Can You Apply for a Credit Card With a Cosigner?

If you’re trying to get a credit card, but your credit history isn’t as good as you wish it was, applying with a cosigner on 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.

Unfortunately, many credit card issuers don’t allow cosigners at all, even on student cards. And anyway, 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 cards allow you to apply with a cosigner, which don’t, and some additional options to consider if a cosigner is out of the question.

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    Credit Card Issuers That Allow a Cosigner

    Among the major credit card issuers, only a handful, such as Bank of America and Wells Fargo, permit you to apply with a cosigner:

    Credit Card IssuerCo-Signer Allowed?Details
    American ExpressNoAuthorized users must be at least 15-years-old.
    Bank of AmericaYes
    BarclaycardNoAuthorized users must be at least 13-years-old.
    Capital OneNo
    U.S. BankYes
    Wells FargoYes

    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 these issuers first.

    Beyond getting a cosigner, however, there are several other options to consider. Depending on your own credit score and history, some options may work better than others.

    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. And if your credit is lacking, take some steps to raise your credit score before applying if possible.

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    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. While the “right” card is different for everyone, a little bit of searching can lead you to a card that aligns with your spending habits and needs.

    Become an Authorized User

    If getting a new card with a cosigner proves harder 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. While being an authorized user can impact your credit in a positive way, the influence isn’t quite as great. 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. 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 you’re unable to qualify for an unsecured credit card and can’t find someone to cosign for you or add you as an authorized user, 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 to protect the bank 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 set-up, your cash deposit serves as collateral.

    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 safely build (or rebuild) good credit. 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.

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    Holly Johnson

    Contributing Writer

    Holly Johnson is a frugality expert and award-winning writer who is obsessed with personal finance and getting the most out of life. A lifelong resident of Indiana, she enjoys gardening, reading, and traveling the world with her husband and two children. In addition to The Simple Dollar, Holly writes for well-known publications such as U.S. News & World Report Travel, PolicyGenius, Travel Pulse, and Frugal Travel Guy. Holly also owns Club Thrifty.