How to Close a Joint Credit Card Account

Couple upset with credit card
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Signing up for a joint credit card usually sounds like a good idea at the time. You and a spouse may want to use the credit card for joint expenses. Or, you may get a joint credit card to help a child build their credit score. Unfortunately, sometimes things go wrong and it’s no longer beneficial to keep the joint account open. How do you go about closing a joint credit card?

Can You Close a Joint Credit Card With a Balance?

Closing a joint credit card account can be tough particularly if the account still has a balance.

Some credit card issuers require the balance be paid off before the account can be closed. Even if your credit card issuer allows you to close the account with balance, the balance still has to be paid under the original terms – at least the minimum must be paid each month.

The first step is to contact your credit card issuer to find out what steps you need to take to close the account and whether the balance must be paid off before you can close the account. That will let you know how to proceed.

Paying Off a Joint Credit Card Balance

If you’re closing a joint credit card account because of a breakup, figuring out what to do about the balance may be tough. You'll have to have at least one final conversation about how to take care of the balance.

The two of you have to agree who’s responsible for the balance - maybe you’re jointly responsible. Then, come up with a plan to pay off the balance in payments or a lump sum if possible.

If you can’t reach an agreement, you may have to get mediation or decide in court. (In some states, both spouses are equally responsible for debt created during the marriage no matter who actually created it.) Keep in mind that, while the court may order one of you to pay the balance, the credit card issuer still holds both of you responsible and will pursue both of you for 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 joint credit card affects both people’s credit history, so any missed payments will affect both of your credit scores. If the other accountholder is uncooperative, you may end up making all the payments even if you weren’t the one who created the balance. Unfortunately, this may be the only way to protect your credit score. You may be able to file a lawsuit to recover the amount you paid on the balance.

If you were hoping to just remove one of your names from the account, think again. You can’t simply remove a name from a joint credit card, like you could with an authorized user account. Once you’ve opened the credit card together, you’re stuck with it, at least until the balance is paid off and the account is closed.

Getting Rid of the Balance on a Joint Credit Card

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. That way, neither of you can rack up purchases that the other person has to pay for. You can be rid of the balance and the 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. The two of you can also split the balance if you’ve reached an agreement about who’s liable for which portion of the balance.

Once the card has a zero balance, contact the credit card issuer to have the credit card closed for good. Ask that the account not be reopened at either party’s request. 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. Most negative items associated with the account 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.