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Many couples take out some form of joint debt or loan. But although it may mean you can borrow more between you than if one of you took out the loan on your own, it’s a serious step because each of you could be asked to repay the entire debt in full if the other person can't.

What types of loans and debt can be taken out jointly?

There are several different types of loans and debt that can be taken out jointly, including:

  • secured loans, such as a mortgage
  • unsecured loans, such as a personal loan from a bank or other lender
  • joint bank accounts where there's an overdraft facility.

Joint and several liability explained

You might think that when you take out a joint loan or debt with someone else that you’re only responsible for your ‘half’ or share, but that’s not the case. If you sign a credit agreement (a contract) for a loan or overdraft, for example, with someone else you each agree to pay off the whole debt if the other(s) can’t – or won’t.

It doesn’t matter who spent the money, or who now owns the item or items you bought with the joint loan or overdraft.

It also doesn't matter whether you're married, in a civil partnership or even if you're not in a relationship at all, as explained in the two examples below.

  • If your husband, wife or partner passes away, any joint mortgage will still need to be repaid by you.
  • If you break up with your unmarried partner, they could still run up a debt on a joint bank account if there's an overdraft facility and leave you with the total bill.

What about credit cards? Can they be taken out jointly?

Credit cards can't be taken out jointly in the UK, even if you and your partner both have a card. There's always one person (the main cardholder) who's signed the agreement, which means they're responsible for paying off the debt in full.

The main cardholder can let someone else have a credit card on the same account. Still, the so-called secondary cardholder doesn't have a legal responsibility to make any payments to the credit card company.

Can a joint application improve your chances of getting credit?

Applying jointly for a loan can sometimes increase your chances of getting credit. However, you may want to consider not applying together if one of you has a poor credit rating.

Once you have a joint debt with someone else, your credit file will be linked to theirs. This means that if you want to apply for a loan in your own name in the future, the lender would be able to see the other person’s credit history and take that into account as well as your own.

It’s a good idea for both of you to check your credit rating before taking out any joint credit.