BACK

Credit Scores and Reports

Credit card charges made by minors are invalid

Summary

When minors use your credit card without your knowledge, the law protects them — and you — from having to pay for their mistakes.

The editorial content below is based solely on the objective assessment of our writers and is not driven by advertising dollars. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products from our partners. Learn more about our advertising policy.

The content on this page is accurate as of the posting date; however, some of the offers mentioned may have expired. Please see the bank’s website for the most current version of card offers; and please review our list of best credit cards, or use our CardMatch™ tool to find cards matched to your needs.

Question for the CreditCards.com expert

Dear To Her Credit,
My 12-year-old son, who has Asperger syndrome, fraudulently used our credit card to order a go-cart online. It cost over $3,000. The delivery company even called him on his cell phone, and he left school to sign for it.

When we discovered this, we notified our credit card company that it was fraud, and they charged it back. But the sporting goods company protested the charge-back, and now they have charged it to our credit card. The go-cart is still sitting in our driveway.

Are we liable for this charge, and how do we get the go-cart removed? We sent two certified letters with no response. Thank you. — Debra

Answer for the CreditCards.com expert

Dear Debra,
Children with Asperger syndrome tend to be highly intelligent and capable of figuring out how to get what they want. Unfortunately, like most children, they don’t always think things through to their natural conclusion. Did your son think you wouldn’t notice $3,000 on your credit card bill? (Kids often have an inflated idea of Mom’s and Dad’s financial resources, but that’s a lot of money!) Did he try to hide the go-cart behind the flower bed? Just where did he think this plan was headed?

In fact, unless your backyard is a lot bigger than mine, where did he think the go-cart was going? Was he planning to drive it to school?

That’s why minors are protected by law from some of the consequences of their actions. They don’t necessarily have the maturity to see ahead like adults do. Asperger syndrome or not, the transaction your 12-year-old son made was not valid.

Nevertheless, a go-cart that was obtained through an invalid transaction is sitting in your driveway. Your son can’t be allowed to keep it, or he will learn the wrong lessons from this. And the sporting goods company should have a chance to retrieve their cart and sell it to someone else. Georg Finder, independent credit evaluator, says, “I suggest that the parents send a certified mail letter of notification to the go-cart company putting them on notice that if they do not arrange for retrieval of the cart by a specific date, the property will be considered abandoned and liquidated.”

You’ll need to keep the go-cart in new, clean condition and cooperate with the delivery company for its return.

Finder says, “Unless the go-cart company arranges to come and get the product within 30 days, the recipient can liquidate the product.  A case could be made that the liquidation funds can be kept by the recipient.”

The sporting goods company should not add negative marks to your credit reports because of this transaction. If it does, you have recourse. According to Finder, “The parents could take the sporting goods company to court for violation of the credit charge and any subsequent derogatories that appear on their credit reports (collection accounts, etc.).”

You’ll want to check your credit report more than once to make sure it hasn’t been dinged.

Now that you know your son is capable of using your credit cards on the sly, it’s time to start storing your cards more securely. Don’t leave them lying by the computer or anyplace else unattended. If your son shows no remorse for essentially stealing $3,000 from you, I recommend you no longer keep your purse in the coat closet or your wallet on the nightstand. Keep your credit cards, cash and account numbers someplace safe from now on. This isn’t such a bad idea anyway — children aren’t the only people who have access to our homes. By keeping your valuables safe, you’ll prevent other people from being tempted and this kind of problem from happening again.

See related:Minors seeking a credit card will need a helping hand from parents, Clear a minor of responsibility for card debt in five steps, Who’s liable for a minor’s medical debt?, Minor’s credit card contract raises legal, ethical questions

 

 

What’s up next?

In Credit Scores and Reports

Best use for inheritance: pay debt or create savings?

A reader inherited some money and is on a mission to be debt free, but wonders whether it wouldn’t be smarter to put that cash toward retirement instead.

Published: March 5, 2010

See more stories
Credit Card Rate Report Updated: December 4th, 2019
Business
15.09%
Airline
16.88%
Cash Back
17.38%
Reward
17.04%
Student
18.58%

Questions or comments?

Contact us

Editorial corrections policies

Learn more

Join the Discussion

We encourage an active and insightful conversation among our users. Please help us keep our community civil and respectful. For your safety, do not disclose confidential or personal information such as bank account numbers or social security numbers. Anything you post may be disclosed, published, transmitted or reused.

The editorial content on CreditCards.com is not sponsored by any bank or credit card issuer. The journalists in the editorial department are separate from the company’s business operations. The comments posted below are not provided, reviewed or approved by any company mentioned in our editorial content. Additionally, any companies mentioned in the content do not assume responsibility to ensure that all posts and/or questions are answered.