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Topics addressed on December 26, 2007:
The difference between an authorized user and a cosigner
I am wondering about the difference in liability between a cosigner and an authorized user on a credit card. I understand that if I am a cosigner on my ex-wife’s credit card, I am responsible for the debt if she defaults or declares bankruptcy. Is this also true if I am not a cosigner but an authorized user? Also, if I am an authorized user, can I have my name removed from the account?
You are most often known as a joint account holder with a credit card, rather than as a cosigner, but your obligation is the same as with any other kind of debt. If the other person does not pay, you are responsible for repaying the entire amount.
An authorized user has permission to use the credit card, but is not responsible for any of the debt. So, if you are only an authorized user on your ex-wife’s account, you are not responsible for the debt in any way, and you can have your name taken off the account. The account then will be removed from your credit history.
However, marriage may complicate the issue. You should carefully review the credit card contract to be certain it shows you are an authorized user and not a joint account holder.
Some states have community property laws that automatically make joint any accounts entered into during marriage. If so, the only way to be removed as a responsible party for the debt is to contact the credit card provider and negotiate with it to change the contract.
Thanks for asking.
- The "Ask Experian" team