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Should I apply for a credit card with a cosigner?

Having a cosigner can help you access a variety of credit card options.

Updated

When you have poor or no credit history, applying for a credit card with a cosigner may sound like a good idea. It can help give you access to credit card options you otherwise wouldn’t have.

But having a cosigner is a big responsibility because if you don’t pay your balance on time, your cosigner will be liable. Also, note that not every bank accepts cosigners to begin with.

What is a credit card cosigner?

A credit card cosigner is a person who guarantees they will pay the credit card debt if the primary cardholder fails to do so.

Cosigner vs. authorized user

The main difference between a cosigner and an authorized user is who pays the credit card debt if the primary cardholder defaults. Other differences include:

CosignerAuthorized user
Liable for the credit card debtNot liable for the credit card debt
Doesn’t get a physical cardGets a physical card
Doesn’t have credit card account accessHas credit card account access

Credit card issuers that allow cosigners

Most large credit card issuers don’t allow cosigners. Luckily, some do.

Cosigners allowed
American Expresscross-icons
Chasecross-icons
Citicross-icons
Capital Onecross-icons
Barclaycardcross-icons
U.S. Banktransparent-green-tick
Wells Fargotransparent-green-tick
Bank of Americatransparent-green-tick
USAAtransparent-green-tick

Should I apply for a credit card with a cosigner?

Applying for a credit card with a cosigner makes sense if you:

  • Have little or no credit history. This way, the cosigner guarantees the credit card debt will be paid.
  • Have a poor credit score. This lifts the weight from the primary cardholder, but if you’re a cosigner, make sure you know what you’re getting into.
  • Low income. Having low income can sometimes be enough for the card provider to decline your credit card application. Alternatively, having your back covered by a cosigner could get you the card you want.

But before you decide to apply with a cosigner, consider the benefits and drawbacks.

Benefits

  • You can apply for credit cards with poor or no credit.
  • You can have a backup if you can’t pay off your debt.

Drawbacks

  • Not all credit card providers accept cosigners.
  • You can harm your relationship with your cosigner if you don’t pay your balance on time.

Bottom line

If you can’t apply for a credit card because of poor or no credit score, applying for a credit card with a cosigner could be one option.

However, a better alternative to build your credit is to become an authorized user to someone else’s credit card account or to apply for a secured card and build your credit yourself.

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