Whether you're getting a joint credit card with your parents to build your credit or you're newly married and want to combine everything, make sure you understand the impact of holding a joint account before signing on the dotted line. Whatever happens with the account affects both cardholders' credit scores for better or worse. You're also on the hook for any money your partner spends.
When you're a joint card holder the credit card company reports card activity to the credit bureaus for both owners. If you're on the card with a responsible person, a series of on-time payments will boost your credit history and improve your credit score. However, your credit score also shows any negative information from the card, including late payments or defaults.
To the credit bureaus, a joint credit card means both account holders are equally responsible for what happens with the card regardless of who's at fault. That means every on-time payment helps both account holders, even if only one of them is responsible for diligently making payments. That also means if your co-account holder promises to make the payment on time and forgets, your credit report shows a late payment.
It's usually a good idea to keep a few cards in your own name, according to Experian, one of the three major credit reporting bureaus. If you've just tied the knot it might be tempting to make every single account a joint one. However, if you later want to close those joint accounts -- for example, if wedded bliss turns into a nightmare -- you could be closing your oldest accounts, thereby damaging your credit score. Keeping a few accounts open in your name only ensures you'll always have your own credit history to stand on.
Being an authorized user instead of being a joint account owner might impact your credit score differently. Credit bureaus only include account information for authorized users if the credit card company chooses to report it. If the credit card doesn't report authorized users, card activity won't affect your credit report. For example, say you're an authorized user on your parent's credit card to build your credit score. If the credit card issuer doesn't report you to the credit bureaus, you're out of luck because your score won't reflect the card activity.
Based in the Kansas City area, Mike specializes in personal finance and business topics. He has been writing since 2009 and has been published by "Quicken," "TurboTax," and "The Motley Fool."