Can I keep using ex-boyfriend's card?

No. Even if you once had permission, continued use is fraud

To Her Credit with Sally Herigstad

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

Ask Sally a question, or see if your question has already been answered in the To Her Credit answer archive.

Can I continue to use my ex-boyfriend’s debit card information to make purchases?

Just because you were once given permission to use your ex’s card while in the relationship, once the relationship ends, so does the right to use the card.
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Dear To Her Credit,
I recently just got out of a relationship with a male that was always offering to help me out financially by letting me use his debit card.

I have left several Facebook messages to him in the past couple of months, offering to pay him back for what he’s paid for or bought me, but he has always responded with, “Don’t worry about it,” or “I’m happy to help, and it’s not a big deal.” He has never once told or asked me to pay him back for any of it – the closest thing he has said was, “Do you plan on paying me back for when I paid your car insurance when we were together? No, you probably do’t have any intentions to.”

These are all in messages between the both of us in writing on Facebook Messenger. He is also on Facebook Messenger giving me his permission to use his card to pay my car insurance. I have proof from the messages that he sent me his card number, the name on the card, the expiration date on the card, the security code on the back, and the address for billing to the debit card that is in his name. And ever since then he has not sent me one message in writing to not use his card or money again.

Since he has not told me I’m no longer allowed to use the information, and he willingly sent me over messaging to his checking account, can I legally be taken to court or get in trouble, or be put in jail if I were to use the information he gave me in the past to make purchases online from here on out, hypothetically? I understand that once he does tell me that I am no longer allowed to make a purchase with his information, then I could get in trouble then legally. But until he tells me no or to stop charging his account can I keep using his card without getting into trouble? – Tiffany

Dear Tiffany,
Yes, you can be charged and potentially sent to jail for using your ex’s debit card. South Carolina criminal defense attorney Justin Lovely says, “I would go as far to say that she could be arrested for the past use, although her evidence would be a defense to later beat the charge. In South Carolina, these actions would be considered financial transaction fraud.”

Massachusetts attorney Gustavo Mayen concurs, and says it’s better to be safe than sorry. In Massachusetts, he says you could be charged with larceny by embezzlement for using someone else’s card.

“To prove this charge, the prosecution has to prove three elements beyond a reasonable doubt,” says Mayen. He says the prosecution would need to prove that the following are true:

  1. You, while in a position of trust or confidence, were entrusted with possession of personal property belonging to another person.
  2. You took that property, or hid it, or converted it to your own use, without the consent of the owner.
  3. You did so with the intent to deprive the owner of the property permanently.

The privilege of using another's card ends with the relationship

You say that you had permission to use the card initially, and you’re hoping if he never says to stop using it, you can just keep using it. Common sense is not on your side, I’m afraid. A reasonable person would assume that the privilege of using the card ends with the relationship. According to both Lovely and Mayen, the law is on the side of common sense in this case.

Lovely says, “At the time of the breakup, any permission was revoked. She should not be using the cards for any purpose.”

Mayen agrees. He says that because you were allowed to use the card during the relationship, it is a “question of fact” whether you are still authorized after the relationship ends. “Because it is a question of fact, it would be a question for the jury, should the case get to trial.”

In addition to criminal charges, you could end up having to repay the money, Mayen says.

My advice: Destroy all information you have with your ex’s debit card immediately. If you don’t have the debit card information, you won’t be tempted to use it. You’ll get by somehow without it, and you won’t have to worry about being charged with a crime. Otherwise, making purchases on an account you no longer have permission to use could be the most expensive mistake you ever make.

See related: What to do when permission to use a card is revoked, Can you be charged for unwittingly committing card fraud?


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Updated: 12-09-2018