You probably share your home, bed, and maybe even your toothbrush from time to time with your spouse. But what about your credit cards?
If you haven’t quite taken your financial relationship to this level yet, but feel like you’re finally ready to take the leap, follow these tips to make sure you do it right and avoid the most common mistakes.
Add Your Spouse as an Authorized User
The easiest way to share your credit card with a new spouse is to call your credit card issuer and simply add your significant other as an authorized user. Your spouse will then receive a new credit card in his or her name, although you will both share access to the same account and the same credit limit.
Before making the call to your credit issuer, it’s always wise to sit down and have a conversation with your spouse about what types of monthly expenses will be charged to the card and how much of the available credit limit you plan to use each month. In order to maximize each of your FICO credit scores, you’ll want to ideally keep your credit utilization ratio under 10 percent, so take the time to talk through the numbers before you both begin using the card.
Don’t be afraid to communicate openly about spending habits and the importance of sticking to your outlined budget. Trusting each other’s spending habits is vital to the process, and if the trust just isn’t there yet then maybe you still need more time before taking the next step.
Set Up Mobile Access and Text Alerts
The biggest red flag to watch out for is an unexpected charge that doesn’t fall in line with the budget you previously discussed. However, the great thing about credit cards is it’s so convenient to track all spending on your account.
Make sure you set up mobile access from your phones so you can check charges 24/7, and you may even be able to set up text alerts for any charges above a certain amount. If so, do it. This will allow you both to stay on top of your spending and immediately discuss anything that doesn’t seem to fall in line with your agreed upon budget.
Review Accounts Together on a Monthly Basis
Credit cards also make it extremely easy to review your spending on a monthly basis. So set aside 15 minutes each month to log on to your online account together, review charges, compare to your budget, and talk through how you did.
Did you stick to your plan and stay within your budget? Awesome. Go out and celebrate by doing something inexpensive that you both love.
Did you miss the mark for this month? Don’t be argumentative or point fingers at who made what mistake. Instead, make a new plan of action together and do a better job of tracking all charges during the following month. Understand that it can take some time to sync spending habits in a marriage, so don’t expect your spouse to change overnight.
Communication is Key
The biggest mistake couples make is failing to have a detailed discussion up front regarding monthly expenses and what types of things will be charged to the credit card. It seems simple enough, but many married couples just ignore this step, which often results in some fairly unpleasant conversations down the road.
So do yourselves a favor and talk through your budget, set expectations, and track your monthly expenditures together. If you do so, sharing a credit card can be an excellent way to not only improve both of your credit scores but also enjoy earning some great credit card rewards along the way.