My ex-girlfriend charged over $7,000 on my card

He told her it was OK to put $200 on his card, but she kept charging

Opening Credits columnist Eric Sandberg
Erica Sandberg is a prominent personal finance authority and author of "Expecting Money: The Essential Financial Plan for New and Growing Families." She writes "Opening Credits," a weekly reader Q&A column about issues for people who are new to credit, for

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Question Dear Opening Credits,
I gave my girlfriend my credit card to spend $200 for some of her needs. She spent $1,000 with the promise of paying me back. I couldn’t collect the card from her since I was out of the country. I checked my online account recently and discovered she had spent over $7,000, even going above the credit limit. I was devastated. I broke up with her immediately, having discovered the untruthful person she is. Even though she promised to pay back the money, I can’t trust her to do this and I am at loss for what to do right now. The card is still in her possession, as I am still out of the country, but I will be back soon. Please advise on what I can do to make sure she pays off my credit card bill or how I can get the card and the debt put in her name. – Joe


Dear Joe,
You already did the most important thing, which is to end the relationship. This woman not only broke your trust, but she financially abused you. It’s one thing to overcharge by a few bucks; it’s quite another to spend 35 times more than the permitted sum. She committed credit card fraud. Here’s what you need to do now.

Call the credit card issuer and report the crime. The account will be suspended, an action which will turn the card she’s holding into a useless piece of plastic. Virtually every major credit card issuer has a toll-free international phone number. It’s usually on the back of the card, but since you don’t have that, log onto the issuer’s website and you should find it listed under a heading titled something like “contact us.”

You can’t transfer the debt to this woman’s name, but by reporting the fraud now, you may be reimbursed for the charges while the company investigates the matter.

Because you did allow her to charge a little, you may be unsuccessful convincing the issuer that fraud was committed. If you have any correspondence that shows a conversation between the two of you in which you state that she was to spend only $200 with the card and not a penny more, that may help. If you have some record of her admitting fault, even better. Be prepared to send copies of your correspondence with her to the issuer.

Don’t delay, though. Most issuers will cover all the charges if you report the fraud within two billing cycles. If you wait longer than that, however, the full balance could be your responsibility. Also, know that you may be held responsible for all the charges for not providing “reasonable care” of your card, which can include allowing someone else to use the card, and if you refuse to file a police report.

I urge you to contact the police department in the city where the crime occurred. There won’t be a toll-free number, but if you have a data plan with your wireless provider with enough open minutes you can get it done at minimal extra cost. Be sure to jot down the police report number.  

After that, add an extended fraud alert to your consumer credit reports. For a total of seven years, credit issuers will have to take steps to make sure you are the person applying for any new accounts or balance increases. You must send an extended fraud report request by mail (see extended fraud alert sample letter), and with the police report number. For even greater protection, consider a credit freeze, which prevents lenders and other companies from viewing your credit history without you personally unfreezing it. Without access to your credit history, new accounts can’t be granted.

What happens if the credit card issuer does not agree with you and you get stuck with the bill? In a text, email or letter (be sure to make a copy), write to your dastardly ex and explain to her in no uncertain terms that she must repay you within a specific time frame. Spell out that if she doesn’t repay you by the deadline, you will pursue legal action against her. Hopefully, this will inspire swift action. If not, follow through with a lawsuit when you return to the U.S. She should not be permitted to get away with her actions! 

See related: Why you should file a police report for card fraud, 7 exceptions to zero-liability policies

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Updated: 12-15-2018