Experts: Who Should, and Shouldn’t, Have Access to Your Credit Card?

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Giving someone access to your credit card is not a decision to be taken lightly. Even family members you think you can trust could end up misusing your credit card if you aren’t careful.

For example, this mother lamented her son’s $600 spending spree. Her son was 21 years old and got his hands on his grandfather’s credit card — without his mother’s knowledge. Now, $600 is a significant amount of money, but given the circumstances, things could have been much worse. And while it may be possible to dispute credit card charges, there’s no guarantee you will get your money back.

There are a few rare cases where giving someone access to your credit card might make sense. However, given the risks, it’s best to exercise serious caution before doing so.

Think Twice Before Giving Access

As a general rule, it’s best to avoid giving just anyone access to your credit card. “When it comes to who should have access to your credit card, it’s important to be selective,” said Dennis Shirshikov, professor of finance, economics, and accounting at City University of New York (CUNY). “Only those you trust and have a strong financial relationship with, such as a spouse or partner, should have access to your credit card account.”

But even when you have a close relationship with someone, it’s important to set the right expectations, Shirshikov said. “It’s also important to have clear communication and set clear guidelines for usage, such as what types of purchases are allowed and setting spending limits.”

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In addition, most experts agree you shouldn’t hand your credit card to your teenager. This is because teenagers are young and often haven’t yet formed responsible spending habits. Instead, it’s often best to start children with cash or a debit card, so they have a hard limit on their spending.

The bottom line is that you shouldn’t casually give your credit card to just anyone who wants it. Be very selective about your choice and have a discussion with anyone who has access to your card about how and when they should use it.

Who Should Have Access to Your Credit Card?

As we’ve established, you should think carefully before giving anyone access to your credit card. However, there are certain situations where it might make sense to do this. “For example, if you’re traveling and need someone to make purchases on your behalf or if you’re sharing expenses with a partner or family member,” Shirshikov said.

There are some specific scenarios in which sharing credit cards might make sense, but you should exercise caution. “In limited cases, like with an elderly person who needs someone to purchase groceries, it may be a necessary choice but in most cases it rarely ends well,” said Solomon Lax, CEO of Revenued, a venture capital firm.

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On the other hand, some experts say only your spouse should have access to your credit card. “Some people will have their children as authorized users, but if they overspend on the card, the cardholder is still responsible. At least you and your spouse are both typically responsible for the bills,” said Jennifer Streaks, senior personal finance reporter at Business Insider.

There isn’t a universal agreement around who should have access to your credit card or in which situations it’s a good idea. Still, the overarching theme is you should think carefully before giving someone access to it. And even then, make sure everyone involved knows how the card will be used and for what purposes.

Pros and Cons of Giving Access to Your Credit Card

Like most financial decisions, there are pros and cons of giving someone your credit card. Here is a quick look at the pros and cons:

Pros

  • Convenience: Sharing your credit card can be convenient, and in some cases, it might be worth doing for this reason. For example, if you and your spouse have shared finances, you are both responsible for charges either partner puts on a credit card.
  • Pay while away: If you will be away, you may decide to give your credit card to someone. Perhaps you will be out of the country and won’t be able to pay for your expenses while you are away.
  • Help those in need: Sometimes, people aren’t physically capable of making purchases, like when they are sick or injured or when they are elderly. In these situations, giving access to your credit card to buy things you need can be helpful.
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Cons

  • Increased financial risk: The most obvious risk of giving your credit card to someone is putting yourself in financial risk. Even people you think you can trust could end up using your card irresponsibly.
  • Could damage relationships: If you give your credit card to a friend or family member and they misuse it, you run the risk of damage to that relationship. In extreme cases, your relationships could be permanently damaged.

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