How to Charge With Someone Else's Credit Card

I know it's none of my business but I regularly check out what other folks are putting on the conveyor belt at the grocery store checkout. I get curious about what they're buying, mostly because there's something inordinately fascinating about the possible stories behind why someone buys what they do.

Is the emaciated woman with four cartons of ice cream buying that for a birthday party? Or is she going to take that ice cream home, grab a spoon, wolf down two of the cartons, run to the bathroom, make herself vomit and then go polish off the other two?

Of course, I'll most likely never know, but I can't stop my mind from creating these sort of "Choose Your Own Adventure" book kinds of scenarios for the people that cross my path. As the book covers say, "You're the hero of the story! Choose from one possible ending."

Last night I found myself in line at my local Albertson's grocery store, watching what the woman in front of me was putting on the conveyor belt. She was a petite white woman, probably in her mid to late twenties with a long blond pony tail. Her skin was that I-love-tanning-salons orange, quite an unattractive contrast to her hot pink lipstick. The lipstick matched her hot pink track suit, which in turn matched her long, fake, square-cut nails.

As I was contemplating this apocalyptic case of matchy-match-ness, my eyes traveled to the conveyor belt to see what was being rung up. Her only purchases? Two American Express gift cards totaling $150 and a couple of bottles of wine. I was just beginning to speculate on what she might be about to do with these purchases when the cashier said, "Will that be debit or credit?"

Hot Pink replied, "Credit," pulled a card out of her wallet and prepared to swipe it.

Cashier Boy put the swiping on pause by saying, "I'll just need to see the card and some ID." I figured he must be asking for ID because he wanted to make sure she wasn't an underage liquor buyer, even though she sure looked well over 21 to me.

Hot Pink pulled out her ID, handed it over and then said, "The names don't match because it's not my card. It's my dad's card."

And that's when I got really interested in the situation. It was clearly time to pull out the little notebook I carry around and write down what they were saying. I mean, was this cashier really going to let some random woman who was trying to buy $168.89 worth of Amex gift cards and liquor charge it to someone else's card? Indeed, his voice was unsure as he asked, "Well, um, is your dad here in the store?"

Hot Pink actually snapped back at him, "No, he's in Missouri! He just sent me this card this week so I can use it. I just moved here."

Cashier Boy seemed even more unsure of what he should do and so he replied, "Well, um, I'm going to have to go ask my manager to approve this. I'll be right back."

He walked away as Hot Pink began to drum her nails on that little counter that holds the card-swiper. Both her eyes and mine followed Cashier Boy to a little door a few feet away. He knocked and a short guy with glasses answered. They discussed the whole thing in full view of everybody, including several episodes of looking down at the card, looking at her ID and then peering out the door at Hot Pink.

Finally, after a few moments, the manager began to walk back toward the checkout counter. Cashier Boy followed along behind him, looking like someone who's relieved that a tough decision has been taken out of his hands.

"So, this isn't your card?" asked the manager.

Hot Pink's tone was even nastier and more exasperated than before. "As I already explained, it's my dad's card. He sent it to me for me to use. I just moved here and I don't have any money."

The more time I stood behind Hot Pink, the more I thought about how smart it would be for someone who's just stolen a credit card to buy Amex gift cards with it. Those gift cards are untraceable, pretty much just like cash. So Hot Pink can chuck that credit card in the trash if she wants and have $150 to spend as she pleases, plus some wine to get crunk with, all without worrying about getting caught.

On the other hand, if she really does have her father's card, what if she has it without his permission? And what if she goes around charging on it without his consent? Guess what, if he doesn't want to pay the bill when it comes he has no choice but to prosecute his daughter. How many daddies wanna do that?

The manager must not have thought too deeply about either of those scenarios though because he eyeballed her again for a few moments and then he nodded, turned to the cashier and said, "It's OK. Go ahead and ring it up."

Ring it up? What the... *&#^%@^!!!

So all I have to do is walk into a grocery store and say, "It's my daddy's card!" and then I'm good to go? $168.89 good to go, to be exact!

I immediately began to think about how if Hot Pink's tan was her actual skin color, she probably wouldn't be getting that, "It's OK. Go ahead and ring it up," response.

