36 million Americans were burned by sharing their credit card with someone. Here are some of their stories.
We give our family and friends far too much credit.
A new survey by CreditCards.com finds that 36 million Americans have been burned by lending their credit card to someone, with most (19%) griping that the borrower overspent, while 14% were never paid back, and 1 in 10 complained that the user never even returned the card, let alone the cash.
“Once that card leaves your hand, that person has the freedom to charge whatever they feel like, no matter what budget you allotted to them,” Jerry Nemorin, CEO of online debt restructuring service LendStreet, told Moneyish. “I have one client with more than $50,000 in credit card debt because she was sharing her card with her spouse (they are now getting divorced) and he was a big spender and a gambler. But the card is in her name, not his, and so it’s tanked her credit.”
Kristin, 36, who declined to give her last name, is another such cautionary tale. The Florida mom is still trying to dig herself out of the financial hole her ex-boyfriend put her in a decade ago when she gave him access to her credit card to buy the two of them hockey tickets. They’d been together for four years and were cohabitating, so she thought that she could trust him.
“My mindset was, ‘oh we’ll get married one day,’” she told Moneyish. She didn’t set any ground rules for using the card because he was out of work due to an injury, and, “I was trying to be the ‘good wife’ and show I could support us both.”
But he racked up $2,000 in charges over the course of a year on hockey tickets ($100 or more apiece for prime seats), and many were in other states, which also required pricey plane tickets and hotel stays — where, adding insult to financial injury, he was also cheating on her.
“I took the card away, but he had the information saved,” said Kristin. He kept spending without paying her back, and she couldn’t keep up with the payments because she was also mired in hospital bills from a recent surgery. She claimed bankruptcy in 2005, and has been trying to repair her credit history with her new (and more financially responsible) husband ever since.
“It took forever to rebuild my credit. It was hard to get a car, and impossible to buy a house once I was married. It only came off my credit report three years ago,” she said.
That’s why Jenny, 42, a management assistant in Manhattan, will never share her credit or debit card with anybody; not even to go on a coffee run. “You wouldn’t give someone a checkbook full of blank signed checks, so why would you give them your credit card?” she told Moneyish.
She’s especially skittish ever since a thief once skimmed her debit card and did $5,000 in damage in just a few hours. “Wiped our checking account,” she said. “The bank made good on it, but it took weeks to straighten out. No one needs that mess in their life.”
Yet CreditCards.com found that about half of us (49%) have loaned our cards out to our spouses/partners (39% of respondents), children (21%), friends (9%) and co-workers (4%) to make a purchase, despite knowing the risks.
“There’s been a time in almost every relationship where someone said, ‘Go ahead and take my card’ when somebody forgot their wallet or something like that,” Matt Schulz, CreditCards.com’s senior industry analyst, told Moneyish. “But what people often fail to understand is that no matter who uses the card, if your name is on it, you are the one responsible for making sure it gets paid.”
And Millennials are most likely to hand over their cards – which also made them the most likely age group to admit their cards were lost or stolen. People with higher incomes were also less likely to say that they had been burned by sharing their cards.
“It stands to reason that if you have more money, you probably have more financial margin for error, so it’s OK for you to loan that card out,” suggested Schulz. “Younger people generally make less money, and they are often still financially inexperienced, so they are more likely to get burned than someone older who has learned who is risky for you to lend your card to.”
But more senior citizens are also carrying debt today than ever before, warns the National Council on Aging, which reports that median total debt for older adult houses more than doubled to $40,900 between 2001 and 2013. In fact, Americans took on a record $92.2 billion in debt last year, and WalletHub reports that the average U.S. household owes $8,600 on credit cards, so consumers should think twice before shouldering someone else’s expenses right now.
So how can you share the wealth while still protecting yourself?
Lend cash instead of credit. “If your daughter wants to borrow your card to go to brunch, take her to the ATM and just give her $30 instead,” suggested Nemorin. You still may never see that $30 again, but at least your loss is limited to that amount. “It does create a ceiling of what your risk is,” added Schulz.
Cap a partner’s credit limit. If you want to add a partner or a child to your credit card to help him or her build their own credit, see if your creditor will give you different credit limits to keep spending under control. “Giving the other person a lower credit limit than your maximum line is one way to mitigate that potential damage,” said Nemorin.
Transfer funds over money-sharing apps, instead. If going to the ATM is too much of a hassle, loan someone some dough over money-sharing apps like Venmo and PayPal. Venmo will let you transfer funds instantly to someone’s linked Visa or MasterCard debit card for a 25-cent fee. Plus, if you feel awkward about asking for money back, these apps include “request payment” features that send the borrower a text or notification reminding him or her to pay you back.
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