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Can’t Tell if the Credit Card Account is a Joint Account or Only Authorized User. – Rene

“Dear Steve,

My F-I-L passed away recently and left my M-I-L with a huge credit card debt over $30,000.00 in three credit card companies. He was the sole owner on two accounts, but the credit card companies are hounding her to pay the debt.

On the third credit card it had both their names but I cannot tell if she is a co-owner of just an authorized user. If I ask the CC company they will probably say “yes” so they can get paid. We have sent copies of the death certificated to all three companies. My M-I-L is 78 years old and not in good health at all, living on social security of ($701) and my F-I-L left her with a small monthly pension of ($681).

1- How can I tell if my M-I-L is a co-owner or just an authorized user on the account without contacting the CC company?

2- Will my M-I-L have to pay the two other CC companies that were just in my F-I-L name?


Dear Rene,

Sounds like you’ve done everything right so far. Congratulations, but sorry for your loss.

The easiest way to see what the creditor is reporting would to get a consolidated credit report and see if that account with both names on it is reported as a J account. J = joint.

If she is just an authorized user it will appear on her credit report as an A. Make sure she does not use that credit card before this all gets sorted out. If she does and is only an authorized user I’ve seen creditors try to shift the entire debt to the authorized user.

Please post your responses and follow-up messages to me on this in the comments section below.

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About Steve Rhode

Steve Rhode
Steve Rhode is the Get Out of Debt Guy and has been helping good people with bad debt problems since 1994. You can learn more about Steve, here.
  • Rrmorales55

    Mr Steve -thank you so much- her credit report shows the account still open as “I” – By the way, I was able to get two CC Companies to “CHARGE OFF” the balances.  I contacted the third CC company and asked for a copy of the contract to show my M-I-L as a joint-user versus an authorized user, and i recieved a letter that due to the age of the account (1996) they cannot provide me a copy of the application. Still aguing with them everyday on the phone, the calls keep coming in at least twice a day.

    • Steve Rhode

      If it’s on her credit report as an “individual” account then it sounds like it is her personal responsibility.

      Charging off the balances does not eliminate the balance. That’s just an accounting function.

      Keep me posted.

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