Just because your parents feed and clothe you and put a roof over your head doesn’t mean you’re free to help yourself to their money without asking. Your parents’ credit cards, for example, are not legally yours to take and use without express permission from either parent.
When someone uses a credit card without permission from the account holder, this constitutes an unauthorized charge, according to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission. Your close relationship to your parents doesn’t make it OK for you to use their credit card to make a purchase without asking for permission. In fact, most state laws consider unauthorized use of a credit card theft, which is punishable by incarceration and fines.
If you get permission to charge something on your parents’ credit card before using it and make sure the purchase is OK, you have received prior authorization to use the credit card. Use of the credit card with prior authorization is lawful because your parents have given you permission to use it and make the charge.
The bank can hold your parents responsible for up to $50 of an unauthorized charge on a credit card. Some banks waive this maximum and don’t hold a cardholder responsible for any unauthorized charges. If you use your parents’ credit card number to make a purchase but you didn’t swipe it at a point of sale, your parents won’t be responsible for any of the charge.
Resolving the Situation
Your parents will have some choices to make if you use their credit card without permission. A hard-line approach involves calling the police to report the theft. In this situation, you may have charges filed against you for theft; if you’re convicted, you could face serious legal consequences. Your parents might decide to report the unauthorized use to the credit card company to free them from responsibility for the purchase. They can place restrictions on their credit card that will flag specific types of charges to ensure that you don’t try to use it again without permission. Your parents might require you to pay back the money you charged or to work it off around the house to make amends for your actions. It can be difficult to move past a breach of trust of this type.
- U.S. Federal Trade Commission: Using a Credit Card
- Karl E. Knudsen: Can I Be Prosecuted for Using My Dad’s Credit Card Without Permission?
- Empowering Parents: Rules, Boundaries and Older Children Part II -- In Response to Questions About Older Children Living at Home
- Empowering Parents: Kids Stealing From Parents -- What You Need to Know Now
- Brand X Pictures/Stockbyte/Getty Images