Editorial Policy

Can I Give My Cards to a Friend for Safekeeping?

Erica Sandberg

June 27, 2013

QDear Erica,

How weird would it be to ask a friend to hold my credit cards for me while I try to work on my addiction to them? I don't want to close them since it will hurt my credit, but if I have them in my purse or at home I'll use them. Is it dangerous to give them to someone else? I trust her and she's offered, but it feels like I'm breaking some sort of rule. I'm not saying she will use them — but if she did, would I have to pay because I gave them to her? — Gretchen

AHi Gretchen,

What a dramatic solution to your charging compulsion! Would you also instruct that person not to relinquish your cards no matter how hard you were to beg?

In all seriousness, though, while unique, your proposed method is, I think, pretty weird. In fact, placing credit cards in a bowl of water and then freezing the entire affair is a commonly recommended way to force impulsive cardholders to pause (and thaw) before swiping. That's considerably odder, in my opinion.Ask Erica

As for implementing your idea, I'm not totally opposed to it. Allowing another person to have access to your personal plastic is not against the rules. But while you wouldn't be breaking any laws, it could have unintended repercussions that might lead to legal issues.

Let's say the keeper of the cards did spend with them without your approval. In that case, you would not be held liable for that portion of the bill. The charges would be fraudulent, and you could contest them with the credit card issuer. Still, because you'd have to file a police report, it would be messy. You would have to admit that you gave your friend your cards for safekeeping, which the card issuer would most likely frown upon. If the fraudulent charges are high enough, you run the risk of the issuer holding that “lapse in judgment” against you. Either way, your friendship will probably be ruined.

If you do want to give your cards to your friend for safekeeping, you can keep abuse at bay by drawing up a contract that specifies all of your terms. Include details like “I am giving my credit cards to Jane Doe to hold for three months. During this time, not a single person, including me, is allowed to use them for anything, for any reason.” Date the paperwork. Both you and your friend should sign it. If your friend were to break the agreement and go shopping with your cards, proving fraud will be easier with this written evidence.

That said, I don't think your plan is a terrible one, but it does place quite a burden on someone else. Simpler and safer solutions are available to you. For example, you might cut up your cards with a pair of scissors. That way, the accounts stay open, but you have nothing to charge with — assuming you can resist the urge to call the card company and ask for replacement cards.

You could also call the credit card company and explain what you want to achieve. Perhaps it will suspend the credit line for a fixed period of time. The bank doesn't want you to go overboard any more than you do. Nonprofit credit counseling organizations can give sound advice and education about how to manage credit cards mindfully, and their services are free.

Whether you surrender your cards to your friend or not, consider working on your addiction in a supportive, professional environment. I strongly suggest that you contact Debtors Anonymous and attend a meeting. There you will find people who can help you understand why you have such a hard time controlling your charging and support others in their own endeavors to treat their money and credit in healthy ways. You are not alone in your desire to break the plastic habit, so find power in numbers.

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