Should I encourage my wife to build her own credit history?

Dear James,

After many years of having an additional credit card for my wife on my account, I read that it can be a problem when I die as my wife would have to create a completely new credit record. I want life to continue as normal for her. Should she apply for a separate card now?

Keith, Oxford

Dear Keith,

This can be a problem and it’s very sensible and considerate of you to give this some thought. There’s is no such thing as a joint credit card. Any spending on your card by your wife as an additional cardholder remains entirely your responsibility and counts only towards your credit history. As a result, the credit history built up via this card will not benefit your wife after your death. These days it is tremendously important to build and maintain a good credit history. Because so many organisations now share repayment information through credit reference agencies like Experian, a credit check that reveals an empty credit report is likely to be problematic. Arranging for your wife to obtain a credit card of her own should certainly help navigate this potential pitfall. It might also be helpful to encourage your wife to order her credit report to see what, if any, credit history she has managed to build so far. (November 2012)

James
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