What You Can do When Authorized Users go Wild With Your Credit Card

Dear Credit Care,

I added a friend as an authorized user on my credit cards, as he was new to the country and was yet to receive even his first paycheck. He was using it wisely the first month and was paying back at least a portion of it in a timely manner. The next month, he made several bulk purchases and now owes me a lot of money. He has cut off communication with me by phone or chat. After I sent him a couple of emails asking him to send me the money, he has sent me money enough to cover the minimum balances. And I received a final email from him almost a month back saying that he will give me all the money soon. 

I have asked him when he would be able to pay me back and haven't received any reply from him regarding this. Neither has he sent me any money to cover the minimum amount due for this month. I called from a different phone number, and he picked up the call, but after hearing my voice, he hung up and hasn't replied to my emails until now. I've always paid off my balance in full and now, because of this pending payment, my credit is getting affected. Now, how should I handle this situation? I really appreciate your help. Thank you. 

- Vignesh

Dear Vignesh,

Unfortunately, to protect your credit you are going to have to make at least the minimum payment due on your credit card account. If you don't, your creditor may report the account as late and, depending on your current score, that could damage your credit score by 60 to 110 points. You will want to avoid a late payment if possible.

Next, if you have not already done so, call your credit card issuer and have your friend removed from your account and his card cancelled. Since you're the primary account holder, you should be able to do this easily by yourself, and the user's access to the card will be cut off. The last thing you need is for your friend to continue adding to your account balance. (For more on this, check out "How to remove an authorized user from a credit card account.")

You have some options for dealing with the amount your friend charged on your account and has not paid. One, you can chalk this up to an expensive lesson learned about allowing friends to have access to your credit accounts and pay the balance on your card. Two, you can keep trying to communicate with your friend and see if he will pay anything. You could try emailing him to say you understand that he may be having difficulty with payment and that you are willing to work with him. However, you will need a good faith commitment from him that he will pay what he can each month and is willing to communicate with you about the debt.

Third, you may consider sending your friend a certified letter stating that you plan to sue in small claims court for the amount he charged on your account. (Small claims courts have a cap on how much you can sue, so if your friend owes more that the cap for your county's court, you will only be able to sue for the cap amount.) Although it sounds as if you have little more than a verbal agreement with your friend that he would pay what he charged on your account, a verbal agreement is typically considered a binding agreement. It should not cost much to file a claim in small claims court (typically $100 or less) and may be worth your time and effort to pursue. You can learn how to file at the websites of your state attorney general or county courthouse. If nothing else, sending the certified letter to your friend will let him know that you are serious about him paying what he owes. Of course, once the courts are involved, it may be even more difficult to maintain the friendship. So, if that is a goal of yours, you might not want to file a claim in court.

Handle your credit with care!