Retrieving CVV, expiration date on deceased's credit card

If you're not the primary account holder, you can't use the card

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 CreditCards.com, and also wrote for MSN Money, Interest.com and Bankrate.com, and has guested on Martha Stewart Radio and other programs.

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Question Dear To Her Credit,
A friend of mine helped me get a credit card, and because he passed away I don’t know how to get a new one. I know the card number, because it’s on the statement that comes every month.

Is there any way to find out the CVV number and what the expiration date might be? It’s a Capital One Platinum card, and I got it last December. – Stacy

Answer

Dear Stacy,
Assuming your friend only helped you by showing you how to apply for a card, and the card is in your name only, I would think you should have the physical credit card already.

If you lost the card, or if your friend had it, replacing the card is not your first concern. It’s hard to say who has the card now and could decide to use it. The fact that someone apparently hasn’t used the card yet doesn’t mean they won’t. Someone sorting your late friend’s personal effects could find the card at any time, and use it now or even months or years later.

If you don’t know where your credit card is and can’t get it back, you should call the credit card company immediately and tell them the card is missing. They will assign a new number to your account so no one can use the old card. They will also send you a new card. You can call the customer service number on your credit card statement.

On the other hand, if your friend’s “help” getting you a credit card meant that he took out a card in his name and either made you an authorized user on that card or let you use his card when you were with him, that’s a completely different story. A card on which you’re not the primary account holder is not your card, regardless of any understanding you had with your friend or the fact that you were making payments on it.

If you are not your friend’s executor, and the card is in your late friend’s name, your only obligation is to make sure the representative has the card information so he can deal with it. If the personal representative has not notified the credit card company of the death and canceled the account, he should do so. The personal representative should call the bank, and follow up with a registered letter. The bank may request a death certificate as proof of death.

If the card is not in your name, never use the account number to make more purchases. Using a card after someone has died, even if you had permission to use the card and you were making the payments, could lead to serious legal consequences. Don’t try it.

Going forward, I recommend that you keep your finances separate and independent from other people’s, with the exception of a trusted spouse. You can see how it gets complicated, even when everything seems to be going fine.

Things go wrong – people eventually argue about how much each of them spent. Romances and friendships sometimes end. People plan to “share” an account that’s really in one person’s name, and paying off that debt is a lot harder than either of them expected. Or, as in your case, one person dies.

Opening a new credit card in your own name isn’t that hard. If you don’t have a credit history, you may need to open a secured card first, which requires a deposit that serves as your credit line. Make small purchases every so often on the card, and pay it off every month so you don’t get stuck with interest expenses or build up a balance. Check your credit score at least several times a year, and see how your good financial habits are helping you build your score.

You can build a strong, independent financial future for yourself, starting now.

See related: What happens to credit card debt after death, 6 steps to take when a credit card holder dies

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Updated: 11-17-2017