Home > 2012 > Credit Score

Can You Access Credit Accounts After Your Spouse Dies?

Advertiser Disclosure Comments 2 Comments

Credit Card Question: I have a few credit cards in my own name but I’m also an authorized user on my husband’s credit cards. My husband is very ill. If something happened to him, will I still have access to his credit cards? –Nancy

Answer: Hi Nancy,

I’m sure it was difficult to ask this question and I commend you for doing so. I’m glad you have a few accounts in your own name. While it could vary depending on the credit card issuer, if something happened to your husband you would probably no longer have access to his accounts.

Here’s how it works: As an authorized user on your husband’s account, you’re allowed to use the card, but he’s the owner of the account. If something happened to your husband, you must notify the issuer—and you might lose access to that card. Just so you know, from a legal standpoint, any unpaid balances on your husband’s accounts will become the responsibility of his estate.

[Free Resource: Check your credit for free before applying for a credit card]


Credit.com’s Credit Report Card
Check your credit bureau profile for free with this great tool. See your detailed credit evaluation, expert advice on managing your credit, and unlimited free updates every 30 days.
Get Started Here »

But since you have a history as an authorized user, you can always contact the credit card issuer and ask if you can have a card in your own name. You’ll probably be asked to fill out an application as a new cardholder. Whether or not you’re approved depends on your credit score and credit history. But keep in mind that you have that option.

The rules for being a joint account holder are different. If you were a joint account holder with your husband, then approval for the credit card would be based on both of your credit histories and on the information you both gave on the application. When you’re joint account holders, you’re both legally responsible for paying debts on the account. So if something unfortunate happened, you’d be responsible for the debt, but also still be able to use the credit card because you’re a joint account owner.

Whatever happens in the future, I’m glad that you have credit cards where you’re the sole account holder. If you suddenly find yourself alone, you’ll know you have credit cards available for emergencies.

[Credit Cards: Research and compare credit cards at Credit.com]

Image: Andres Rueda, via Flickr

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.

  • Pingback: Can You Access Credit Accounts After Your Spouse Dies? | Debt & Credit Blog| Free Online Tips and Resourses()

  • Kelly

    My husband is in the last stage of dementia and is non compos mentis. A bill arrived for an annual fee for a credit card issued to him. The card has never been used, so I phone the credit card company to cancel the card. Since I can’t close the account and my husband can’t either, I was told to send a copy of my Power of Attorney. I received a letter back stating that even though I have power of attorney, I still cannot make any changes on his account. Since i’m now in Dante’s circle of you-know-what, how can i get this account closed? I do not wish to make an annual payment for something that is never used or needed.

    • http://www.credit.com/ Credit.com Credit Experts

      So sorry to hear you are having this stress added to that you already face with your husband’s ill health.

      Did the card issuer say why you could not close the account with your power of attorney? Which credit card and issuer?

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