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Million Mile Secrets reader John writes in with a common question on applying for credit cards with a partner:
Thank you for your blog, I have learned a lot already. Now that you’re married, will that change your strategy at all? When I first applied for a bonus credit card, my wife took a card on the same account. If I were to apply for a different card now, should my wife also apply separately? Do banks look at a member of household with the same cards and handle it any differently?
My strategy hasn’t changed since we got married because Emily has always applied for cards. Ok, well not “always.” I still remember how hesitant she was the first 2 or 3 times, until we actually had some cheap flights and hotel stays, and she saw how her credit score didn’t change much.
But I liked her initial hesitation. Applying for credit is a big deal and has the potential to destroy lives, so it is best to start slowly and then build up depending on what you’re comfortable with. I would have been a lot more taken aback if she had said, “Sure, do what you want with my credit!”
We only applied for 1 or 2 cards for her the first time (with her permission of course), and I printed out her credit scores before and after the application so she could see the impact to her credit score as well. She still didn’t know what would happen with the miles and points earned, but I managed that for her, and I never asked her to track the minimum spending or to redeem the miles.
Applying for Credit Cards With a Partner
1. Double Miles & Points. The most obvious reason to apply for cards with a partner or spouse is because you each get the sign-up bonus and points for spending and can use it for your trip.
It is a lot harder to earn enough miles and points for 2 or more to travel, if there is just one person applying for credit cards or earning miles and points. This is especially true if you have children who can’t apply for credit cards and get the sign-up bonus.
2. Stagger Applications to Meet Minimum Spending. But it doesn’t necessarily mean that you both should apply for the SAME card at the same time.
Emily and I both apply for cards approximately every 3 months, but you could do it every 4 months, 6 months or whenever you feel comfortable. But we both don’t apply at the same time and leave at least a 1 month gap between our applications.
We do this because it is easier for us to hit the minimum spending requirements at different times, than all at once. For example, Emily’s last application was in December and my last application was in November.
We also don’t always apply for the same cards in the same application cycle. At some point we both will get the same card, but we plan our applications based on the minimum spending requirement of each card as well. There’s no point applying for more cards if you can’t complete the minimum spending for them.
On the other hand, getting the same cards could make sense if there is a short time offer or to keep things simple.
3. Can A Spouse Get the Sign-Up Bonus Too? One of the most common questions is whether you and your partner or spouse can get the sign-up bonus on the SAME credit card.
The answer is, YES, you and your spouse can both get the sign-up bonus for the same card as long as your spouse either never had the card or was an authorized user (but not a joint user) on your card.
For example, let’s say that I have a Chase Hyatt card and Emily is an authorized user on my card. Emily can sign-up for the Hyatt card in her name AND get the sign-up bonus despite being an authorized user on my card.
That’s because I’m still liable for paying the charges which she runs up on her authorized card.
However, if Emily was a JOINT holder on the Hyatt card, she wouldn’t be able to get the sign-up bonus again. In fact, the Hyatt card would appear in both her online Chase account and my online Chase account. And we’d both be responsible for the charges on the card.
4. Avoid Annual Fee. You may be able to avoid paying an annual fee on a credit card by having your partner apply for the same card just before or after you cancel yours.
For example, Emily applied for the Chase Sapphire Preferred in June 2011 and cancelled it in May 2012. I applied for my Sapphire Preferred in March 2012, so we still had one Sapphire Preferred in the family. But Emily missed the double points on dining and travel and the no foreign transaction fee and it was getting inconvenient to continually swap the card.
So she applied for another Sapphire Preferred in December 2012 and got the bonus again.
5. Credit Score Impact. Your credit report and credit score is unique to you and doesn’t include information on your partner/spouse’s credit. So applying for a credit card won’t show up on your partner/spouse’s credit report. The banks will also evaluate extending credit based on information in your partner’s credit report.
However, if you apply for a card jointly or take out a loan jointly (including a joint credit card), the information will appear on both your credit reports since you are both responsible for the debt.
Also note that some banks will report the balance for the additional card holder to the additional card holder’s credit report, but that doesn’t prevent them from getting the bonus on the card when they apply for it in their name.
6. Make it Easy. Don’t expect your spouse or partner to be as enthusiastic about applying for cards, tracking the minimum spending and bonus points, and calling the reconsideration line etc. It takes a lot of time and work, and not everyone finds it fun.
Emily likes tracking the minimum spending and calling the banks about as much as I like spending Saturday shopping at the mall and trying on new clothes.
So make it easy for your spouse or partner.
Apply for the cards on their behalf (assuming you have their permission, of course). See this post on how to call the banks on their behalf. Track the minimum spending for them and swap cards in their purse/wallet and put a sticky note which says “Use this first” on a card whose minimum spending needs to be completed.
Having your partner or spouse apply for cards with you makes it easier to earn miles and points to use for trips. But make sure that you have their permission to apply for cards and that you don’t carry a balance or pay interest on the cards. And monitor your partners score as well.
It also helps to make it as easy as possible for your partner or spouse by managing most of the details yourself. Or taking them on a trip!