Heck, turn Hot Pink into Chris Brown and see what happens. Nope, forget Chris Brown! Morph Hot Pink into pretty much any black person you know and see if it goes down all, "It's OK. Go ahead and ring it up." Or, make Hot Pink into a Latino male with a bald head and see what happens.

I almost want to pay somebody to roll up on the Albertson's and see if they get the same response. Heck, I was tempted to tell Cashier Boy that it would be, "Credit," and, "It's my dad's card," just to see what his behind would do.

I wanted to say to him, "I'll bet you wouldn't have let her use that card if she was black!" But how do you come right out like that in the grocery store? No one's ever gonna reply, "You know, you're absolutely right! I sure wouldn't have."

Instead, as he was ringing my stuff up I said, "That's odd to see someone whose name isn't on a card getting to use it. It makes me wonder if just anybody could use my card and say they're my daughter."

He kept scanning stuff without responding so I said, "And it's a shame because then the dad will get stuck with the bill unless he wants to prosecute her. If it's really her dad anyway."

Cashier Boy nodded his head in agreement, "Yep, I've had it happen to me before." He shrugged nonchalantly and then said, "It probably wasn't her dad's card."

WHAT??? So this cashier didn't even think it was Hot Pink's card! "So why let her charge it if you don't even think it's her card?" I asked.

"Well, the manager approved it so it's out of my hands. I'm not responsible. And besides, the credit card companies cover the loss."

This was just a little too much for me to process all at once. One, I was thinking that the situation wouldn't have even happened if Hot Pink's skin color was different and two, I was confronted with Cashier Boy's nonchalance because the credit card company just gets to pass fraud costs along to all of us consumers.

I was left speechless as Cashier Boy said, "Thank you for shopping at Albertson's."

Despite it all, I wonder, was it just a spoiled twenty-something getting to use daddy's credit card? Was I assuming things were going on that actually weren't? Would the store do the same for someone who's not white? And wouldn't it be just easier if stores had a policy where if it's not your name on the card, you don't get to use it?


Anonymous said…
wow! being only the slightest bit off white, I was denied the use of a card with my husband's name on it -- same last name, but different first name. I accidentally took his card instead of mine when the new ones came....

I'm not blond, nor do I have a pristine manicure. I had two kids with me, and was at a store that i frequent!

I'm guessing it was stolen, not daddy's...the manager was just avoiding the scene she was promising to make with her attitude and accepting the loss to the company.
Toni Campbell said…
of course it was stolen! of course if she had a different skin color or were poorly dressed they wouldn't have approved it. i deal with this all day long at my job. attempts like this happen so often that we are past the point of "profiling"...we turn everybody down. managers who let this stuff slide either don't deal with it often or unfortunately ran across the one person who had a legitimate transaction and was so angry they called corporate and got the manager in trouble! the economy is making things like this more and more prevalent. we had a woman in the store today who had printed her own coupon for a free drink! the print was all crooked and the expiration date was missing. she was even handing copies out to other customers!
thailandchani said…
It was a stolen card. I have no doubt. If she'd been Black or Hispanic, she wouldn't have been allowed to use it.


Anonymous said…
Shoot, I'd have asked her if her "dad" didn't mind spotting me a $20 for my groceries and see how she responded. Probably would've cussed me out.

It's absolutely shameless the way people get away with things without any conscience whatsoever...Shame on the store manager, too. Couldn't he at least have asked her to confirm the billing address on the card?
Phi Sister said…
I have used cards that belonged to someone else (legitimately of course) with no problem nor any question at all. And I'm black. Although I must admit what I was purchasing wasn't as questionable. Neither were the prices.
tamigill said…
Good question, Liz. I was surprised at the first commenter's response because I use my hubby's debit and credit card all of the time and no cashier has ever questioned me. In fact, I went through 5 years of college using either of my parents' credit cards (same last name then also) on the regular and no one ever questioned me then either.

Then again, I have never done this for purchases of more than a couple hundred dollars, so that is probably the biggest factor.

