Our best advice and tools to help you enjoy your big day.
Getting married is a huge step in your life, and it can also be a big leap in your personal finances. But beyond the joy of the wedding and the honeymoon, newlyweds may also face the challenge of starting a new household together and integrating their finances. At the same time, newlyweds are often moving into a new living arrangement and may even be contemplating starting a family.
Given all of these changes, you have different financial needs from when you were single, and may be looking for different credit cards. For example, you may be looking to round out your wedding registry with additional housewares for your new lives together. You could also be looking to pay off the existing credit card debt that one or the other (or both of you) entered the marriage with, and possibly some unpaid bills from the wedding itself.
First time newlyweds are often confused about how credit cards work for married couples. Some may even be surprised to find out that the credit card issuers don’t really care one way or the other if you’re married. For example, both spouses may apply for and receive the same credit card, at the same time. Banks and credit unions don’t know, and don’t care that you two are married, and will judge each applicant by his or her own credit score and stated income.
The biggest difference is that married couples and domestic partners are allowed to report their entire household income, so long as you have a reasonable expectation of access to your spouse or partner’s income to repay a loan. This means that a non-working spouse can use the working spouse’s income to apply for a new credit card account. However, the card issuer will still look at only the applicant’s credit history and credit score, not the spouse’s.
Some married couples choose to manage their finances separately, which means that each will be in charge of his or her own credit cards, just like when they were single. These couples can still add each other as authorized additional cardholders on each others accounts, if they choose. However, the primary account holder will always be responsible for repayment of the balance, regardless of who made the charges. The Primary account holder is also the only one that can redeem rewards or make changes to the account.
Other married couples combine their finances, which presents its own challenges. While it’s easy to open a joint bank account, there are very few credit card issuers that still allow joint credit card accounts, with US Bank and PNC bank being the only major ones. A joint account has essentially two primary account holders, and each one is individually responsible for repayment. If the payments are late, or the account is in default, both spouse’s credit history and credit scores will be affected.
More commonly, spouses who manage their finances together will keep their existing accounts or open new accounts, and make each other authorized additional cardholders on the account. And in many cases, one person will manage all the accounts, if only to ensure that payments aren’t forgotten.
When couples start their life together with a balance on one or more of their credit cards, their top priority should be to pay it off. Here are some cards that offer 0% intro APR balance transfers so that couples can avoid interest charges while paying down their debt during the promotional period.
Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card. With this card, newlyweds can enjoy 18 months of interest free financing on both new purchases and balance transfers completed within four months of account opening. The Diamond Preferred card doesn’t offer rewards, but it includes benefits such as Citi Private Pass access to concerts, dining experiences, sporting events, and theatrical performances. It also comes with Citi’s Price Rewind service, which can automatically refund the difference when a lower price is found on your registered purchases. There’s no annual fee for this card, and there is a 5% balance transfer fee.
Discover it® Balance Transfer. Discover offers new couples 18 months of 0% intro APR financing on balance transfers, then 13.49%-24.49% variable APR. There is no annual fee, but there is a 3% intro balance transfer fee with up to 5% fee on future balance transfers. This card also offers 5% cash back at different places each quarter like gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, Amazon.com and more up to the quarterly maximum, each time you activate, as well as a 100% match on ALL the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year, automatically.
If you and your spouse decide to open a joint account, there aren’t as many options, but there are some good ones. Typically, one of you will open the account, and then add the other person later.
U.S. Bank Cash+™ Visa Signature® Card. This card will let you have a joint account, while offering very competitive rates of cash back. You could earn 5% back on your first $2,000 spent each quarter on purchases from two categories of your choice. You could earn another 2% cash back on one everyday category of your choice, such as gas stations, grocery stores and restaurants. You also could earn 1% cash back on all other purchases. There’s no annual fee for this card.
PNC Cash Rewards® Visa® Credit Card. Couples who want a joint account don’t have to compromise on rewards. You could earn 4% cash back at gas stations, 3% back on dining, 2% at grocery stores and 1% elsewhere. This card also offers 12 months of 0% intro APR financing on balance transfers, with a 3% balance transfer fee. There’s no annual fee for this card.
Target REDcard. Target is a popular store for wedding registries, probably because they have just about everything. The Target REDcard store charge card offers impressive rewards that allow you to take 5% off of your Target purchases. It also includes benefits like free 2-day shipping and an extra 30 days to return items purchased from Target or at Target.com. There’s no annual fee for this card.
Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card. Newlyweds can make it convenient for their guests to buy gifts when they go through Amazon. With this card, you can finish off your registry with 5% off everything, and that’s on top of Amazon’s 20% discount on registry completion. And you could also save the same 5% when buying groceries at Whole Foods Market, 2% back at restaurants, gas stations and drug stores and 1% back elsewhere. There’s no annual fee for this card.
When you start off on a journey with your new partner, it’s important to manage your finances responsibly. By selecting the best product for your needs, the two of you can receive more value from your credit cards than you might have thought possible.
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