How to Close a Joint Credit Card Account

Couple using their joint credit card to shop online.
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There are many reasons you may choose to sign up for a joint credit card. You and a spouse might want to use the credit card for joint expenses. You may decide to open one to help a child build their credit score.

Even though opening a joint credit card is a relatively simple process, closing one can be more complicated if there is an outstanding balance. Read on to learn how to close a joint credit account without damaging your credit.

Closing a Joint Credit Card With a Balance

Closing a joint credit card account can be difficult if the account still has a balance due. Some credit card issuers require the balance to be paid off before the account can be closed.

Even if your credit card issuer allows you to close the account with a balance, the balance will still have to be paid under the original terms. At least the minimum amount due must be paid each month.

The first step to closing a joint account is to contact your credit card issuer. They will guide you through the steps needed to close the joint credit card account, including whether the balance must be paid off before it can be closed. Now you have a plan on how to proceed forward.

Paying Off a Joint Credit Card Balance

For a joint credit card, both account holders are responsible for paying for the charges, even if only one person made them. This can become difficult if you are closing the card due to a breakup or because one of the account holders can no longer pay their portion of the bill.

If you are closing a credit card and want to prevent paying interest on the account, it is best to pay off the remaining balance in a lump sum.

The two of you have to agree on who’s responsible for the balance. This could mean one of three things:

  • Both of you decide to be jointly responsible
  • One person assumes all responsibility
  • One person pays the bill in full with the understanding that the other repay them in an agreed-upon time frame

If an agreement cannot be reached, then both of you will need to go to either mediation or court. Even though the court may order only one of you to pay the balance, the credit card issuer will still hold both of you responsible and pursue the collection of any unpaid balance.

If you’re going through a divorce, talk to your attorney about the best way to handle a joint credit card account. A judge may rule in favor of one spouse paying off joint credit card debt if you can prove they were the one who made the charges.

Joint Credit and Credit History

A joint credit card affects both people’s credit history. Any missed payments will result in a lowering of both credit scores.

To protect your credit score, you may have to make all the payments on the shared account if the other account holder uncooperative. However, you may be able to file a lawsuit to recover the amount you paid on the balance.

Removing a Name From the Account

Unlike a credit card with an authorized user, you generally cannot remove one name from a joint credit card.

An authorized user account is under the name of one person and allows other, authorized persons, to make charges onto the account. The owner of the card can call the credit card issuer to have authorized users removed.

Joint accounts base the allowable charging balance or the account itself on the credit history of both applying parties.

Some banks do have policies that allow removing a cardholder, like an authorized user. However, once you opened a joint credit card together, usually the account cannot be changed until the balance is paid off and the card is closed.

Limiting the Damage

If your credit card issuer requires you to pay off the balance before you can close it, ask the credit card issuer to remove the ability to make new purchases. Once neither cardholder can make purchases that the other person has to pay for, you can be rid of the balance and any joint debt obligation much sooner.

Consider transferring the balance to another credit card in your own name so you can close the credit card without waiting for the balance to be paid off.

Once the card has a zero balance, contact the credit card issuer to confirm the account is closed for good. Be sure to ask that the account not be reopened at either party’s request. It's also a good idea to monitor your credit report to confirm the account is closed.

What Happens to Your Credit Score

Closing a joint credit card won’t remove it from your credit report, but as long as the account is closed in good standing—the balance paid off with no late payments—it won’t damage your credit score.

If there are any negative items associated with the account, they will fall off your credit report after seven years. In the meantime, keeping up with your payments and minimizing the amount of debt you take on will help protect your credit score.