Credit Cards

A Basic Guide to Supplementary Credit Cards

Get the Best Credit Cards in Singapore

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Supplementary credit cards can make a great addition to a principal credit card account. However, there are quite a few risks that come along with the associated benefits. The guide below discusses how and when to effectively use supplementary credit cards.

Table of Contents:

What is a Supplementary Credit Card?

If you currently have your own credit card, chances are you're eligible to apply for an accompanying supplementary credit card. These cards are usually reserved for a family member, especially a spouse or child. Supplementary cards also typically share the same rewards structure as the principal card, allowing cardholders to boost overall earnings. On the other hand, supplementary cardholders can enjoy special perks and privileges associated with the principal card.

In general, it's now possible to apply for most supplementary cards online, or by simply mailing in an application form. Primary cardholders may even earn bonus miles or extra cashback for each successful application. Finally, most–but not all–supplementary credit cards are either free or have a very low annual fee, making them an attractive addition to an account.

Examples of Credit Cards with Free Supplementary Cards

Credit CardPrincipal Annual FeeSupplementary Annual Fee
HSBC RevolutionS$160.5S$0.0
Citi PMVS$192.6S$0.0
SC Unlimited CashbackS$192.6S$0.0

How Does a Supplementary Card Actually Work?

Supplementary credit cards are fairly easy to use, but do not work in exactly the same way as a principal card. As mentioned, most supplementary cards share the same rewards structure as the primary card; if the primary offers 5% rebate on dining, so too does the supplementary card. However, transactions on a supplementary credit card are consolidated and reflected in the primary cardholder's statement. Therein, the primary cardholder bears responsibility for all posted purchases and fees.

Rewards earned are also processed differently. The 5% rebate earned from a supplementary cardholder's dining spend, for example, is credited back to the primary cardholder's account. In the case of cashback, the cumulative earnings are usually applied to offset the next month's consolidated bill. With travel cards, however, all miles accrued are directed to the primary cardholder's account, and only he or she can redeem them. The distribution of rewards is a topic worth discussing before agreeing to share a supplementary card with a family member.

Sharing a Supplementary Card with a Spouse or Child

As mentioned, supplementary credit cards are most typically used by a spouse or child. For a spouse, a supplementary card offers an opportunity to boost rewards overall as a couple, while also minimising annual fees. This is especially true for expensive cards, where total fees average out to a more moderate sum between two people. Supplementary cardholders can also enjoy added perks associated with the primary account, unless otherwise stated. It's still important to review the principal card's terms and conditions as benefits like free airport lounge visits may not carry over in an equivalent way.

Selection of Luxury Supplementary Credit Cards

Credit Card
  • Annual Fee
  • (Principal)
  • Supp. Fee
  • (1st Card)
  • Avg Cost
  • Per Person
Shared Perks
SC Visa InfiniteS$588.5S$0.0S$294.25
  • Spa discounts,
  • yacht privileges
Citi PrestigeS$535.0S$0.0S$267.50
  • JetQuay access,
  • Citi Concierge
UOB PRVI Miles AmexS$256.8S$0.0S$128.40Free limo transfers
Rates, fees and perks as of 2019. Average cost assumes 2 people, principal and supplementary cardholder

While sharing a supplementary card with a spouse is a great way to quickly earn rewards without extra fees or maintenance, sharing such a card with a child deals more with supporting their development. Supplementary cardholders typically must be at least 16 to 18 years old, and their spend is reported in the principal cardholder's monthly statement. Sometimes, principal cardholders can set a separate credit limit for supplementary cardholders, which minimises overall risk. However, it's essential to keep a close eye on monthly statements and remain engaged with a child's spending behaviour. Ultimately, the principal cardholder is accountable for all transactions made on the account.

Benefits and Drawbacks of a Supplementary Card

Overall, supplementary credit cards come with both benefits and drawbacks. The best feature is perhaps that spend on a supplementary card often counts toward the primary cardholder's minimum spend requirements, or even minimums for an annual fee-waiver. The paired power of spend on two cards also boosts overall earnings without a great deal of maintenance. Supplementary cards are often free or have a much smaller annual fee, and because transactions are consolidated, there's typically just one bill to deal with.

On the other hand, supplementary cards can be quite risky in the wrong hands. The principal cardholder assumes responsibility for the spend of all supplementary cardholders. Additionally, while some cards allow for customisation, many state that credit limit is ultimately shared. This means a supplementary cardholder can max out spend on their card, putting the primary cardholder in a tight position (plus left on the hook to pay off the bill). Finally, credit cards with tight earnings caps may be maxed out more quickly. If a consumer is already reaching the monthly cap on their own, they're unlikely to earn extra rewards from adding a supplementary cardholder.

Overall, the best scenario for using a supplementary card is when the primary card is expensive and does not have a rewards cap (typically, miles-earning and unlimited cashback cards). It's important to only share supplementary cards with trusted individuals who have shown themselves to be financially responsible.

Carrie Arndt

Carrie is a Senior Analyst at ValueChampion, helping consumers find the best credit cards and other financial products based on quantitative and qualitative analysis. She previously led consumer studies worldwide as a Senior Research Executive at MMR Research, and led development & operations and BellaVetro. She attended Duke University and Penn State University, graduating with a degree in Political Science and Government. Her work has been featured on a variety of major media such as Yahoo Finance, Asia One, Buro, Zuu Online and more.

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