Sharing a credit card carries risk

Sharing a credit card carries risk
Sharing a credit card carries risk

The new CARD Act that passed back in February makes it tougher for college students to get credit cards which, in general, is a good thing. The drawback is that young adults may have a tougher time establishing credit in order to do things like get a car loan or rent an apartment once they're out on their own. This is one of many situations where a well-meaning person might consider adding a family member onto one of their credit card accounts, but doing so can be risky, as this article points out.

"There's always risk when someone else is involved, simply because the other party could twist off and go on a spending spree," says Gail Cunningham, vice president of public relations at the National Foundation of Credit Counseling. That said, Cunningham told WalletPop, there are situations where a shared-card arrangement might help a consumer.

There are two types of shared cards: joint accounts, and accounts that have a primary user with an added authorized user. Of the two, the latter is riskier for the primary cardholder because the authorized user has full freedom to run up the bills but no legal obligation to pay for any of them.

Although some card issuers will let you set spending limits for the authorized user, it still might not be a good idea to extend this courtesy to a profligate spender. If you're a parent adding an adult child as an authorized user to help them build their credit, both of you should check with the credit bureaus to make sure that their authorized-user status is documented, Cunningham says.