For couples, matters of the heart may overrule matters of the head. However, that’s not necessarily the approach that married or otherwise committed couples should take with financial matters, including credit cards. Get on the…
For couples, matters of the heart may overrule matters of the head. However, that’s not necessarily the approach that married or otherwise committed couples should take with financial matters, including credit cards. Get on the same page with credit cards, and understand how you can use them to your advantage as a couple.
Rules of the Road for Couples and Credit Cards
A couple can approach credit cards in a few ways:
Joint account holders. If a couple has a joint credit card account, each person can make charges on the card, and both are responsible for the balance accumulated on the card. “Joint cards are a good way for couples to budget for household expenses and big purchases as a team,” says Mike Kinane, head of U.S. bankcard at TD Bank. However, not all credit card issuers offer joint accounts.
Authorized users. In this scenario, one person is the primary cardholder and can add a spouse or partner as an authorized user. The authorized user can make purchases with the card, but only the main cardholder’s credit history and credit scores are used to determine eligibility for a card, and only the main cardholder is liable for the card’s balance.
Individual cardholders. As a couple, you don’t have to share a credit card. Each person in the relationship can apply and be responsible for his or her own card.
Before applying for a card, examine your goals for the card. For example, if you love travel, you might want to consider a card that earns hotel points or airline miles. Or if you want flexibility in your rewards, a cash back card might do the trick.
“If couples are aligned on how they spend and save, and on their goals, they may want to consider applying for a similar credit card,” says Michelle Goeppner, director of credit product strategy in lending at Alliant Credit Union. “If there are differences in their views, they may want to select different cards that work for them as individuals and agree on who pays for what expenses and how much they keep to do as they wish.”
However, if you decide to marry your credit card accounts, Goeppner recommends asking these questions:
— What is my partner’s credit history, including his or her credit scores?
— How has my partner handled money and credit cards in the past?
— How much debt did my partner bring to the relationship?
— Has my partner historically been a saver or a borrower?
— How do we, as a couple, plan to use any credit cards that we’d have together?
Farnoosh Torabi, a personal finance journalist and author who hosts the podcast “So Money,” says, “In many relationships, there’s usually one person who takes on the role of paying the shared bills. This can be a helpful way to delegate financial tasks, but couples should always strive for transparency so that each person is aware of the expenses and monthly bills.”
When you embark on a credit card journey together, make sure you obtain the most value from your cards. Here are some strategies to consider.
Transfer points to a spouse or partner. In some cases, credit cards allow transfers of credit card points between spouses or partners.
For instance, if you have a credit card that’s part of the Chase Ultimate Rewards program, you can transfer points to another card in the program if it belongs to you, your spouse or your domestic partner. However, you’re not able to transfer points to another account if either account is prohibited from earning or redeeming points — for example, if you’re behind on payments.
The Citi ThankYou Rewards program provides more flexibility in terms of sharing points. The program lets cardholders transfer qualifying ThankYou points from their account to the account of any other member. The points-sharing feature is free. But a member can share only 100,000 points in one calendar year, and a member can receive only 100,000 points from other members in one calendar year.
At the other end of the spectrum, American Express does not allow transfers of Membership Rewards points between cardholders, even in the same household. But, Aditi Shekar, founder and CEO of Zeta, an online tool that helps couples handle their finances, says that points earned together can be used together with any joint credit card.
Add an authorized user. If you have a credit card and decide to add a spouse or a partner as an authorized user, you may earn rewards for every purchase made by your spouse or partner.
Refer your spouse or partner. Some credit card issuers provide referral bonuses.
At Chase, for instance, several cards let you earn referral bonuses, which can be worth $100 or more.
With Discover, the refer-a-friend bonus comes in the form of a $50 statement credit if your friend — including a spouse or partner — applies for the card offer that you sent via a link and is approved. On top of that, each friend receives a $50 statement credit after making a purchase within three months of opening a new Discover account. For a couple, this could add up to an extra $100.
Keep in mind, though, that each card you get might come with an annual fee. This would water down the appeal of a referral bonus.
Stack rewards. If you decide to get separate credit cards, you might look at getting the same kind of card to bulk up your rewards.
Case in point: With the Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express, you can earn 6 percent cash back at U.S. supermarkets, on up to $6,000 in purchases each year. This means that if each of you has a separate Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express, you could fill your collective rewards cart with 6 percent cash back on up to $12,000 of U.S. supermarket purchases annually. That’s $720 in combined cash back each year on groceries.
Pick up travel perks. A number of credit cards enable couples to fly high when it comes to perks, offering incentives like airport lounge access or free checked bags.
For example, with Chase’s Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card, qualifying points count toward a Companion Pass, which allows a companion to fly with you for free, except for certain taxes and fees, every time you buy or redeem points for a flight. To be eligible, you must earn 110,000 qualifying points in a calendar year or fly 100 qualifying one-way flights. Once earned, the Companion Pass is good for the remainder of the year in which you earn it, plus the following full calendar year.
Combine points. Through the TrueBlue loyalty program, up to seven family members and friends can combine loyalty program points in one pool, so you can earn and redeem your points together. Using the JetBlue Plus Card is one way you can accumulate points. Members of the pool contribute points once they join the Points Pooling program and add points for each future transaction without any transfer fees.