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Can you apply for a credit card with a cosigner?

If your credit history isn't great, applying with a cosigner might seem like a good idea. But you also have other options.
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Written by Holly Johnson on
Reviewed by Evan Zimmer

If you're applying for a credit card without a great credit score, then adding a cosigner to your account might seem like a good idea. With a cosigner, you may be able to qualify for a line of credit based on the other person's solid credit history and credit score. And since your cosigner is also a co-applicant, both parties are responsible for the repayment of any charges or credit balances that accrue.

Many credit card issuers don't allow cosigners at all, however, even on student cards. And finding a cosigner can be a difficult feat considering the risk involved when it comes to sharing any type of account. 

Keep reading to see which credit card issuers allow you to apply with a cosigner, and check out the additional options to consider if a cosigner is out of the question.

Credit card issuers that allow a cosigner

Among the major credit card issuers, only a handful permit you to apply with a cosigner:

Credit Card Issuer

Cosigner Allowed?

Details




American Express

No

Authorized users must be at least 15 years old.

Bank of America

Yes


Barclays

No

Authorized users must be at least 13 years old.

Capital One

No


Chase

No


Citi

No


Discover

No


U.S. Bank

Yes


Wells Fargo

No



Alternatives to getting a credit card with a cosigner

As you can see, credit card issuers who allow cosigners on new accounts are few and far between. If you're set on having a cosigner, you should start by applying for a card with one of the issuers listed above first.

Beyond getting a cosigner, however, there are several other options to consider.

Try qualifying for an unsecured credit card

While a cosigner might leave you feeling more secure, it may be possible to qualify for an unsecured credit card on your own. Depending on your credit history, you may be approved right away, approved after an initial discovery period, or denied for an unsecured credit card altogether.

Since most credit card approvals go to those with good or excellent credit, it can help you find out where you stand ahead of time.

If you feel your score and credit history may be sufficient to qualify for a card on your own, you may want to start researching cards to find the best deal. The "right" card is different for everyone, so you should look for one that aligns with your spending habits and needs.

Also: The best unsecured credit cards available today

Become an authorized user

If getting a new card with a cosigner proves more challenging than you thought, consider becoming an authorized user instead. In this case, you would ask someone -- probably the person who was willing to cosign for you -- to add you to an existing credit card account.

This process works similarly to getting a cosigner in that you'll receive your own credit card and have the opportunity to build a credit history with the three credit reporting agencies.

The downside to becoming an authorized user is that your responsible use of credit won't boost your score as much as if you were the primary account holder. It also carries a similar relationship risk to cosigning: the primary cardholder is solely responsible for repayment, regardless of what you, as an authorized user, charge on the card. 

Also: Authorized users vs. joint accounts: What's the difference?

While this may not be a problem if everyone treats credit with respect and responsibility, the situation could get dicey if you charge more than you can afford and don't pay it back.

Get a secured credit card

If the options above don't work for you, then you can also consider a secured credit card. Unlike unsecured credit cards that extend a line of credit, secured credit cards offer credit in exchange for a cash deposit that acts as collateral if you don't pay your bill.

Because it's less risky for the bank, it's much easier to qualify for a secured credit card -- once you do, your cash deposit will generally be equal to your credit limit. So, if you put $500 down on your secured credit card, you'll be able to charge up to $500 on your card. With this setup, your cash deposit serves as collateral.

Also: The best secured credit cards for your business

While that may not sound ideal -- especially if you don't have $500 to put down -- secured credit cards do offer people with bad credit or a limited credit history the opportunity to build (or rebuild) good credit safely. And when you improve your credit score enough, you can usually upgrade your secured credit card or apply for a new unsecured credit card that suits your needs better. 

Either way, you'll receive your cash deposit back in full as long as you don't default on your account.

[This article was first published on The Simple Dollar in 2020. It was updated in March 2022.]

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