With the arrival of summer, wedding season is in full swing. And along with all the excitement of getting married comes some confusing details. Specifically, how should newlyweds handle credit card changes?
Name changes on your credit card.
Spouses who will be changing their name have to look forward to the monotony of visiting their state Department of Motor Vehicles and their local Social Security office. But when it comes to their credit cards, it can be a lot simpler.
Contact your credit card issuers and request to have your name changed. Some banks will ask for a copy of your ID, while others will accept a fax or emailed attachment of your marriage certificate. Either way, wait until you have your new ID in hand, just in case they ask for it, or you ever need to present it to resolve an error.
Adding a spouse to an account as an additional cardholder.
With name changing issues resolved, the next major decision will be whether or not to add each other to your existing credit card accounts. Even couples who choose to manage their finances separately may still wish to add one another to at least one of their credit card accounts as an authorized cardholder. In this way, both can make purchases while the original card member, referred to as the primary account holder, will still be responsible for payment on all charges. In addition, only the primary account holder will be able to make any changes to the account.
Adding a spouse as a joint account holder.
Couples who will manage their finances jointly will want to try to add each other as joint account holders. This will allow both of them to be considered primary account holders. They will both be authorized to make account inquiries, report cards lost or stolen, and request replacement cards.
While this can be done quickly and easily with some card issuers, others will require that an account be closed and a new one be opened as a joint account. Unfortunately, closing a long-standing account will shorten your credit history while applying for a new account will require another credit inquiry. Both of these steps will have a small, negative, but temporary affect on your credit.
Thankfully, there is one way to grant your spouse complete access to an account without becoming a joint account holder. Banks will allow you to grant power of attorney to an authorized cardholder. The primary cardholder will still be responsible for paying any debts, but at least both parties will be able to report a card lost or stolen, or dispute a charge. Contact your bank and ask for a copy of this form, which may need to be notarized.
Getting married is not just about planning parties, there are some important decisions to be made when creating a new household. But by taking a moment to think through how your marriage will affect your credit cards, you both can return to more enjoyable tasks — such as planning a honeymoon.
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