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Sunday Reader Question: What Are the Effects of Adding an Additional Cardholder?

by on November 27, 2011 · 26 comments

in Credit Cards, Sunday Reader Questions

TPG reader Heather writes:

Do you know of any European credit cards that offer the great value of collecting points and bonus point offers like the US credit cards do? My fiance is Dutch so he cannot get an American credit card. If you know of any good cards I would love to hear about it. I was thinking as an alternative I could get him one of those second cards on my account. But I’ve never done that before.. does that mean all the charges post to my account, so he does not have a separate bill?

First, with respect to European credit cards, I’ll be honest with you: I’m not an expert on non-US credit cards. However, there are a bunch of Dutch TPG readers, so hopefully they can chime in with their thoughts on the best deals. A quick Google search led me to this Flyertalk post from September highlighting a referral campaign for Amex cards, which could be lucrative if you know someone who can refer him a card.

Now the second part of your question I can answer. Getting him an additional card on your credit card has positives and negatives:
1) You will own all of the points he generates. The points generated from your card and additional cardholders will all accrue in your account. If you have transferable points like Amex or Chase, you can then transfer them to his frequent flyer/guest accounts.
2) You will be responsible for everything he charges. If for some reason he defaults, it would affect your credit if it went unpaid. Be extra careful with charge cards like Chase Ink Bold which needs to be paid off in full every month.
3) Generally adding additional cardholders is free, except for the Amex Platinum card, which will cost $175 for up to three additional cards (an amazing deal when you think about it, because those additional cardholders get lounge access at Delta, American, US Airways and Priority Pass Select membership along with free Global Entry and a bunch of other benefits).
4) Most cards will let you set the spending ability of the additional cardholders so you don’t have to worry about them going crazy on your dime.
5) With American Express, the additional cardholder will get the benefit of your good credit history, which could help him build credit in the US (if that’s something he is trying to do). Some companies, like Chase, don’t even require a social security number for additional cardholders, in which case the additional card won’t show up on their credit report.
6) There is no hard inquiry/credit pull when adding an additional cardholder since no new credit is being granted (you are simply allowing another person to use the line of credit you’ve been approved for).

So in general, if you trust him (which I assume you do if he is your fiance :-)) then going the additional cardholder route might make the most sense – especially since US credit cards are generally more generous than non-US cards.

Disclaimer: This content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuer. Opinions expressed here are author.s alone, not those of the credit card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. This site may be compensated through the credit card issuer Affiliate Program.

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  • heather

    hey pointsguy. Thanks for the info. He was already thinking of signing up for the klm amex so the referral on the flyertalk forum will help! If any of the readers know af a good alternative, please post.
    Personally I hate KLM flying blue. They are the only program that I know of that will not give you 100% mileage credit on “discount” tickets. I booked a RT KLM econ flight AMS-MIA with a KL flight number for the “bargain” price of $950 and the the ticket said I would only get 1000+ delta miles. Luckily I was able to cancel and rebook through delta with a delta flt number and get 100% miles (4000+). It didn’t always work that way. Delta recently changed the rules for certain fare classes on KLM. Can’t find anything on KLM website stating that that fare class receives only partial miles. Just wanted to warn fellow flying blue members to beware of KLM mileage restrictions. The flight I took on KLM previous to this last flight credited me 0 miles.

  • Nealflesner

    I have 3 additional card holders on my platinum Amex. The additional card holders do not get the priority pass or the global entry. Those benefits are for the primary card holder only. The first two additional cards are $175 per card and then a free one after that. I do believe that 4 on one account is the limit, but I could be wrong.

  • heather

    Good to know. I am an amex platinum holder too. Priority pass and global entry are pretty much the only things I benefit from living in europe. So it would be pretty much worthless adding a second cardholder.

  • Anonymous

    Thats not true. You just have to call and ask for the Priority Pass Select and they will send it- I did that for my Amex Plat additional cardholder recently with no issues. Also, my contact at Amex also said additional cardholders get the Global Entry rebate as well.

