While taking on the responsibility of assisting your partner with paying off their debt should be carefully considered, having an additional linked card* when you move in together or get married can actually prove to be a handy tool in managing household and shared finances.
“We have seen continued growth in the number of linked credit card applications. We currently have a quarter of our customers who have linked an additional card to their account. This suggests that more households see this as a good way to manage joint finances,” says Chris Labuschagne, CEO of FNB Credit Card.
Using a credit card for household expenses is a simple and effective way of paying and keeping track of all shared expenses, such as groceries, household maintenance and electricity. It is however important for individuals to clearly understand the difference between a linked credit card and a standalone credit card, and the pros and cons of each before entering into a credit agreement.
With a standalone credit card you are the only authorised user on the account and you will be responsible for all debt incurred on the account.
Similarly with a linked credit card, the requirement to repay the debt falls solely on the main accountholder’s shoulders.
However, the convenience of a linked credit card for ring-fenced spending and shared access to credit can outweigh the risk if you take a few simple precautions such as setting a low limit on the linked credit card to avoid abuse, enabling transaction notifications for ongoing updates on all transactions and ensuring that your linked credit card account holder is responsible enough to be given the responsibility of a credit card.
“The success of such an account depends on the level of trust and transparency in the relationship and the ground rules that are put in place,” says Labuschagne. “Before you decide on a linked account, sit down and agree how you will run your linked cards”.
There are naturally pros and cons to consider.
Pro: An easy way to pay household accounts
Having cards linked to a household credit card account is the easiest way to keep the household up and running. Draw up a list of all the purchases and costs that are generally incurred in order to run the household.
Pro: Detailed credit card statement
“Your transactional history can be accessed via your bank’s digital banking platforms. These are handy tools when you are budgeting and allocating expenses,” says Labuschagne.
Every swipe is recorded which means it is easy to reconcile at the end of the month.
“The smallest purchases such as bread and milk at the garage, will all be recorded. Using your credit card statement every month to add them up will give you a true reflection of your household expenditure.”
Most banks, including FNB will also give a detailed statement of purchases and summarised amount of each card on one statement. This makes it easy to see how much was spent by each individual.
Pro: Let it rain rewards
Migrating some of the spending you would have done as an individual, such as groceries, on to an account that you both use means that you have the opportunity to earn more rewards.
Most banks offer rewards programmes with their credit cards that give subscribers access to a range of products and services. According to Labuschagne, rewards programmes can prove invaluable, particularly in tough months.
“Swiping together on a credit card means that you are earning more points, which can be used to purchase items such as groceries and electricity. The saving made from buying these items with your rewards points can be used to fund other expenses or it can be used to pay off your debt faster.”
Cons: Covering the debt in a break up
In the event of a break up or a fall out, the main account holder will remain responsible for outstanding debt without any responsibility placed on the partner who held the linked card.
Build up a buffer for this in your savings account or ensure that your credit is paid in full in order to avoid this risk all together.
“If managed well, there is no reason to steer clear of a linked credit card. The benefits that you could enjoy such as more control over household spending, rewards and embedded services such as roadside assistance and travelling lounges often far outweigh the concerted effort of making sure that you manage the account well,” concludes Labuschagne.
*Note that adding an additional card to an account is likely to result in a small additional monthly card fee.
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Article source: http://mype.co.za/new/to-link-or-not-to-link/48662/2015/04