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

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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.

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