  • Flyer

    Could you please elaborate on getting an additional card would be advantegeous because he will get additional points on sigging up or he just get an extra card, tied to primary account holder account, would be goo?

  • NYBanker

    It’s not always clear when people say $175 for three extra cards. Amex Platinum is $175 for the 2nd card (first card beyond the primary card), then $0 for card #3 and card #4…then they start charging a fee on the 5th card. Priority Pass select is indeed for all cardholders…you cannot request PPS for additional cards on the website…needs to be on the phone…global entry is included with EVERY card. The $200 misc airline fee credit covers the consolidated account. So, if you select carrier X, any misc charge from any of your cardholders will apply towards the credit.

  • Mitch Cumstein

    The KLM Flying Dutchman card was my go-to travel card when I was living in the eastern suburbs of Amsterdam during my youth. Ah, memories…

  • NewGuy

    What is the credit limit for an additional card holder? Does it go off of yours or…? For instance, if you have a credit limit of 10k and you add an additional card holder, is that 10k now split between you and the new card holder or do you each have a 10k credit limit? Or does it work some other way?

    Also, do you have access to their account and vice versa? If I add an additional card holder, will they be able to access my account and see my charges and vice versa? Or do we maintain separate accounts?

    I am thinking of doing this with my American Express Starwood card as well as my Chase United MileagePlus.

    Sorry if these are obvious questions–never done this before, but thinking about doing it.

  • Hessler

    Do you know if the $200 misc airline fee credit is per card membership year or calendar year? I just received my Amex platinum card and I don’t know if I need to use the $200 before Dec 31st or if I have 12 months to use it.

  • Nick

    Recent Dutch immigrant here.

    AFAIK America is the only country where credit cards are the way to go. Dutch merchants (and most merchants in other european countries) mostly accept ATM cards, debit cards, Visa “electron” cards. All of which cost around 10 cents per transaction (compared to the 2% charge American merchants pay to credit card companies). So there is very little room left for kickbacks in form of points. In fact, I have never seen anyone in the Netherlands who uses a credit card on a daily basis to accrue points. KLM doesn’t even offer one.

    If you are just engaged now, I’m assuming he does not have a SSN yet? That excludes AmEx which requires one for each cardholder. Also, you cannot build credit without a SSN. You could still get him as an additional cardholder on a Visa or Mastercard (like Chase’s) since they’ll just print any name on one of those cards. I think you could even get one for “Santa Claus” (or Sinterklaas, haha) but obviously all spending and points will go into your account. There is no separate bill. You would have to get one without foreign transaction fees, mail it to the NL and have him use it there. But I’m not sure about how much that is accepted there. And the hassle of having him wire Euros from a Dutch bank account into USD in your account (also, this is not free) doesn’t seem worth it to me.

    If you want to marry him soon, and want him to join this game a.s.a.p. I would recommend for you to get an AmEx card if you don’t have one yet. As soon as he gets his SSN (about 90 days after you get married) you can add him to your account and he will suddenly have a credit history. My wife added me to her AmEx account and that got me 9 years (!!) of credit history even though my SSN is only 1 year old. :)

    But until you live in the same country, both have a SSN, are married and settled, I wouldn’t mess around with this. Feel free to contact me if you have any other questions about this subject, all the info is still fresh in my Dutch mind.

  • Anonymous

    Calendar year, so use it before dec 31 or else you lose it!

  • Anonymous

    Credit line is the same as the primary account holder- you can restrict the spending ability though

  • Nick

    So after reading heather’s post and googling: http://www.klm.com/travel/nl_en/flying_blue/flying_blue_american_express_card/compare_all_benefits/index.htm the KLM AmEx. Seems like 1 KLM point per Euro with 140 euro in annual fees (20k signup bonus) is a little expensive. Especially since KLM charges so much in fees for flights to the US.

    Also I don’t know how much AmEx is accepted in the NL. I doubt the average “snack bar” would just take it. But I might be wrong. And I wonder if the history from this AmEx would carry over to an American credit history, since this card is not going to be associated to his American SSN as he doesn’t have one.

