There are risks in naming someone as an authorized user.
- My husband and I dated for a long time before we got married.
- We combined some aspects of our finances when we lived together.
- I only added him as an authorized user on my credit card after we got married.
My husband and I dated for several years before we got married, and lived together for a short time before deciding to get married and buy a house as a couple. During our time together we combined some aspects of our finances such as opening a joint bank account. But I didn’t make my husband an authorized user on my credit card until we were legally married.
There is a simple reason why that is the case.
Naming someone as an authorized user on your credit cards means you give that person the legal authority to use your credit card to charge as much as they want up to the policy limits. Anyone who is an authorized user has all rights to make purchases on the card and the primary cardholder cannot dispute charges or waive responsibility for the balance on the card.
While an authorized user has the right to charge purchases to the card, they have absolutely no legal obligation. They could max out the card and walk away without paying a penny and the card issuer wouldn’t chase them down to try to collect. Instead, sole responsibility for payment would rest with the primary cardholder.
Since my husband and I were not married and did not have any kind of formal cohabitation or prenuptial agreement, giving my husband authorized user status would mean he could use my card at will and I would be responsible for charges. . After marriage things would be different because there would be rules for division of assets and debts under the law, but that was not the case without a formal legal relationship.
Now, I completely trusted my husband when it came to our finances, or I would not have married him. But at the same time, there are always situations where people end up surprising you because they don’t live up to your expectations. While the chances of my husband loading my card and walking away were so slim they didn’t exist, they weren’t zero because they never are when you share your financial life with someone.
Since my husband already had excellent credit and had his own credit cards, there was no reason for me to risk letting him take on debt in my name when I had no legal recourse. There would have been no benefit to making him an authorized user at that point, so there was no reason to take the slightest risk in giving him the authority to charge purchases to my card when he had no legal responsibility for them.
Once we got married, we combined more aspects of our financial lives, and there were now protections under our state laws in case the unthinkable happened and we got divorced. We wanted to be able to use a shared credit card for joint purchases, and since joint credit cards with co-borrowers are rare, authorized user status was the easiest way to do this.
Now my husband and I have many joint credit cards, as well as joint bank accounts and mortgages. I still completely trust him with our shared financial life. But I don’t regret the decision not to take unnecessary risk with my own credit and financial future until we had a legal commitment.
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