You don’t have to opt for his ‘n’ hers credit cards, but if you do, make sure you know who’s responsible for the bill.
You know what it’s like, you have a joint bank account, joint savings account, joint mortgage – so why not a joint credit card? Well, the main reason is that in the UK there’s no such thing as a joint account on a credit card. It’s different in other countries such as the United States, but here, there always has to be one person who signs the credit agreement, which means there’s one person who’s responsible for the bills - no matter who spends the money.
One account, two cards
If you have a credit card account and you want to add your partner to it, it’s relatively straightforward to do.
• You’ll normally either have to ring the credit card provider or download and fill in a form online.
• Having two cards on one account is useful because it means you can spend money on joint purchases (holidays, household items etc) and keep track of joint spending easily.
• If you’re the principal card holder: you’re responsible for money that’s spent on the card by you and your partner.
• If you’re the secondary card holder: you’re able to spend money on the card but you’re not responsible for paying the bills.
Consumer protection and secondary cardholders
Credit cards give you good consumer protection if you buy something costing between £100 and £30,000 under section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act.
• It means you can get your money back from the credit card company if the goods don't arrive or the supplier goes bust. However, there's a lot of confusion about whether or not secondary cardholders are covered.
SAVVY TIPWhen I originally wrote this, I was told by credit card industry that secondary cardholders are not covered by section 75, although they may be able to claim a refund via chargeback, which is not set in law. This was backed up by some of the biggest credit card providers I spoke to.
• Then, the Office of Fair Trading said that both the principal and secondary cardholders were covered and could benefit from this consumer protection.
SAVVY TIPThe only condition is that - no matter who made the purchase - the principal cardholder must make the claim.
• However, the Financial Ombudsman Service takes a slightly different view and says it would depend on what the secondary cardholder purchased the goods for (i.e. were they purely for his/her use or for joint use?).
• If they were purely for use by the secondary cardholder, the Ombudsman would not force a card provider to pay up. It may take a challenge in the courts to settle it for once and for all.
SAVVY TIP If you've tried to make a claim for a refund for something the secondary cardholder bought, and you were turned down, it's worth going back to the credit card company. Make sure the principal cardholder makes the claim.
Choosing the right card
If you’ve got a major purchase to make or you won’t clear your credit card balance in full each month, choose a card that charges a low introductory rate on purchases or one that has a permanently low interest rate.
Where to look
• I normally suggest looking at two or three different price comparison sites because they tend to come up with different best buys.
• Try sites such as Moneyfacts, MoneySavingExpert or Moneysupermarket.
• Be aware that some sites list 'popular deals' or 'best sellers’ at the top of the page. They're not the same as best buys. Sponsored deals may also be listed ahead of others.
If you want to add a second card holder to your account, there shouldn't be any further credit checks.
• If you’ve got a bad credit record and you don't qualify for a credit card in your own right, your partner can add you as a secondary card holder and no checks will be made on your credit history.
• The flip side is that if you’ve got a good credit record and you want to give a card to your partner whose record is less than perfect, your credit details won’t be linked to theirs on the basis of a second card, because they won't have to sign a credit agreement.
Having two cards from one account works well if you’re both quite responsible with money, but if one of you decides to go on a spending spree, there could be serious consequences.
• If you’re the principal account holder and your partner decides to max out the card, you’ll be the one left with the bill.
• If you’re the secondary card holder and your relationship breaks up, your partner can easily block your card (without telling you).
SAVVY TIP: Make sure you sort out the ground rules of your credit card account if you’re getting a second card – and preferably before the first bill arrives! Is it to be used for joint purchases only, such as holidays or things for your home, or are you happy if you both the account for your personal spending as well?
Are there advantages to keeping your money separate?
Credit card protection; understanding credit card rules
How joint debts can affect your credit rating
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