You do not need to be married to have a joint credit card. In fact, you can open a joint account with almost anyone -- a relative, a common law partner, a boyfriend or girlfriend or even a friend. When you have a joint account, each person gets his own card, but shares the same amount of credit.

Joint Account Facts

When you share a credit card as joint users, you're both liable for repaying whatever is charged -- whether you're the one who made the purchase or not. You'll both need to open the account at the same time and sign the paperwork together. There are many benefits and risks associated with having a joint credit card, so an honest discussion before opening the account is useful to work out how you'll both use the account and get to know each other's spending habits.

The Benefits

Sharing a joint account is a good way for someone to build a good credit rating. Both of the people named on a joint account enjoy the benefits of helping their credit scores with timely payments. If you're going to be sharing costs anyway because you live together or are supporting a parent or child, it may be easier to charge certain expenses and take turns paying them off. Some credit cards even offer a slightly lower rate for joint accounts if you both have good credit scores already.

The Risks

Give it serious thought before agreeing to open a joint credit card account with someone. Once it's opened, you're both accountable for payments. If the other person runs up the bill and doesn't pay, you'll still need to make at least the minimum payments on time to keep your credit score from suffering. If you break up or stop speaking to each other, there can be problems if someone maliciously runs up the account. You'll need to go through the hassle of paying off and closing a joint account quickly in such a circumstance. After all, missed or late payments can trigger an increased rate for all of your other cards.

Authorized User

An authorized user on a credit card can use the card for purchases but has no legal responsibility to pay the bill. If you have bad credit, you may even be able to use the payment on the card for which you're authorized to help boost your own credit scores. Being an authorized user means having access to the money, but no control over the payments or the debt. You can't get your name taken off the account without the account holder's help and may have your own credit score lowered if the card isn't paid in a timely manner.