Editorial Policy

Hiding a card from your partner may not be worth the risk

Erica Sandberg

September 30, 2014

QHi Erica,

My husband and I have perfect credit, but we only have combined credit cards. We are very respectful of the cards and do not hold debt. I want to have no-downtime cosmetic work that costs $3,500. My husband would never approve. He loves me the way I am and believes I'm beautiful and would think it is a waste of money.

For the first time ever, I went behind his back. I opened a credit card in my name. I could not believe how easy it was! I used your website, found a good credit card, put all my (not my husband's) information in and in a minute, I was approved for a $10,000 limit. I was literally shaking. If I spend $3,000 in three months (which I obviously will), I will have a $400 credit, so that is already a discount built in. My plan is to put the procedure on the private card and pay it off in a few months, tops, and then close it.

Can my husband find out about the credit card and what I'm putting on it? The procedure is supposed to make me look refreshed, so he may not even notice and if he does, I'll just say I got a facial. As you can see, I have this all planned out. The only thing I worry about is him knowing about the credit card and cost. Thank you. —Amy

ADear Amy,

In an ideal world, you would be upfront with your spouse: “Honey, I know you adore me the way I am, but I am unhappy with my appearance. To correct it, I want a procedure that costs a few thousand dollars. We can afford it. Let's talk about the financial aspect.”Ask Erica

I recognize that something like this is not so easy to say. Beauty and self-esteem are sensitive subjects. However, I'm torn about the ethics of going behind your partner's back financially. As a rule, honesty is always the best policy. You probably wouldn't like it if your husband hid his desires and took an action that had the potential to affect your merged finances.

Then again, you have individual rights. Being married doesn't mean you have to gain approval from the other person to open a credit card, go under the knife or even spend a certain amount of money. To make it work, though, you should both be fine with a certain level of autonomy.

So, is it possible for your husband to learn about the new credit card on his own? The answer is yes, but only under certain circumstances.

When you applied for the credit card, the issuer used your income and credit information to see if you qualified. It then granted the account to you as an individual. Therefore, it will show up on your consumer credit reports and be factored into your credit scores and not your husband's. The statements will be mailed to you, but if you arrange to have them sent electronically to a private email address, I suppose it's unlikely he'll see them — but this seems to be a scary way to live.

But the jig would really be up if you couldn't make the payments. Then, you'd be holding onto a major balance and might have to go to your husband for help. Otherwise, the account would go delinquent, and the creditor would come after you. First come collection calls (will you leap to the phone each time it rings?) and then letters to your home (can you really circumvent the mail?). Or worse, they might sue you. If you live in a community property state, your husband can be liable for debt he never signed for or didn't even know about.

I have no idea of how he would react to finding out what you did, but you do. Decide what you want to do from this point. You can close the card now and save cash for the procedure — while still getting it done on the sly — or keep it open and go forward, knowing all of the risks.

In the event you follow through with your plan, remember that the account, even when paid down and canceled, will remain on your credit report. If you two want to finance something together in the future and need to share files, he'll see it.

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