Should You Add Your Spouse as an Authorized User on Your Credit Cards?

by Christy Bieber | Oct. 3, 2019

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Adding your spouse as an authorized user gives your beloved access to your credit line. Is that a good idea? 

Married couples tend to combine many aspects of their lives, including their financial lives. This can be a good thing because two people working together to accomplish shared financial goals can be more successful than one person.

But as you merge your money with your spouse, you will likely have to make a decision at some point: Should you add your husband or wife to your credit cards as an authorized user

man and woman shopping with credit card online

Image source: Getty Images

This guide will help you to decide if that's a good idea so you can do what's right for your money and your relationship. 

What does it mean to add your spouse as an authorized user?

When you add your spouse as an authorized user to your card, the credit history from that account shows up on your spouse's credit report. Your spouse also has authority to use the card as if it were his or her own -- but doesn't not have the legal responsibility to repay any balances charged. 

What are the benefits of adding your spouse as an authorized user?

Adding your spouse as an authorized user to your cards can be convenient. You can both charge on the same credit card account so you have one joint monthly bill to pay instead of having separate cards you each use. 

You can also earn rewards more quickly on the one card you both share, rather than each participating in separate credit card rewards programs and potentially taking longer to earn enough points to redeem. 

If you have a long and positive credit history on the card that you add your spouse to, this can also help your spouse's credit. That happens because the particular credit card you're adding your spouse to shows up on his or her credit history, so your spouse can benefit from the card's long positive payment record, which is a key feature in determining credit scores. 

When you go to get a joint loan, such as a mortgage, it can be good for both of you if your spouse's credit score is as high as possible. 

When is adding your spouse as an authorized user a bad idea?

Adding your spouse as an authorized user can be a bad idea if you don't 100% trust your spouse to be responsible with spending. Unfortunately, this can actually be a major problem in many relationships as financial infidelity is incredibly common. 

If you add your spouse as an authorized user, he or she could charge as much as desired on your card while you remain responsible for the bills. Your credit could be ruined because of your spouse's charges if you can't afford to pay back what was borrowed, or if your spouse maxes out your card and hurts your credit utilization ratio

And if you get divorced, your creditors will hold you 100% responsible for repaying what's owed on the card that's in your name -- even if your spouse was an authorized user and made the charges. It doesn't matter if your divorce decree says your spouse is supposed to pay. You're the one with a legal obligation to your creditors, and you're the one your creditors could pursue collections activities against. 

If you're not sure you can count on your spouse to be responsible, this could mean you need to have a more serious talk about money management in your relationship. But until you're confident that your financial conflicts have been fully resolved, keep your credit cards in your own name only. 

Consider your card history and your relationship when making this choice

Every relationship is different, and you need to think about what's right for you when deciding if your partner should be added as another user on your credit cards. By carefully considering how your spouse's credit -- and your financial obligations -- could be affected, you can make the choice that's best for your particular situation. 

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