Relationships and Shared Credit Cards – the do’s and don’ts

You love your partner to bits and you trust them with your life. Why not trust them with your credit cards? Ask yourself why you really want to do this. Is it because he/she has asked you? Are you comfortable with your partner’s spending habits?

Below are some do’s and don’ts of sharing a credit card with a partner or family member.

credit cards

Joint Card verse Authorised User

If you have a joint card this means that each co-holder of the card is equally liable for repayment of the debt. If your relationship with the joint card holder ends, the departing owner of the card could leave the remaining holder liable for all of the debt simply by just disappearing. Even though this joint holder is equally liable, if he or she simply refuses to pay and disappears, the remaining holder is left with the debt.

If you authorise another person to use the card, the principal owner of the card is solely liable for the repayment. If your relationship with the co-holder of the card ends, you can cancel their authorisation to use the card.

It is important to know the difference, as Claire Tsosie from Nerdwallet points out:

“You could be stuck with the bill and, potentially, a ruined credit score if that person runs up a debt with your card. Keep this in mind before adding someone to your account, and only add individuals you really trust.”

The Benefits

You can:
• Consolidate your expenses onto one card
• Make budgeting easier
• Keep better track of your expenses
• Increase the reward /frequent flyer points you earn
• Save on annual fees
• Build up a credit profile which might assist with future borrowing from a bank for major purchases, e.g. car or house

Managing the Shared Card

• Agree who will make the monthly payments
• Budget for the monthly payments, i.e. will both parties contribute and if so, how much?
• Will the contribution to the payment be equal or will each party only pay what they purchased?
• Set a realistic maximum credit ceiling. This should be a joint decision based on joint income.
• Keep an eye on the credit balance available from time to time. With internet banking this is very easy, since you can look up the balance at any time.
• If you have made a really large purchase and maxed out the card, let your partner know, to reduce the risk of tension in the relationship.

Fin-Tech entrepreneur Shaun McGowan from Lend Capital Pty Ltd says:

“I recommend creating a budget and staying one step ahead of your repayments, there are a lot of great Apps out there and budgeting tools such as PocketGuard Budget App that allow you to track real-time expenses.”

General Considerations

• Be aware of your partner’s spending habits. If your partner is a bit of a shopaholic sharing a credit card will most likely lead to tensions in the relationship.
• Always discuss large purchases in advance.
• Agree on the purchases to be made from the joint card, e.g. grocery and household expenses, entertainment, joint car expenses, but consider keeping your personal expenses like clothes, cosmetics, hairdresser etc separate. This way you are less likely to run into strife.


Disputes over money are a significant cause of relationship break ups. By sharing a credit card with your partner you are increasing the opportunities for disputes. Unless there is a real advantage, e.g. frequent flyer points or other reward points think very carefully before sharing a credit card with your partner.

About the Author
Mary Paterson writes about personal finance and money management with a mindset that all problems are best-managed with forethought and planning. Her background and success in small business has equipped her with a vast network of contacts and broad range of experience. If you would like to work with Mary, you can find her on Authorflair.

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