Editorial Policy

Lending Credit Card to Boyfriend Backfires

Erica Sandberg

May 28, 2013

QDear Erica,

I lent my boyfriend my credit card so he could buy DJ equipment. He bought $3,000 worth. He was supposed to pay me back, but he didn't, and I don't have the money to pay the bill. Now I owe more than $4,000, and I'm getting calls night and day. This is not my fault at all. I'm afraid they will take my car, but I need it for work and my baby. What should I do now? I told them to go after my boyfriend, but they won't listen to me. Please help. — Noelle

AHi Noelle,

I'm sorry to say that you are indeed accountable for the situation you're in. You made the conscious decision to hand your personal credit card to someone else. It wasn't lost or stolen, then used fraudulently. Because you were a willing participant, you're responsible for the balance that the other person incurred.Ask Erica

Try not to blame the bank for not giving you a break. It certainly did nothing wrong. All it did was issue you an account, then uphold its end of the bargain when it let you borrow money. Your side of the deal involves paying back any sum you charged, either all at once or incrementally.

If you don't send at least the minimum payment, the creditor reserves the right to take action against you, the account owner — not the person you lent the card to.

Still, it does sound like Mr. DJ did give you his assurance that he'd repay you for what he spent, and he ought make good on his promise. While you should not have allowed him (or anyone else) to charge with your card, it's still not fair that he gets away with all those turntables and whatnot, leaving you with damaged credit reports and unpleasant phone calls.

If the guy doesn't pay soon, I would recommend that you inform him that he'll have to face the legal music. Get the message to him that you'll see him in small claims court if you don't start seeing payments from him by a specific date. Sometimes it takes such a threat to force the issue.

Don't be afraid of small claims court. It's not necessary to hire an attorney (in fact, you have to represent yourself in court), and the process is fairly simple. Well, simple in concept, anyway — it does involve considerable paperwork and can be annoyingly time consuming. Here is some good information about how to go about filing. It's for California, so conduct an online search for the same information for the judicial branch of your state.

You should have enough evidence to win the case. If you do, there will be a judgment against your boyfriend and he'll owe you the money to you, which you can use to pay down the debt.

In the meantime, I strongly suggest that you attempt to keep the account from going into collections (if it hasn't already) and prevent yourself from getting sued. Either could happen if you don't make a payment. If you can't swing the minimum payments, contact your credit card provider immediately. Explain that you'd like to avoid further negative action and would like to pay what you can afford.

As for your car, you won't have to worry about losing it if you don't get sued and end up with a judgment against you. Even if you do get slapped with a judgment, though, the car may still be protected. The only way a creditor can take it after winning a lawsuit would be if the car exceeds a certain value (which varies by state), and for the judge to grant the creditor the right to levy the property.

Whatever you do, do not ignore a court summons if one is served. By ignoring it, the judge will most certainly rule in the credit card issuer's (or collector's) favor. Showing up and stating your case may help minimize the damage.

What else should you do? Never let anyone use your credit card account again, of course.

Got a question for Erica? Send her an email.