These Are the Best Credit Card Strategies for Married Couples

By Jason Steele. Last updated 15 January 2018. 0 comments

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Every couple has to come up with a way to manage their money. Some merge their personal finances and manage them as a single household, while others choose to have separate accounts. Either way, couples need to find with the best way to manage their credit cards.

The basics of credit cards and marriage

A credit card issuer doesn’t care that you are married. It will look at your personal credit report and credit score when making the decision to approve your application for a new credit card or to increase your line of credit. In fact, you are able to report your household income when applying for a line of credit. This allows nonworking spouses to apply for credit card accounts in their own name, so long as they have a reasonable expectation of access to their spouse’s income for the purpose of repaying the debt. (See also: 7 Credit Card Application Tips for Getting Approved)

Managing finances separately

If you and your spouse are managing your finances separately, there are still several strategies you can take to get the most from your credit cards. First, it’s a good idea for each of you to have credit cards in your own name, and pay for them with funds from your individual accounts. This will allow each to enjoy the convenience and security of a credit card, while building your own credit history and credit score.

If a couple is managing their finances separately, and one spouse occasionally needs to make purchases on behalf of the other, then they should each make the other spouse an authorized user on at least one credit card they each hold. Authorized cardholders can make purchases with their credit card, but are unable to redeem rewards or make changes to the account. And the primary account holder will always be responsible for repayment of any charges made by any authorized cardholders, including a spouse.

Managing your finances together

When a couple manages finances together, it offers them opportunities to achieve their goals more efficiently. For example, if a couple is trying to pay down their credit card debt, then they can transfer their balance to the credit card that has the lowest interest rate, regardless of which spouse is the primary cardholder. This is especially helpful if one of the credit cards has a 0% APR balance transfer offer. Let’s say, for instance, that Margie has a high credit score and a card with a 0% APR offer. Her husband Bernie has a low credit score and his only credit card has a $5,000 balance that he’s paying off at 20% interest. It makes sense for Bernie to transfer his balance to Margie’s card and then pay off the balance before the promotional period ends.

When a couple has no long-term credit card debt, they will probably be interested in maximizing the rewards they earn from their credit cards. In this case, couples can use several strategies to earn the most points, miles, and cash back from their credit cards. First, both spouses can apply for the same credit card when it offers an exceptional sign-up bonus. Even if the card charges an annual fee the first year, it may be worth paying to get the bonus.

Alternatively, you may decide the fee is not worth paying twice. In this case, you could still get some of the same benefits that two separate account holders get by making one person the primary cardholder and the other an authorized user on that account. This allows both to receive the additional rewards offered by a premium credit card, without having to pay the annual fees twice. Why pay for two of the same cards that offer, for example, three points per dollar spent on restaurants, when you can just pay for one account that both spouses can use?

Another reason this is a good strategy is that spouses can often share the extra perks of a single credit card account. For instance, if an airline credit card offers a free checked bag, it usually applies to several traveling companions on the same reservations. So there would be no reason for both spouses to have the airline credit card for use when traveling together. Also, some cards that offer airport lounge access extend it to the cardholder and any traveling companions.

Managing credit card accounts

One way that couples can keep track of their credit card accounts more efficiently is to have just one person manage the accounts. Whichever spouse takes over that duty can pay the bills, track rewards, and make decisions about opening and closing new accounts. This avoids the possibility of failing to pay a bill that they thought the other was taking care of, or paying the same bill twice.

One of the benefits of marriage is the efficiencies inherent in living together, sharing resources, and dividing responsibilities. By employing the best credit card strategies, couples can get more out of their credit cards than they ever might have been able to on their own.

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