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Joint Credit Card Account Holder or Authorized User: What’s the Difference?

    An overlooked feature that credit card accounts have is that you can allow family members to use your credit card. There are several ways of accomplishing this. A credit card holder can add someone to the account as an authorized user or as a joint account holder. Each of which has their own advantages and disadvantages. Many people utilize these terms interchangeably, but these are two very different roles. Let’s take a look at what each one of them is and what their responsibilities to the account may be.

    Joint Account Holder Has Equal Responsibility For the Line of Credit

    Joint account holders are essentially ‘partners’ and hold equal liability when it comes to repaying the debt, and receive their own credit card with all the features that the original credit card holder would have.

    If you have a joint account holder for your credit card, then you have someone who is equally responsible for the total balance due. You’re both considered to be users of the account and therefore the credit card lender will alert the major credit reporting agencies about the status of your account.

    If an account becomes past due, you and your joint account holder will be held equally responsible for the debt.

    A joint account holder receives their own card and can use it independently of how you utilize this line of credit.

    The advantage of having a joint account holder is the fact that their credit history will be included in the lender’s consideration for a total credit line. If you have credit that is below average, but you have a joint account holder applying with you that has above average credit, you’ll get better terms and potentially a larger credit line.

    Having a joint applicant with a worse credit history, however, can hurt your limits, APR, and even cause your application to be rejected.

    An Authorized User Simply Uses Your Credit Card Account With Permission

    If you mark that you’d like an authorized user on your account, then the credit card lender will generally just print another card out for you. This is based on the information you provide, which is generally just the name of the authorized person.

    An authorized user receives their own card and can use it independently of how you utilize this line of credit.

    Authorized users are not responsible to the credit card lender for the balance due on the account. Even if the authorized user is a spouse, the debt remains in the name of the person who applied for the card. This is the information that is then transmitted to the major credit card reporting agencies.

    This type of account is also often used for children and can be controlled and monitored regarding their purchases, and can also limit how much they spend in one cycle.

    Please note: Authorized users may not have a liability to a credit card lender, but they may have a liability to you through civil law or litigation. This is commonly seen in divorce proceedings or in circumstances where the line of credit was used as a loan.

    Depending on the lender, you may be able to de-authorize an authorized user. Make sure to read the terms and conditions of your preferred credit card before finalizing an application, however, because not every lender has this service.

    By knowing the difference between a joint account holder and an authorized user, you can have the right amount of control on your new credit card. Consider this as you apply for your next line of credit so that you can have the relationship that you want to have with those you know and your credit cards!


    Christopher - BSc, MBA

    With over two decades of combined Big 5 Banking and Agency experience, Christopher launched Underbanked® to cut through the noise and complexity of financial information. Christopher has an MBA degree from McMaster University and BSc. from Western University in Canada.

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