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How to change your name on a credit card

The process is easy, but tedious if you have many cards.

Card providers make it easy to change your name on your credit cards. But before you start, you must change all your legal documents first.

Reasons to change your name on your credit card

While there are many reasons one might change a name on a credit card, marriage and divorce are among the most common. Another common reason is reverting to your maiden name after the death of your spouse. Whatever your reasons, there may come a time in your life when you want to change your name, which means you’ll have to change it anywhere your previous name is on file – including credit cards.

Documents required to change your name on a credit card

Changing your name on a credit card varies slightly between providers. Before you start, you must first change your name on your Social Insurance Number and government-issued IDs (including passport, driver’s license and health card).

Once completed, you can show your updated government ID and change-of-name document to your credit card issuer when you apply to change your name. The change-of-name documents you use will vary based on the reason you are changing your name:

Reason for changing your nameRequired document
Misspelling on your accountBirth certificate
MarriageMarriage certificate
DivorceDivorce decree
Legal court orderLegal Change-of-Name Document
AdoptionAdoption order

How to change your name on a bank-issued credit card

Canadian banks generally have similar procedures in place for name changes. You’ll usually be required to go into a bank branch so a teller can verify your identity in-person. The process will likely follow these steps:

  1. Gather a government-issued ID that shows your new name and your change-of-name document
  2. Go into a bank branch
  3. Fill out the appropriate paperwork
  4. Submit copies of your ID and other documents to your bank

What about online banks?

If you’re one of the many Canadians who has opted to bank with an online bank, like Tangerine for example, the process differs from other banks. You’ll likely be required to call your bank’s customer service representative to begin the name change process. You might be required to mail or fax in copies of any supporting documents, like your ID and change-of-name documents.

If you’re banking with Tangerine, you can call 1-888-826-4374 to change your name.

How to change your name on a non-bank credit card

The name change process will vary depending on the company. Because these companies don’t have branches like banks do, the process usually involves both talking to someone over the phone and faxing in documents, or uploading documents to an online portal.

American Express name change

Changing your name with American Express is fairly easy. Here’s how it works:

  1. Download the Name Change Authorization form from American Express’ website.
  2. Complete the form.
  3. Log in to your American Express My Account.
  4. Upload the completed form to the Document Centre.
  5. Upload your supporting change-of-name documentation.
  6. Submit.

You can also mail your completed form and copies of supporting documents to American Express at, Amex Bank of Canada, PO box 3204 STN F, Toronto, ON, M1W 3W7. Alternatively, you can fax the documents to 1-888-843-9523.

Follow-up steps

Once you have updated your name in all your legal documents and with your card providers, reach out to all two major credit bureaus – Equifax Canada and TransUnion – to make sure they have updated your new name.

Next, you should update your name with all other institutions like banks, insurance companies or other companies you have any relation with.

Can you be responsible for someone else’s credit card debt?

There are times when you may be held accountable for someone else’s credit card debt. In general, there are three situations where you may be held accountable for someone else’s debt:

  1. When you act as a guarantor. If someone doesn’t qualify for a credit card independently, they can ask someone to act as a guarantor. As the guarantor, you’re required to sign an agreement that legally allows the bank to transfer all debt to you should the cardholder fail to make repayments.
  2. When you open a credit card for someone else. If you open a credit card for a partner, spouse or child and use your information on it instead of theirs, you’re fully liable for any debt they accrue. The person you open the credit card for would be under no legal obligation to repay any debt on the credit card, so opening a credit card for someone in your name can leave you dangerously exposed to debt.
  3. When you open a jointly-held credit card with a partner. You could be forced to pay your partner’s credit card debt if you’re joint cardholders, regardless of who built up the debt. If you sign the credit card agreement alone when opening the card, you’ll be solely responsible for any debt. If you and your partner both sign the credit card agreement, you’ll both be equally responsible for any debt you build up.

How to check if you’re responsible for someone else’s debt

You can check whether you are liable for your partner’s debt by confirming that the credit agreement bears your signature. If not, the responsibility to pay the debt will be solely on your partner. However, if you and your spouse own a joint bank account, the credit card company can sue for money from that account.

You could also be forced to pay any credit card debt accrued by an authorized user of your card. An authorized user enjoys the privilege of using the credit card but has no liability to repay any charges they make. If anyone has access to your credit card details, you should be aware of how they use them to protect yourself from misuse of funds and the accumulation of debt you would later have to pay.

What happens to credit card debt after death?

Who is responsible for credit card debt after death? It depends but, in general, one of three situations will occur when a loved one passes away and leaves credit card debt:

  1. When you die, your estate is ultimately responsible for paying off any remaining debts you have.
  2. However, if the credit card is in a joint account, the other primary cardholders will be liable to pay the remaining outstanding balance.
  3. If the credit card debt is only in the name of the deceased cardholder, the liability will be paid out of the deceased person’s estate. If there’s not enough money in the estate to cover the cost of the debt, the creditor will most likely cancel the debt owed. But before a creditor writes off the debt, they’ll likely contact you looking for proof that the deceased person’s estate cannot pay the debt. Any inheritance left to the heirs may need to be sold to pay off the debt. Before you take action to pay off the deceased’s debts, know your rights. If you aren’t responsible for the debts but you make a payment toward them, you could be entering into a contract and ultimately end up responsible for all the debt.

Another factor in the management of debts for a deceased estate is the type of debt.

  • Unsecured debt. Credit card debt is a prime example of unsecured debt because a credit card is not tied to an asset, such as your car or home – unless it’s a secured credit card. With this type of debt, lenders have limited recourse to claim your assets if unsecured debt is left unpaid. These factors are partly why interest rates and fees can be so high for unsecured products.
  • Secured debt. A mortgage is an example of secured debt that is tied to an asset, such as a house. If you default on your home loan repayments, the lender is within their rights to reclaim possession of the house to recoup the cost of the loan.

Bottom line

No matter the reason for your name change, you can easily update your credit cards with your new name. All you have to do is reach out to your bank and send them copies of legal documents that reflect your name change.

Once that’s settled, you can freely apply for a new credit card and your new name will appear on all of them.

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