Lending Your Credit Card to Someone Else Is Probably a Bad Idea

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Family and friends lend out about $89 billion in cash each year. More than a third of that total is used to help finance a new business while 6% of first-time home buyers get help from (usually) their parents. About a quarter of those loans were never paid back at all and more than 40% were only paid back partially.

The moral here is not to lend more than you can afford to lose. Sort of like playing poker or blackjack in a casino.

But what about lending your credit card to someone else, either a family member or good friend? How likely is that result in a bad outcome? According to a new survey of 2,253 U.S. adults by researchers at CreditCards.com, more than one-third of the time.

Nearly half (49%) of respondents who have ever owned a credit card admitted that they had lent the card to spouses, children, friends, co-workers or “other people” to make a purchase. More than a third (35%) experienced negative consequences.

Overspending by the card’s borrower hit 19% of the trusting souls, while 14% never got repaid and 10% reported that the card was lost, stolen or never returned. By extrapolation, the researchers estimate that 36 million Americans have been hurt by lending a credit card to someone else.

Brad Klontz, a financial psychology specialist, said:

My guess is that a large segment of those individuals are financial enablers. In an attempt to help somebody, they either loan them money or support them in some way that ends up hurting themselves. And it’s probably feeding some financial dependence or money disorder on the other side.

The research report at CreditCards.com has more details and some tips that might come in handy if someone asks to borrow your credit card.