Home > Credit Cards > Why You Need a Credit Card Account in Your Own Name

Comments 4 Comments

Debit_HakanDahlstrom_CCFlickrI recently heard from a reader (let’s call her Diane) who was going through a difficult time. Her husband had recently died and she suddenly realized she had very little credit in her own name.

Her late husband had been keeper of the finances and he’d done a great job with it. Diane was an authorized user on their credit cards, but her husband was the official account holder on all of them. Diane had assumed that her husband’s great credit—and his excellent credit score—also belonged to her because they were married.

“A common misunderstanding with married couples is that all their credit is joint credit since they are married. This is not the case. Credit reports are created and maintained on an individual basis. So, any credit you had before you were married or have obtained individually while married would only be seen on your credit report—not on that of your spouse. All joint credit would be reported on both spouses’ credit reports,” says Tom Quinn, consumer credit expert for Credit.com.

This really isn’t common knowledge, so I told Diane she shouldn’t be too hard on herself. She wanted to get a credit card in her own name so for her first step, I suggested that she obtain her free credit reports from the three major credit reporting bureaus as well as her credit scores. Looking at this information will tell her where she stands with her credit history and whether her score is high enough to qualify for an unsecured credit card.

When you have a significant other, it can be tough to recognize the best choices when it comes to credit card accounts. Going the “authorized user” route isn’t a bad choice if you’ve each established your own credit history. Another option for couples is to become joint account holders on a credit card. Here’s a quick rundown of the legal and credit-related differences between being an authorized user and being a joint account holder.

[Related article: Your Credit Report: A Resume, Not a Rap Sheet]

Authorized Users »

Image: Håkan Dahlström, via Flickr

Pages: 1 2

Comments on articles and responses to those comments are not provided or commissioned by a bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by a bank advertiser. It is not a bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

Please note that our comments are moderated, so it may take a little time before you see them on the page. Thanks for your patience.

  • http://www.mickeygoodman.com Mickey

    Thank you for writing this article. This is information so many older women need. When we were young adults, a wife HAD to be listed as “Mrs. John Smith,. She was not allowed to use her first name (not even on voter registration forms!) It’s no wonder women have assumed that their husband’s credit was automatically theirs. I insisted that my daughter establish her own credit at an early age, and it has served her well.

    • Beverly Blair Harzog

      Mickey, it’s great that you’ve encouraged your daughter to establish her own credit at an early age. Kudos to you! And wow, that’s so interesting that years ago women had to be listed using their husband’s name!

  • JB McDaniel

    Great story, Beverly. This exact thing happened to my mother-in-law — the credit card companies canceled all her cards when she called to tell them her husband had died, and she had trouble getting a new one because she did not exist in the credit world. I also have three friends of varying ages who have been widowed in the past year — and they all have horror stories about dealing with banks, water and power utilities, credit cards — you name it. A real eye-opener.

    • Beverly Blair Harzog

      JB, thanks so much for sharing those stories. This situation is really quite common. I’ve talked with so many women recently who either experienced this or know someone else who has.

Certain credit cards and other financial products mentioned in this and other articles on Credit.com News & Advice may also be offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com will be compensated if our users apply for and ultimately sign up for any of these cards or products. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment.

Hello, Reader!

Thanks for checking out Credit.com. We hope you find the site and the journalism we produce useful. We wanted to take some time to tell you a bit about ourselves.

Our People

The Credit.com editorial team is staffed by a team of editors and reporters, each with many years of financial reporting experience. We’ve worked for places like the New York Times, American Banker, Frontline, TheStreet.com, Business Insider, ABC News, NBC News, CNBC and many others. We also employ a few freelancers and more than 50 contributors (these are typically subject matter experts from the worlds of finance, academia, politics, business and elsewhere).

Our Reporting

We take great pains to ensure that the articles, video and graphics you see on Credit.com are thoroughly reported and fact-checked. Each story is read by two separate editors, and we adhere to the highest editorial standards. We’re not perfect, however, and if you see something that you think is wrong, please email us at editorial team [at] credit [dot] com,

The Credit.com editorial team is committed to providing our readers and viewers with sound, well-reported and understandable information designed to inform and empower. We won’t tell you what to do. We will, however, do our best to explain the consequences of various actions, thereby arming you with the information you need to make decisions that are in your best interests. We also write about things relating to money and finance we think are interesting and want to share.

In addition to appearing on Credit.com, our articles are syndicated to dozens of other news sites. We have more than 100 partners, including MSN, ABC News, CBS News, Yahoo, Marketwatch, Scripps, Money Magazine and many others. This network operates similarly to the Associated Press or Reuters, except we focus almost exclusively on issues relating to personal finance. These are not advertorial or paid placements, rather we provide these articles to our partners in most cases for free. These relationships create more awareness of Credit.com in general and they result in more traffic to us as well.

Our Business Model

Credit.com’s journalism is largely supported by an e-commerce business model. Rather than rely on revenue from display ad impressions, Credit.com maintains a financial marketplace separate from its editorial pages. When someone navigates to those pages, and applies for a credit card, for example, Credit.com will get paid what is essentially a finder’s fee if that person ends up getting the card. That doesn’t mean, however, that our editorial decisions are informed by the products available in our marketplace. The editorial team chooses what to write about and how to write about it independently of the decisions and priorities of the business side of the company. In fact, we maintain a strict and important firewall between the editorial and business departments. Our mission as journalists is to serve the reader, not the advertiser. In that sense, we are no different from any other news organization that is supported by ad revenue.

Visitors to Credit.com are also able to register for a free Credit.com account, which gives them access to a tool called The Credit Report Card. This tool provides users with two free credit scores and a breakdown of the information in their Experian credit report, updated twice monthly. Again, this tool is entirely free, and we mention that frequently in our articles, because we think that it’s a good thing for users to have access to data like this. Separate from its educational value, there is also a business angle to the Credit Report Card. Registered users can be matched with products and services for which they are most likely to qualify. In other words, if you register and you find that your credit is less than stellar, Credit.com won’t recommend a high-end platinum credit card that requires an excellent credit score You’d likely get rejected, and that’s no good for you or Credit.com. You’d be no closer to getting a product you need, there’d be a wasted inquiry on your credit report, and Credit.com wouldn’t get paid. These are essentially what are commonly referred to as "targeted ads" in the world of the Internet. Despite all of this, however, even if you never apply for any product, the Credit Report Card will remain free, and none of this will impact how the editorial team reports on credit and credit scores.

Our Owners

Credit.com is owned by Progrexion Holdings Inc. which is the owner and administrator of a number of business related to credit and credit repair, including CreditRepair.com, and eFolks. In addition, Progrexion also provides services to Lexington Law Firm as a third party provider. Despite being owned by Progrexion, it is not the role of the Credit.com editorial team to advocate the use of the company’s other services. In articles, reporters may mention credit repair as an option, for example, but we’ll also be sure to note the various alternatives to that service. Furthermore, you may see ads for credit repair services on Credit.com, but the editorial team isn’t responsible for the creation or implementation of those ads, anymore than reporters for the New York Times or Washington Post are responsible for the ads on their sites.

Your Stories

Lastly, much of what we do is informed by our own experiences as well as the experiences of our readers. We want to tell your stories if you’re interested in sharing them. Please email us at story ideas [at] credit [dot] com with ideas or visit us on Facebook or Twitter.

Thanks for stopping by.

- The Credit.com Editorial Team