Managing Expenses With a Partner: Why We Use a Joint Credit Card

There’s a question that’s come up several times recently in networking groups I’m in and among friends: should I use a joint credit card with my partner? 

It’s usually part of a larger conversation about merging finances, which I wrote about a few years ago but I’m sure I need to update. Now, merging finances pieces is a much bigger conversation and is much more nuanced from couple-to-couple. Hey, I’ve even written about it for both The Everygirl and Advice From a Thirtysomething, both at different times in my coupled financial life.

I mean, even joint checking accounts are more complicated in terms of what’s going in and out, but a joint credit card, from my perspective and that of many of my friends I’ve talked to, is a more straightforward place to begin when it comes to merging financial lives with a partner. So, I’m going to share why we opened a joint credit card, which cards we chose, how we utilize them, and what the advantages are to using one card v. each using your own.

Side note: when I asked via Insta stories what readers wanted to see more of, budgeting actually came up a few times. It’s something I’ve touched on a few times, but I’m happy to write more of it! I suppose people want to hear budgeting advice/personal finance tips from someone who’s interested, but just a normal person, not an industry expert.

Should I Use a Joint Credit Card with My Partner?

First things first, as I was researching this post, I realized that what I mean by a joint credit card isn’t necessarily a true “joint” credit card. A joint credit card would include a joint application and both people’s credit is tied to that account. That’s not what we actually did.

We have two credit cards where it is in one person’s name and the other is an “authorized user. That means they have a copy of the card, it has the same number, but it has their own name on it. So, when I refer to a “joint credit card,” what I really mean is a credit card that has one person on the account and another as an authorized user.

Note: I wouldn’t look into either one of these options, joint credit card or authorized user, if you and your partner have wildly different spending habits and it could somehow come back to bite the more frugal person. Again, not an expert, but I also don’t think any credit card advice, particularly when it comes to using them for points, makes sense unless you pay off the balance every month.

Okay, back to the question at hand: should you open a joint credit card with your partner? For the first year or so that Adam and I lived together, we both had our own credit cards. We balanced expenses by covering different items and assuming it came out in the wash. It worked well enough.

So a more even splitting of expenses wasn’t our impetus for opening the joint credit: it was to rack up credit card points in one place. We realized that splitting our spending was inefficient when it came to booking travel via points and we wanted to streamline it — specifically, we wanted to streamline it to earn the Southwest Companion Pass. And it worked. That is to say, if you’re on the fence about opening a joint credit card, your two motivations will probably be either, (1) earning points, or (2) corralling expenses into one place to make splitting payment easier.

Which Credit Cards Do We Use?

We have two credit cards that we rotate between, depending on what rewards and bonuses they’re running currently. Those cards are the Southwest Rapid Rewards* card and the Chase Sapphire Reserve card.

Why did we choose these two? Southwest’s card is perfect for us since we do fly domestically frequently and Southwest is often the easiest way for us to get back to Texas, where Adam is from. With both of us using the card and combining it with bonuses, we’ve been able to maintain Companion Pass for several years now. What does that mean? That means for every flight we book, we can add a free companion. Yes, it’s an insane benefit and it’s 100% what motivated us to open a joint credit card initially.

Chase Sapphire Reserve, on the other hand, is just a fantastic travel perk credit card. The points earning potential is great and it comes with benefits like Priority Pass for both the user and authorized user, as well as travel credits. This one pays for itself (meaning the benefits far outweigh the annual fee).

How Do We Utilize and Manage Our Joint Credit Cards?

When it comes to utilize the cards, we closely watch where the points earning is best to gauge whether to use Chase or Southwest and where to use them. For example, is one offering better grocery points this month? Is one offering a bonus on dining out? This can change from month-to-month or quarter-to-quarter and it’s an essential piece to maximizing your points earning.

At this point, these two cards are the only credit cards we use so our spending is all housed within these accounts. We both are fairly frugal, but I’m more budget-conscious, so I’m usually the one that monitors the accounts on a day-to-day basis via mint.com. Adam, on the other hand, keeps track of the points earning and how to utilize that when it comes to actually booking travel (you know, in normal times).

There are so many ways you could look at paying off the balance on a joint credit card each month and a big part of that will depend on whether or not you have a joint checking account. We don’t have an everyday joint account, so Adam just pays it off from his and, so far, that’s worked for us with no issue (I pay our other expenses from mine). Of course, you could also look at splitting it down the middle or even figuring out, okay, I spent X amount on a splurge purchase this month so I’ll pay more. This can definitely be something that evolves as you manage it.

What Are the Advantages to Using One Card v. Using Your Own?

I think we’ve pretty much covered why you’d want to use one card with your partner — simply put, it’s the best way to maximize rewards. However, I’d 100% stand by saying that you need to keep one open in your own name and your partner should do the same. You never know if you’ll want to buy a gift without them knowing or who knows what. For all the benefits of merging some pieces of your finances, it’s always good to have just a bit of independence.

*This is my referral code so I’ll receive points should you click through and open! I 100% recommend the Southwest card if you fly Southwest often.

 

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2 Comments

  1. February 9, 2021 / 8:29 am

    Love this post and would love to see more on budgeting! I have heard amazing things from so many people about the Southwest card, but they don’t fly out of Charlottesville and have very limited Richmond flights, so I don’t feel it would be the wisest choice for me to get it for where I live currently. Maybe in the future though!

    xoxo A
    http://www.southernbelleintraining.com

    • February 9, 2021 / 4:53 pm

      I hope Richmond or C’ville gets more Southwest flights someday –– it’s so convenient for domestic travel to cities all over the U.S. We’ve ended up going places we might not otherwise have explored just because of the cheap flights and I feel like that’s something you’d definitely take advantage of!

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