You would never consider taking money out of your parents' wallets without permission, because you know that's stealing. Some young people don't quite get the connection that unauthorized use of your parent's credit cards is basically the same thing. Your parents’ credit cards are not legally yours to take and use without express permission from either parent.
When someone uses a credit card without permission from the account holder, this constitutes an unauthorized charge, according to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission. Your close relationship to your parents doesn’t make it OK for you to use their credit card to make a purchase without asking for permission. In fact, most state laws consider unauthorized use of a credit card theft, which is punishable by incarceration and fines.
If you get permission to charge something on your parents’ credit card before using it and make sure the purchase is OK, you have received prior authorization to use the credit card. Use of the credit card with prior authorization is lawful because your parents have given you permission to use it and make the charge. Sometimes, parents may want their kids to have a credit card on hand in case of emergency, but it's really not meant for charging regular expenses. However, if your parents gave you the card, it's likely an authorized use because they know it is in your possession. Buying things you shouldn't with the card is a matter for you and your parents to discuss.
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When your parents see unauthorized charges on their statement, and don't realize you made these purchases, they will likely report the matter to their credit card company. The bank can hold your parents responsible for up to $50 of an unauthorized charge on a credit card. Some banks waive this maximum and don’t hold a cardholder responsible for any unauthorized charges. If you use your parents’ credit card number to make a purchase but you didn’t swipe it at a point of sale, your parents won’t be responsible for any of the charge.
Resolving the Situation
Your parents will have some choices to make if you use their credit card without permission. A hard-line approach involves calling the police to report the theft. In this situation, you may have charges filed against you for theft; if you’re convicted, you could face serious legal consequences. Your parents might decide to report the unauthorized use to the credit card company to free them from responsibility for the purchase. They can place restrictions on their credit card that will flag specific types of charges to ensure that you don’t try to use it again without permission. Your parents might require you to pay back the money you charged or to work it off around the house to make amends for your actions. It can be difficult to move past a breach of trust of this type.
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