Editorial Policy

Can I Boot My Wife From My Credit Card?

Erica Sandberg

July 5, 2012

ADear Erica,

Does my wife have a right to use my credit card? We are separated and are in the middle of a divorce. She has no credit cards of her own and has always used mine, as she is a user on the card. One of the reasons we are divorcing is that she is a compulsive shopper. She has never worked, spends all my money and has made us go broke time and time again. Can she use the credit cards till the bitter end though? — Dan

QHi Dan,

No, Dan, by virtue of marriage alone, your wife does not possess automatic and permanent permission to borrow money in your name. When you added her as an authorized user on the account, she became a guest. And as the old saying goes, guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days. Therefore, it’s probably time to formally say goodbye. Here’s why and what to do.Ask Erica

It appears that you’re the account’s sole owner, which puts you at an advantage. You get to decide when to let someone on board and when to remove them. It is absolutely your decision. Yes, she’s been using the card and has grown accustomed to charging with it at will, and that can feel like a right. However, unless the credit card company issued the card to both of you as equal co-signers, the account remains yours.

Because you’re worried that your wife will continue to rack up balances, get on the phone with your bank immediately and request that she is relieved of her guest status. Once done, she won’t be able to charge with the card and your problem will be solved.

Then, let her know that you’ve done so.

Still, since the two of you are living in different homes, I do think you should consider making the arrangement formal and file for legal separation. You can go to court and have it done or have your attorney do it. These agreements are not recognized in all states, but if your state doesn’t recognize it, your lawyer may still be able to draw up a binding separation agreement. I encourage you to go this route because it can help the two of you create individual financial lives.

Such a document will separate joint debts (helpful if you have other loans together, such as a car note or mortgage) and stipulate which of you should pay the bill. And unless you live in a community property state (Alaska, Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington and Wisconsin), a legal separation agreement will absolve you of responsibility for any credit card debt that your wife acquires in her own name from that point forward.

Splitting up can be a horrendously painful and complicated process. Expensive, too. I hope the two of you can move forward and create wonderful, prosperous lives.

Got a question for Erica? Send her an email.