    Say he gets the 140 euro card, spends another 30k euros in 1 year before he moves to the US (I hope for you two it won’t last that long!) he might be able to 1 return flight to the US with 400 euro’s in taxes, plus the 140 euros for the fee is 540 euros. Seems hardly worth it to me.

  • OperationBingham

    The statement that a SSN is REQUIRED for an additional cardholder is incorrect. It is true that the form asks for it but you can leave that blank and it will still go through. I know because I have done this on more than one occasion with numerous AMEX products. However, it is always possible something very recently changed so if Nick is making his statement from within the last month or so then he would be correct.

  • snuggliestbear

    “Some companies, like Chase, don’t even require a social security number for additional cardholders, in which case the additional card won’t show up on their credit report.”
    This isn’t correct. I have added my wife to all of my accounts before we were married without SSNs (which includes cards from Chase, CITI, Discover, and AMEX) and they all showed up on her credit report after a time. I think it would take a little longer to show up on there, but they do get there. They probably cross reference names and addresses.

  • heather

    You are right about the amex not being accepted. Actually I would say about 75% of the places that accept credit cards will take amex. BUT many places in holland don’t even take credit cards. You definitely can’t use a credit card at a snack bar. You can’t use them in the grocery stores. I’ve been to many bars that don’t take credit cards.

    You are also right about the airline fees. I booked him a ticket to america on KLM with my delta miles and the fee was $400.

    He wants to sign up for the KLM gold card but I’m struggling to see the benefit of paying 140 euros per year. For the same price I can get him a amex platinum on my account. He does fly on KLM and Air France the most though since he lives in Holland and works for a French company.

  • JP

    What about hitting spending thresholds? The BA card gives a free companion pass with 30k in spend in a calendar year, if I added my girlfriend as a second cardholder and we were each able to put 15K on the card over the year, would that count as us hitting 30K?

  • Nick

    I didn’t know you could leave that blank! In my situation I was excited to add my SSN to get my wife’s credit history extended to me.

  • Nick

    A ton of fees to get miles that require a ton more fees. For a CC to be used in a country where AmEx is hardly excepted in day to day life…

    I’d steer clear. Especially considering the fact that you guys want to get married I’m thinking sooner rather than later… so I’d just hold off until he is living with you. :)

  • Nick

    This is something I’d like TPG to write a little more about as well. I remember booking KLM tickets that specifically said “25% miles”. And a more expensive refundable ticket would be 100% miles. Is KLM the only business that does not give everybody 100% miles for every flight?

  • Kcal

    Similar story- fiancé is German on E visa so had a ssn but no credit. Added her to Amex chase citi and within 1 month she went from 650 to 750 credit score- now she can get her own sign up bonuses!

  • Nick

    I wonder if you are right about this. Could it be that maybe she added her SSN later? At a weblogin maybe? Because it seems unlawful to just start reporting person’s A bad credit behavior on person’s B report without person B’s consent?
    Because I don’t think the second cardholder ever signs off on anything.

  • snuggliestbear

    Nope, I handle all of her finances and I never added her SSN. As far as I know, CITI, Chase, and Discover never ask for the SSN of the authorized user.

    If there wasn’t consent on the part of person B and some bad credit started showing up I’m sure they could dispute the listing with the reporting agency. They would win based on what you said – they never signed off on anything.

  • Nick

    Interesting! My guess is though that by then the damage has already been done (say person B couldn’t get a mortgage on time to secure a house he wants to buy). So shady practices to say the least.
    On the other hand, I can’t think of a reason why someone with bad intentions would want to get an extra card with another name on it. There is no use for person A to do so.

  • AJK

    Yes.

  • bbb

    I applied to this card after confirming the benefits & last date to apply with an American Express representative in Dec. 0f 2011. I have yet to receive my 25,000 rewards points (after I spent the amount in the first 3 months), I called this month, they conducted an “inquiry”, apparently rejected my request, and now are asking me to send in a fax, if I want to “contest” the findings. What’s going on – no one can give me a straight answer on the phone, and they say they “don’t know” what I was offered…what’s the best next step to receive the rewards points? This was my main reason for getting this card.

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