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Supplementary Credit Cards: Just Say “No!”

Banks and department stores are businesses, and many are extremely good at making it easier for their customers to spend money. That is why these organizations benefit when customers obtain additional credit cards for their family members, be it a spouse or child. These are known as Supplemental Cards or Joint Credit Cards.

Having multiple cards for the same account means more purchases for the company. Organizations sell the benefits of multiple cards by touting the benefits of an increased accumulation of reward points. They also sell us on the benefit of having one account but multiple users on the account also allows for a simple tracking of purchases made and a convenience for the family by having to manage only one account.

There are, however, potential complications to having multiple cards for the same account:

  • When you are traveling and the main cardholder’s account/card is hacked, both cards may be cancelled, and you are left without a credit card to use on your vacation
  • There have been cases where a spouse has taken out a supplemental card without the knowledge of the primary cardholder, then used the card to rack up serious levels of debt.  This is much more common than you may know and when we meet with clients, we see this type of situation all the time
  • If there is a marriage or relationship breakdown and the couple splits, the bank or store could legally seek payment from both parties who held cards on that account until the balance is paid in full. Contrary to widespread belief, if the additional card holder uses the card there is an automatic implied agreement by the additional card holder that they are responsible for 100% of the balance due
  • People are encouraged to carry a credit card from the same bank that manages all their other personal financial dealings. Should an argument arise with respect to any purchase or error on your account that is not resolved on a timely basis the bank may take matters into its own hands.  They could legally withdraw funds from any joint bank account to pay off the balance due. This may result in other complications if not enough funds remain in the account to pay your monthly bills

A Separation Agreement or Divorce Agreement sometimes indicates one spouse will be responsible for the balance due on the card. This agreement does not legally bind the bank or store and they have the right to pursue both spouses for the debts owed. Many ex-spouses are surprised to find they are still responsible for the full balance due if the other spouse fails to pay the debt off in a timely fashion.