Joint Credit Cards - A Bad Idea

Adding to our recent post about the strength of tenancy by the entirety for owning martial property in North Carolina, I wanted to comment further about voluntary joint debts of spouses. Real estate, such as houses, owned by spouses as a tenancy by the entirety cannot be attached to and sold by a creditor of only one spouse to satisfy unpaid debt of that spouse. It follows that a couple should only accept joint responsibility on a debt when joint responsibility is essential to the creditor agreeing to loan money. Do not just give away the protection of your present and future property.

This is a particularly important point for a newly married couple consolidating their finances. While it is both traditional and sensible to open a joint checking account and other joint depository accounts, the same does not apply for credit card accounts. Why call a credit card company and ask to make a new spouse a joint owner of an existing account? Does the credit card company deserve a wedding gift from you?

Authorized users on credit accounts are generally a better idea for consolidating household credit transactions onto a single account. An authorized user has a card on the account, but is not an owner of the account, has not become a party to the credit card agreement, and did not make an application for the account. To be clear, authorized users are not always free of liability on transactions they made--one must consult the card agreements for terms applicable to an authorized user and consider if the transactions could be considered fraud on the credit card company. An example of such fraud might be use of the account after the primary card holder has died. However, in any event, collection against an authorized user is more complex than against a joint cardholder, and due to this a card issuer may elect to not pursue collection even if theoretically possible. Such is a far contrast to joint credit card holder, who can be sued with little extra effort on the debt along with or instead of the primary card holder.

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Knightdale Attorney Erich Fabricius represents clients in bankruptcy, consumer debt litigation, and in small business matters. He is licensed to practice law in North Carolina. His blog posts consider matters related to debt, bankruptcy, litigation, and other legal issues in North Carolina.

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This blog post is made available for educational and informational purposes only and to promote a general understanding of the law, and not to provide specific legal advice. Use of this blog does not create an attorney-client relationship. Reading this post is not a substitute for obtaining legal advice based on the unique facts of your situation from an attorney licensed to practice law in your state. No representation is made regarding the currentness of the information contained in this post. Examples that may be provided in this post are merely for illustrative purposes; the results in your case may be different and no results are guaranteed.