A: As a credit cardholder, you can authorize a loved one access to your credit card. But before you sign on the dotted line, keep in mind that the authorized user has access to the credit card statement, which means he or she can see what purchases you are making.
Additionally, the primary cardholder is ultimately responsible for all purchases the authorized user makes if the authorized user doesn’t pay. As authorized users, it’s important to know that your credit rating can suffer even if you’re not the principal cardholder. So, while the principal cardholder is responsible for the purchases of the authorized user, the authorized user can suffer if the principal cardholder doesn’t pay the bill.
Although authorized users cannot be forced to pay the balance of a credit account, the delinquency can be noted on their credit reports. Before you become an authorized user, you may want to ask the primary cardholder for a copy of his or her credit report.
On a joint account, both cardholders are responsible for purchases made on the card. It doesn’t matter if it was your spouse who signed the charge slip; both husband and wife are responsible for the bill. Like your bank card PIN number, credit cards are financial instruments you might want to keep to yourself.
Fairly's latest book, Money Rules ($16), appears this month from Prentiss Hall Press.