information of the primary account holder, which in most cases was the male half of a marriage. When a marriage ended, the wife was usually surprised to learn that her contribution to a good rating netted her no acclaim. These days however, no matter who the “primary” account holder is, the credit card agencies will report the credit activities to both individual credit reports. Since both parties are recorded on the account and spend on the credit card, both parties will benefit from the good credit card standing or the poor credit card use habits they practice.
The primary account holder still has some significant responsibilities with the credit card account, however. For instance, when a credit card company needs to consult with the card holder on confidential information pertaining to the account, they will often contact the primary account holder listed on the account. If you are listed as an authorized user of a credit card but not the primary card holder, you may find it difficult to speak to a representative about any information pertaining to the account. When you apply for a new credit card as a couple, you can alternate the primary account holder from card to card but you need to remember which person is the primary account holder when it comes time to contact the credit card company for confidential account changes or to request information.
If you are a married couple that do not keep separate finances, make sure that you are both listed on all credit card and bank accounts as a joint account holder. It is also really important that you, as a couple, communication about what you are using your credit card for each day. All too often, criminals get away with fraud on accounts of couples because husbands and wives assume that each other bought things on the card when in reality the purchases were not authorized. In cases where couples use credit cards frequently for daily expenses, it may be wise to have separate credit cards where each individual is listed as the primary card holder on the credit card they use most. This will also help you analyze your monthly statements more effectively and recognize fraudulent charges more easily.
Married couples who are joint account holders on the same credit cards need to understand that both good and bad credit activity effects them equally. Responsible card use needs to be practiced by both parties in order to maintain good credit scores and history reports. Just because an individual is not listed as a primary account holder on any credit, does not mean that the use of the card and the repayment history on the card will not affect their credit for years to come.
Credit card debt is often a point of contention in many marriages and divorces. When a marriage ends, oftentimes both parties regret having joint credit card accounts and the burden of the credit card debt remains the joint responsibility of paying off the balances still owed. While no one plans for a divorce at the beginning of a marriage, it is financially smart to look at the big financial picture when applying for credit cards as joint account holders.