Financial Advice

Can I Share a Credit Card With Someone?

We now have car sharing, house sharing and even job sharing via the so-called gig economy, so some people might be wondering if they can you share their credit card. There are ways you can share your credit card, but these options range from savvy to risky.

Adding an Authorized User

The easiest way to share a credit card is to add an authorized user to your account. All credit card holders have the ability to request additional cards for others to use, typically family members or employees. And with the exception of a few premium credit and charge cards, there is no fee for doing so. Once their card is received, authorized users will have the ability to make purchases (and authorize returns), but not to dispute charges, make changes to an account, or redeem rewards. Further, authorized users are not responsible for repaying the debts that they incur. They will, however, benefit from your credit history and score. And conversely, if you are late paying the bill or carry high debt on the card, their credit could suffer as a result. (If you’re not sure what your credit is like, you can check your free credit report summary at Credit.com.)

So by making someone an authorized user, you are granting that person the power to exhaust your line of credit, without any of the responsibility of repayment. That’s a risk some people find is worth taking and others don’t — you just need to understand what you’re signing up for when you add a user. As the primary cardholder, you are able to grant and revoke authorization of other cardholders in your account, but you will always be responsible for repaying their purchases. Thankfully, there are some small business credit cards that allow you to impose individual spending limits on your employee credit cards. (You can see our recent ranking of the Best Business Credit Cards in America here.)

Joint Account Holders

Another way to share your credit card is to become a joint account holder with another person, which is only offered by some banks and credit unions. Typically this arrangement is chosen by spouses who both wish to exercise all of the privileges of being a primary account holder. Being joint account holders means that both people’s credit is considered when applying for an account, and both cardholders are individually required to pay back all debt. This means that even if one person chooses not to pay his or her fair share, the other person is still responsible for making the entire payment, and both parties’ credit will be hurt in the event of a default.

Sometimes, people become joint account holders when one person cannot qualify for a credit card on their own, and another is asked to co-sign an application. This practice has become more common since the passage of the Credit CARD Act of 2009, which prevents card issuers from opening accounts for adults under 21 years old unless they can show a means to repay a loan. Unfortunately, some older college students will co-sign the applications of their younger classmates, and have therefore become joint account holders. Needless to say, this type of credit card sharing among friends is fraught with negative consequences as both people’s credit can be severely damaged if either does not make timely payments.

Loaning Out Your Card

Of course, the other way to share your credit card is just hand it to someone else and let them use it, which is especially problematic. First, the recipient may be asked to show primary account holder’s ID, or have his or her signature compared to the one on the back of the card. But even if successful, the signature on the receipt will be fraudulent. Finally, loaning out your credit card violates the terms of your agreement with the credit card issuer.

A better way to handle situations where you need to extend someone a little credit is to purchase a generic Visa, MasterCard, or American Express gift card. These cards are offered in several different denominations, or you can purchase a variable load card with up to $500 on it. You won’t put your credit at risk, neither will your friend, and you’ll be able to control how much you’re lending out.

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This article originally appeared on Credit.com.

This article by Jason Steele was distributed by the Personal Finance Syndication Network.

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