Why you shouldn’t lend out your debit card to a friend


Sally Herigstad is a certified public accountant and the author of “Help! I Can’t Pay My Bills: Surviving a Financial Crisis” (St. Martin’s Press, 2006). She writes “To Her Credit,” a weekly reader Q&A column about issues involving women, credit and debt, for CreditCards.com, and also wrote for MSN Money, Interest.com and Bankrate.com, and has guested on Martha Stewart Radio and other programs.

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QuestionDear To Her Credit,
I have a friend of mine who asked me for my
debit card. She wants to use it because she wants to add funds to an account to
talk to an inmate she’s not supposed to talk to according to the law. My
question is, can I get in trouble for letting her borrow the card? – Lorraine


Dear Lorraine,
Yes, you can get in trouble. You can get in trouble letting
someone use your debit card even without the criminal justice system being
involved. Here are a few things that can go wrong:

  • Your friend can lose your card. If she does,
    she’ll be embarrassed – perhaps too embarrassed to tell you right away so you can
    cancel the card.
  • She can neglect to pay you back for the phone
    calls. Even a small amount can be frustrating when she assumes you can wait to
    get repaid. With a debit card, the money comes out right now. It’s not like a
    credit card that gives you until next month to pay. A few lengthy phone calls,
    and you may not have enough money in your bank account to buy gas or groceries.
  • She can have an “emergency” and use your card
    for something else. It happens all the time. Her car breaks down, her cat needs
    surgery, or the inmate needs legal fees paid. Your debit card is in her hand. A
    friend who is willing to borrow your card to break the law is a friend who could
    use your card without hesitation whenever she can rationalize doing so.
  • You could get in trouble for facilitating a
    conversation that is against the law. I don’t know why she and the inmate are
    not allowed to talk, but you are better off respecting the law. Inmates can be
    prohibited from calling people who work in the correctional system or the
    victims of their crimes, for example. You should stay far, far away from
    getting yourself involved in such a situation, no matter how sorry you feel for
    your friend.
  • You’ll never really know if the card will truly
    be used just one time. With a debit card, she could take a picture of your card
    with her phone, or write down the numbers, and stash it away. Two months from
    now, she could see something online that she needs and whip out your
    information again.
  • If your card is lost, misused or anything else
    goes wrong, your finances and good name can suffer. For example, if she uses
    your card for more money than you expected, you may not be able to pay your
    rent, or your rent check could bounce. You may fall behind on your car
    payments. Your credit report is trashed, your shelter and transportation are
    jeopardized, and you pay late charges and other fees everywhere. It could take
    years to recover from such a disaster.
  • If you give her permission to use the card and
    she misuses it, the bank may choose not step in to help if you knowingly gave her your
    card to use.

I would never, ever ask my friends or relatives if I could
borrow their debit cards. None of them have ever asked me for such a favor.
It’s not that we don’t trust each other; we know we do. (In fact, people who
demand you trust them are often the last people you should trust.) Passing debit cards around is just a bad idea. Save
yourself the grief and worry, and keep your debit card in your control at all

See related: Debit card fraud can leave you in a lurch, Is sharing your credit card ever OK?

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