“The trauma of a spouse’s death is bad enough; getting your credit card rejected days later because you’ve been widowed doesn’t make life any easier.”
“Most people have no idea how their credit card accounts might be affected in the case of a spouse's death.”
A Year or so ago I decided it was time to get our affairs in order and “be ready” for all the necessary legalities when either my spouse or I die. We also wanted to ease the way for our children in the event of a mutual demise. This was a personal project, a journey of self-education that I opted to share with readers, resulting in a series of three articles. Much to my (pleasant) surprise I am still hearing from people who took those articles very seriously, heeding what I learned and advocated. That’s a little disconcerting since I am by no means an authority, but I did discover a great deal and enjoyed sharing it. I have all that information in a file on my desk marked “In the Event of…” Now I need to reread it.
But there is one important thing I failed to address in those articles, a distressingly traumatic situation my cousin found herself in last year as did two friends in recent months. I could have been in the same position because I had not given serious consideration to the credit card issue.
My husband and I share our credit card account. We each have our own card with our name and differing numbers but they are linked to the same account. If one of us should lose our card, the other can still make purchases. However, if my spouse should die, I could no longer use that credit card because he is the primary holder on the account and I am only the authorized user.
Here’s how it works (information from AARP):
“Most card issuers permit only one owner of a credit card account. If additional users are added to that account — each with a separate card bearing his or her own name — those people other than the account owner are deemed “authorized users.” And if the owner of the account dies, the additional users lose their authorization.
Card companies can learn of the primary owner’s death not just through customer contacts, but also via Social Security death records and credit reporting agencies. And that’s how a spouse who has been using a credit card for decades — one issued so long ago that probably neither spouse can remember whose card it officially is — can end up without a working credit card. One way for couples to avoid this problem down the road is to make sure that each spouse is the primary holder of at least one credit card, no matter whether he or she plans to use that card regularly. Now would be a good time to go through all your cards and make sure you know the ownership status of each card. You might be surprised.”