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Separation and divorce

Joint credit cards: What are your rights if you break up?

A joint credit card can make it easier for couples to manage their finances together. If there’s a breakup, however, it’s important to find out who's responsible for the existing or future balance and, if necessary, what steps need to be taken to terminate the relevant obligations.

Who is responsible for the credit card balance if you break up?

The answer to this question depends on the contract you signed with the financial institution that issued your credit card (“issuer”).

Two scenarios are possible:

  • You and your ex are “co-borrowers”. It means that you and your ex applied for a credit card together. In this scenario, you’re both responsible to the issuer for the credit card balance, whether the purchases were made before the separation or after. Therefore, if one of you doesn’t pay his or her share, the other is required to pay the full balance, regardless of who made the purchases.
  • One of you is the “primary cardholder” and the other is the “authorized user”. In this scenario, the primary cardholder is responsible for paying for all purchases made with the card, even if he or she has never used the card and the authorized user is the one who made the purchases.

Not sure? Check your contract or call the financial institution that issued your credit card.

An exception for married couples

Although in principle, the credit card holder is solely liable for debts owed to the issuer, there’s an exception for married couples. When purchases are made for the family’s everyday needs, both spouses are responsible for them. Therefore, as long as you’re still married, the card issuer could seek payment from you if your spouse is unable to pay the balance, even if the card is your spouse’s personal credit card. It’s very rare for a credit card issuer to take this kind of step, however.


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The information presented on this page is not a legal opinion or legal advice. This page explains in a general way the law that applies in Quebec. To obtain a legal opinion or legal advice on your personal situation, consult a legal professional.

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