A primary account holder is the individual who is legally responsible for all charges made to a credit or debit card account. They are the person who applies for the account, and it is their financial profile that is considered for account approval. With most financial accounts, the primary account holder has the option to allow for the issuance of additional cards to authorized users. With authorized users, the primary account holder is still fully liable for all charges on the account, including charges made by both the primary account holder and any authorized users.

Breaking down a Primary Account Holder

Primary account holder procedures and liabilities can differ across various types of accounts. The two main accounts set up by an individual primary account holder include checking accounts and credit card accounts.

Checking Accounts

Checking accounts typically require less of a detailed background check for approval than a credit card account. These accounts, however, will request a variety of personal information from the primary account holder for approval, including full name, address, and social security number. A primary account holder approved for a checking account will receive a debit card and checks. A debit card is typically the primary way account holders make payments and access their funds. Primary account holders have the option to add an authorized user which provides an additional card for each user.

Credit Card Accounts

In a credit card account, the primary account holder is the person who applies for the credit card and whose credit score the issuer considers when deciding whether to extend credit. The primary account holder may request that the credit card company issue additional cards to authorized users, but the issuer will not pursue authorized users for any unpaid balances. The primary account holder also has the authority to discuss account details with the credit card issuer, dispute transactions, request a credit line increase, redeem cash back or reward points, and close the account.

Joint Accounts

Some financial institutions will offer joint accounts that allow two individuals to both be considered primary account holders. In a joint account, each account holder can be held responsible for the charges made on the account and not just for the portion he or she personally charged to the account with his or her name on it. Joint accounts are often common for married couples or family members. In a joint account, either individual can also add authorized users to the account. Either joint account holder would then be held responsible for all charges made by any authorized users.