Joint card account means sharing gambling charges

To Her Credit columnist Sally Herigstad
Sally Herigstad is a certified public accountant and the author of "Help! I Can't Pay My Bills: Surviving a Financial Crisis" (St. Martin's Press, 2006). She writes "To Her Credit," a weekly reader Q&A column about issues involving women, credit and debt, for, and also wrote for MSN Money, and, and has guested on Martha Stewart Radio and other programs.

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Dear To Her Credit,
I have a joint credit card account with my partner, but it's really just my account -- I make all the payments with my salary. He has his own account, which I have no access to and would never try to use.

I was online a few days ago and my card wouldn't work, so I tried to use my partner's card for this account (my account, not his). Now his card has been frozen and I got a text asking him to call about possible fraud on his card. This isn't too surprising, considering he's never used the card, and then all of sudden a few transactions show up from one site.

My problem is, it's a gambling site and my partner should know but he will not understand so I can't tell him. My big concern is whether it was fraud when I used his card, when I could have used my own card. It's my money and really it's my account.

I need to tell my partner, but not yet because his brother is very ill. I am not in debt and I pay all the bills on time. I think I can stop gambling, but maybe need his help. Well, I expect I will need his help. I have never touched his money, but I just wanted to know if I committed fraud or not. I realize I am an idiot and also need to stop the gambling, although I am still in control at the moment. Can you give me any advice, please? -- Michelle


Dear Michelle,
I asked Robert Siciliano, security expert with, if you committed fraud by using your partner's card on a joint account. He says, "No, not at all. It's a joint account." Siciliano adds, "They are both contractually responsible for the account balance, regardless of which card rings up the charges. The terms and conditions or terms of service spells this out."

If you received the text message and are the primary or joint cardholder, you can call the credit card company and tell them there was no fraud, that you made those charges. The same holds true even if your partner is just an authorized user on the card and you are the primary account holder.

Although you don't need to worry about being accused of fraud by using a different card on your own account, you still have the problem of whether to tell your partner about the gambling. If you need help for a gambling problem and don't get help, you are likely to find yourself in this situation again. I'm not an expert on addictions, but I think the fact that you were afraid to use your partner's card and yet you wanted to gamble so badly that you did it anyway is troublesome.

In addition, you say you need your partner to help you deal with your gambling. Being honest with him is important and if you have a gambling addiction you will need all the support you can get. But he can't solve the problem for you.

I recommend you seek professional help for your gambling problem. There are many organizations to choose from, including Gamblers Anonymous, which is patterned after Alcoholics Anonymous. Gambling to excess, especially when you feel the need to hide it, is serious. By facing up to the problem now and finding appropriate help, you can prevent it from ruining your personal and financial life.

See related: As online gambling booms, credit card acceptance lags, Husband's secret debt destroying marriage

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Updated: 02-17-2019