Forging hubby's signature on a card application

She made herself an authorized user, then fell behind on payments

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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Question for the expert

Dear To Her Credit,
I opened a credit card in my husband's name, with me as the authorized user. I forged his signature on the application. He was unaware of this and now it's affecting his credit negatively because I've fallen behind on the payments. What can I do to remove this from his credit?   -- Dani

Answer for the expert

Dear Dani,
There's precious little you can do to simply remove this from your husband's credit record at this point, I'm afraid.

You've already got three strikes against you:

  1. You forged a signature. What spouse hasn't forged a signature at some time for expediency's sake? No admissions here, but sometimes it's no big deal. If you're going to forge a signature, however, don't do it on an income tax return or an application for credit. Ever.
  2. You didn't tell your husband. The fact that you didn't tell him indicates that it was more than just forging his signature because he happened to be at work. You deliberately applied for credit in his name, behind his back. That's fraud.
  3. You didn't keep up with the payments.

You can't go to the credit card company now and say, "Oh, I want to take my husband off this card." You can close the card so no more purchases can be made, which is probably a good idea. But the damage is done.

If your husband discovered this when he checked his credit report, he's probably upset -- and justifiably so. To show that you're sorry, you need to make amends. The best way to do that is to catch up on the payments, and then pay off the balance as quickly as possible. I don't mean make the minimum payments for the next 10 years or make extra payments when you have the money. To get rid of this debt, you need to concentrate your full energies on it until it's gone.

Think of this debt payoff plan as a sprint. You're going to do things you couldn't do long term, you're going to live in a style you wouldn't find comfortable very long, but you're going to pay off this debt faster than you ever thought possible. Here's how:

  • Work more. Take more hours on at work, if possible. Work evenings and weekends, even if it's delivering pizzas, cleaning houses or babysitting. Every dollar goes to paying down debt.
  • Stop spending. No manicures, eating out, clothes or movies. You don't have time, anyway, with all this extra work.
  • Sell something. If you bought things with the credit card, some of it may still be returnable. Look around for things of yours that you can sell. Have a garage sale or sell things online.

This may seem hard, but it's not forever. You made a mistake, but almost all mistakes in life can be fixed if you work hard enough. Your husband's credit score will improve when the account is current, and it will be even better when it is paid in full. In time, this account will matter less and less on his credit history until it disappears altogether.

See related: Dealing with a spouse's secret credit card debtWhos pays secret debt in divorce

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Updated: 03-22-2019