By Mike Faden | American Express Credit Intel Freelance Contributor
4 Min Read | January 31, 2020 in Cards
Couples can share travel credit cards by making one person the primary card member and the other an authorized user.
The pluses of sharing include lower annual fees and faster accumulation of shared credit card points.
But there are pros and cons in sign-up bonuses, benefits eligibility, and payment responsibility.
One of the essential—though perhaps less-romantic—aspects of achieving domestic bliss is deciding which aspects of your financial lives you’ll share and which you’ll keep separate. Do you share cell-phone accounts, bank accounts, and car payments? Well, if you both like to travel, here’s another financial sharing decision: Should you share travel credit cards or each have your own?
You can use travel credit cards to quickly earn reward points through everyday spending, and then cash in those points for free flights, hotel stays, or perhaps even most of this year’s vacation. Of course, couples need twice as many points to travel together, but they also have twice the ability to earn those points.
In general, there are two options for how to organize your travel card accounts as a couple.
There are pros and cons to each approach, depending on your needs and preferences. Here are some of the main points to consider.
If you have one shared account with a primary cardholder and an additional authorized user, the annual fees are generally lower than if you operate two individual accounts. That’s because the annual fee for an added authorized user is usually much less than the primary cardholder’s account fee. So, a primary plus an added user usually costs less than two separate accounts. In some cases, you may even be able to add authorized users for free.
Some cards offer tempting sign-up bonuses of tens of thousands of points if you spend a certain amount in the first few months of owning the card. If you each have your own credit card, you have the opportunity as a couple to win two of these juicy bonuses. On the other hand, if you share the same travel card, your joint spending adds up faster, increasing the likelihood that you’ll quickly reach the bonus threshold and get at least one bonus per couple.
Some travel credit cards offer a wide variety of perks such as access to airport lounges, free car rental insurance, and credits against airline fees. Some of these perks may be available to every authorized user of a single card account, while other benefits are available only to the primary cardholder or consist of a single cash credit per account.1 So when deciding whether to share travel cards, it makes sense to think about how your decision affects your ability to take advantage of the benefits that you feel are most important.
Typically, only the primary cardholder is responsible for paying the monthly credit card bill, even if there are multiple additional authorized users of the account. The primary cardholder may also have correspondingly more control, including the ability to set spending limits for authorized users.
Points experts say that couples who keep their other finances separate are more likely to want to have separate travel credit card accounts.2 If you do share a travel card account, it’s a good idea to start with at least a rough idea of how you’ll share the points, to avoid any friction later.
If you share a credit card, you both contribute to a single, bigger hoard of travel points, which may provide more flexibility in how you use those points. Let’s say you want to fly together to Hawaii. But if you pool your points in a single account, you might have enough for two flights. With separate travel card accounts, one of you might have more than enough points for a ticket while the other doesn’t have enough.
The more accounts you have, the more financial information you need to track. Experts suggest that if you accumulate several credit cards with or without authorized users, it’s a good idea to use a tool such as a spreadsheet to track information like balances, payment dates, and who’s an authorized user on which account.3
If you can handle the extra annual fees and tracking effort, experts say it may make sense for each of you to apply for your own travel card and add the other person as an authorized user.4 That approach provides the flexibility to pool credit card points when it makes sense and keep them separate when it’s beneficial to do so.
Couples generally can choose whether to maintain separate travel credit card accounts or share a single account, with one person the primary cardholder and the other an authorized user. Each approach has pros and cons, and the choice depends largely on each couple’s needs and preferences. For some couples, it may make sense for each person to have an account and add the other as an authorized user.
1 “Credit Cards With the Greatest Value for Authorized Users in 2019,” The Points Guy
2 “Coordinating Credit Card Strategies for Couples,” The Points Guy
3 “Strategies for spouses doubling up on rewards cards,” Creditcards.com
4 “Credit Cards With the Greatest Value for Authorized Users in 2019,” The Points Guy