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Letting others use your credit cards common, survey says

Daniel Ray

Have you ever voluntarily handed over your credit card to someone else for them to use?

A new survey says buying with someone else’s card is fairly common — but I had no idea how common until I checked with some of the staff writers and editors.


According to the survey by Jumio Consumer Insights, 29 percent of Americans confess they’ve made some sort of purchase with the credit or debit card of a friend or family — either with or without permission.

Who’s more likely to do this friendly card trading? Women are more likely than men to use someone else’s card, by 33 percent to 24 percent. But youth is the biggest determiner of the “what’s yours is mine” syndrome. Among young people, 51 percent of those in the 18-34 age bracket say they’ve done it. Getting sticky-fingered with credit cards apparently becomes more pronounced with age: Just 30 percent of those age 35 to 44 say they’ve made such a purchase. It continues to drop in older age brackets, down to 21 percent among those 45-54. Among those 55 and older, just 16 percent say they’ve used someone else’s card.

If a lot of people are using someone else’s card, who’s giving them out? And why? I asked those questions of members of the staffers, who by the nature of their jobs become well aware of the dangers of credit card fraud and identity theft.

I half expected audible gasps or reactions like, “What, are you insane? Let someone else use my card?” But nope. Just about all of us will — at least occasionally, sometimes reluctantly — part with their cards and let someone else use them.

Our newest and youngest staffer, researcher Allie Brady, has been freest about card-swapping among friends. She says:
“In college I used to loan my card out all the time. Whenever there was a big group studying, everyone would give their cards to the one or two people who were making a coffee/food run with a sticky note attached explaining what that person wanted. This also would occur at work, and now that I read that this occurs most frequently with younger people, I realized I would have to agree with that. At all my jobs there were always a variety of ages, but it was always the younger co-workers that would hand over their card for someone else to use. My older co-workers would always offer to bring something back for you and most the time have you return the favor another day or pay them cash when they returned. I think the correlation of younger people and lending cards might be a money issue. Younger people, whether they are in college or just starting out in the world, don’t have a lot of extra spending money or, especially in college, are living paycheck to paycheck, so they are unable to purchase everything on their card to be reimbursed later by their friends. Also, I feel like younger people do not carry around cash or at least as much cash as older people.”

At the other end of the spectrum was Web editor Kristin McGrath.
“I have never loaned out my card, nor have I used someone else’s. It’s not that I wouldn’t (assuming I trusted the person). It’s just that I’ve (luckily) never been in an emergency situation that warranted it. And that’s the only time I’d hand it over — in an emergency. Even when my parents let me use their cards for online purchases, they’d be in the room when I typed in the info, and then the card went right back in the wallet.”

The rest of us were somewhere in between.
“Yes, I have loaned out my credit card — to my son, for a purchase that I approved. However, he was turned down at the store when they asked for ID that didn’t match. He wasn’t arrested or anything, just denied the sale.
I remember using my father’s credit card when I was in my 20s, with his permission. It was a gas card. Back then, card fraud wasn’t as big a deal. I don’t believe I was ever questioned using it.” — Managing Editor Julie Sherrier

“I’ve never been in a situation where I needed to loan or borrow a credit card. I guess the closest to borrowing a card was when my wife and I bought our living room furniture. My mother-in-law insisted on purchasing the set on her card so she could rack up some points. Our cards are plain vanilla cards with no points or rewards programs affiliated with them. Of course we paid her back for the purchase.” — Multimedia editor Juan Rodriguez

“I’ve used my sister’s card a number of times. The most recent incident I can remember is using her card to pay for the hotel we were putting my dad up in when he visited this summer. I paid for his flight and my sister paid for the hotel. She didn’t have time to make the reservation, so I did it online, using the card info she gave me.” — Assistant Managing Editor Yasmin Ghahremani

“I have a debit card for my parents’ account. When I worked in Corpus and lived with them (a 45 minute commute), they would often ask me to pick something up to save them the trip and pay for it using their card. I don’t do this as much now that I don’t live with them, but if I find something here that they don’t have where they live, they still sometimes ask me to use their debit card to purchase it. I’ve also been roped into buying various gifts (Christmas, anniversary, birthday) for my mom from my dad, and he usually has me put them on his credit card so she won’t see them on their online banking and ruin the surprise. I’ve only ever loaned my card to my husband (our bank accounts are separate) if I need him to, say, fill up the gas tank for me or run an errand while I cook dinner. Web editor Jamie Gonzalez

As for me, yes, I’ve loaned out my card multiple times, almost always when I’m traveling with relatives or close friends and need to stop for gas. I’ll hand over my card and run into the attached convenience store to get a Kava Monster or take an urgent bathroom break, and hand over the card to my traveling companion. Since no one has to sign anything at the gas pump, there’s no danger anyone will be asked to commit an act that resembles fraud. There’s no security hurdles, except the one that gets cleared just as I get to the door, when I’ll hear over my shoulder, “What’s your ZIP code again?”

So even we savvy credit card experts are willing to swap a little bit of security when we’re in a situation where we trust the other party. We treat cards like cash, and only let those close to us spend ours. Yes, there may be consequences to letting others use your credit card (for details, see our story, “Is sharing your credit card ever OK?“), but we don’t see them as too threatening when we’re with friends and family.

What do you think? Have you ever loaned your card to someone else? What were the consequences?

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  • jazmin

    I used my sisters credit card without permission I know it was horrible of me but I was in the moment. I used my email for them to send me the confirmation stuff. But I used HER credit card will she get an email ??

    • El Flaquito Moreno Alvarez

      Well maybe she won’t get an email but for sure she will get a bill later in the mail and once that happens she will be shocked!!!

  • Carley

    Yes and now my stupid bank is threatening me. They don’t freaking care about why I let my sister who I trust and have no problems with use my card. I have never had problems letting my family use my card. We are living paycheck to paycheck and have yo constantly help each other. Banks suck and only care about themselves. They have their sweet little cushy job and heaven forbid you have to help each other sometimes.