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Joint credit cards

Should I get a joint credit card? 

Ella Jukwey
Written by  Ella Jukwey
5 min read
Updated: 16 Jan 2024

How do joint credit cards work in the UK and who is responsible for paying off the balance? Find out more...

What is a joint credit card? 

In the UK, the term ‘joint credit card’ is generally used to refer to a card that allows a main account holder to add another cardholder to their card.  

The secondary cardholder is able to use the card to make purchases and pay for goods and services, but only the main card holder is responsible for making payments and paying back any debt accrued.  

What we know as ‘joint credit cards’ differ from the definition in other countries, where both people named on the account are liable for the debt.  

Man paying with credit card

How do joint credit cards work? 

Joint credit cards in the UK work in a similar way to normal credit cards, except more than one individual may be authorised to spend on the account.  

The principal, or primary, account holder will make the initial application and will be credit checked in line with the credit card provider’s criteria before being offered borrowing terms including a credit limit.  

Additional cardholders can then be added to the account and will receive their own credit card and Personal Identification Number (PIN). No credit search is undertaken when additional cardholders are added, except for identity checks that won’t affect their credit score.  

While all authorised parties can spend on the card, the responsibility to clear the balance always remains with the principal account holder.  

Am I eligible for a joint credit card? 

Being accepted when applying for a credit card will depend on your financial situation and credit rating. 

  • Your credit score: The more responsible you have been as a borrower, the better your credit score is likely to be – and the more likely you are to be accepted 

  • Being 18 or over: You will usually have to be 18 or over to be eligible for a credit card 

  • Relationship with additional card holder: You may also need to be a family member or living at the same address as the cardholder 

Who can I get a joint credit card with? 

It will depend on the credit card provider and their individual terms. As the principal credit card holder, you’ll first need to apply for a credit card.  

If you are an additional cardholder, you’ll need to be 18 or over and possibly a relative of the primary cardholder or living at the same address.  

Terms differ, so check with the provider before applying to add additional cardholders.  

What are the pros and cons of joint credit cards? 

Getting a joint credit card comes with benefits and downsides, such as: 

Advantages: 

  • Accountability: If you have a shared card, you feel obliged to spend responsibly and keeping up with repayments 

  • Simplicity: There might be fewer bills to manage if they all come from one account 

  • Better credit options: A joint credit card gives access to credit for additional cardholders who may not have been accepted for a card in their own right  

  • Can improve credit score: Cardholders with low credit ratings may also be able to boost their credit score if the account is managed responsibly 

Disadvantages:  

  • Relationship changes: It could be difficult to separate yourself financially if the relationship between the card-holders changes  

  • Debt responsibility: The primary account holder will be liable for clearing the balance, even if the other party spends on the account 

  • Potential disagreements:  Money can be a thorny issue at times and spending habits differ. Unless there is clear agreement over how the joint credit card is used, it could lead to difficult situations and arguments 

How to choose the best joint credit card?  

How to choose the best joint credit card will depend on your circumstances and what you need it for: 

  • Rewards: If you’re the type to shop ‘til you drop, then a rewards card could be worthwhile for you. These type of credit cards come with a range of rewards from cashback to loyalty points 

  • Travel: For frequent flyers, travel credit cards can make your trips overseas less pricey. Perks of travel credit cards include competitive exchange rates, no spending fees abroad and cheaper cash withdrawals 

  • Improving credit score: If you don’t have a good credit score because you have no credit history or have had problems in the past, a credit builder card could be an option. These cards are specifically targeted at people with less than perfect credit scores 

How does a joint credit card impact my credit score? 

If you are the principal account holder, a joint credit card will have an impact on your credit score and may influence the decision of providers of mortgages, loans or other credit cards in the future.  

If additional cardholders spend beyond your credit limit this could negatively impact your score. The good news is that if the card is used responsibly, it could help boost your credit rating

How do I add an additional cardholder to my credit card? 

Most credit cards in the UK let you add an additional cardholder to your account. Just contact your provider and supply the details required, such as name and proof of address. Some credit cards will not allow joint cardholders, so be mindful of this before applying.  

Can I get a joint credit card if one person has bad credit or is unemployed?  

You may be able to put someone down as an additional credit card holder even if they’re unemployed or have bad credit. The additional credit card holder being approved will depend on your lender’s criteria for joint credit cards. 

Who is liable for making monthly repayments on a joint credit card? 

The primary or principal account holder is responsible for the full amount of the outstanding balance on a joint credit card account.  

Even if an additional account holder has done all the spending, the credit card company will chase the principal account holder to get what they are owed. 

As with all credit cards, you must always make the monthly minimum payment on your card account to avoid being hit with penalty charges and added interest.  

Ella Jukwey
Ella Jukwey
Money Expert

Our expert says

“Joint credit cards can be handy because they allow more than one person to spend on the account. 

Yet it’s important to understand that whoever uses the card there is only one individual responsible for paying off the balance – the principal account holder. If that’s you, you need to be confident you’re doing the right thing when authorising a second name to be added to the credit card account.” 

Other useful guides 

Want to know more about credit cards. We’ve got you covered: 

How to choose the best credit card 

Types of credit cards explained 

Compare credit cards with MoneySuperMarket 

Comparing credit cards is easy with MoneySuperMarket. Just give us a few details about you and your finances and we’ll search the market to find the best deals to suit you.  

We’ll also show you your chances of being accepted for different cards so you can make a confident decision before applying. Searching like this doesn’t affect your credit score in any way. 

MoneySuperMarket is a credit broker – this means we’ll show you products offered by lenders. We never take a fee from customers for this service. Instead we are usually paid a fee by the lenders, but the size of that payment doesn’t affect how we show products to customers.  

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