And your hair is BEAUTIFUL!! OMG!!
Anonymous said…
I was denied using a credit card once because it didn't matchmy driver's license (one in my married name, one in my maiden name). I'm decidedly white. Race may have played a role, but I suspect in the case of Hot Pink the overwhelming factor was the profit. Because the kid was right - the credit company covers the loss (which is trickled down to consumers). They should have turned her down flat.
Liz Dwyer said…
I think she would've made a huge scene as well if they'd turned her down. But gosh, my thinking is, so what? Are businesses so afraid of scenes that they'll cave for someone who's trying to do something she shouldn't? I guess so. Sigh. And sadly, I don't have a pristine manicure either!

Goodness, coupon lady is enterprising, isn't she? But methinks she needs to put some of that energy towards something else... a career in graphic design maybe? It's so nice to hear that some places are not down with the profiling and instead are turning everybody down. That sort of across-the-board justice is what takes away the "I wonder if it's racism/classism/some other ism" factor. Our own personal subjectivity is completely at the mercy of our biases and prejudices.

I think so as well, especially in the neighborhood I was in. I do know that in situations like this, there are exceptions, so maybe not every black or Latino person would get turned down, but I think the possibility of them being turned down would be much greater. It's like that guy passing himself off as a Rockefeller -- would he have been able to get away with so much of his con act for so long and in the way he did if he hadn't been white?

You know!!! And actually, she could've just passed the $50 gift card over to me and kept the $100 one because inflation would keep a mere $20 from stretching all that far. I think the store manager should've just said no. I mean, the way he was looking her up and down was sooo, "Well, she seems alright. She's just daddy's l'il princess!" I think he would've felt like he was insulting her economic status if he'd asked for the billing address.

Phi Sister,
Well there you go. I would be happy about you being able to use other folk's cards except that I think everyone should have to show ID and if it's not your name on it, you can't use it. I actually get annoyed the few times folks don't ask me for ID, especially since I have SEE ID written with a sharpie on the backs of my cards.

My husband tried to take my card to a store one time a few years ago and he even had our marriage license in his wallet and showed it to the cashier -- and still got denied. I guess it just all depends. I've never tried to use his stuff. I wish Dateline or somebody would do a little study on this sort of thing to see out of ten times, who gets asked for ID and who doesn't. Oh, and thanks for the compliment on my hair. I really REALLY like it! :)

The trickle-down to consumers really bugs me because it's not like the company just eats the cost. Nope, they pass it on to us. And I guess the place that denied you takes fraud seriously. If only every place did it like that, as much as it's sort of a pain.
Visa and MasterCard rules prohibit the merchant from requiring ID as long as the back of the card is signed and the signatures match (back of card and what the customer signs).

If a merchant is suspicious, they are supposed to do a Code 10 Call. This transaction was certainly reason to be suspicious; a female presented a card with a male's name on it and tried to buy gift cards and alcohol for a high dollar amount. There was no need to even ASK for ID with this; what they needed to do was take the card and do a Code 10 call to get this stolen card shut off.

So, folks, what is the point of this merchant asking everyone who uses a credit card for ID? They ask you for ID, and you show them your ID. You have now shown them all of your personal information (and allowed their security camera to take a picture of it which they retain) such as name, address, driver's license number, birthdate, etc. Meanwhile, some crook shows up without ID or with an ID that does not match the card, and the store just takes their card anyway.

You put yourself at a major risk of identity theft by showing your ID to a clerk at the retail level.

You are not liable for any fraud as long as you report it within a certain time period (60 days) and follow the terms of your cardholder agreement (and that includes signing your card; if your card is unsigned or says See ID, you will be liable for all fraud because you did not sign your card which is a breach of your cardholder agreement).

I will again stress the merchant is not supposed to be asking for ID in the first place and is under no circumstances allowed to REQUIRE ID.

Merchants who require ID may be reported:
1-800-300-3069 option 1, 3, 0 or

The procedure to process a Visa transaction is shown here:|/merchants/risk_management/index.html|Card-Present

The procedure outlined above states to swipe the card and obtain a signature and then verify the signature on the card against the signature on the receipt.

Also from Visa's website, Visa's rules below on Print Page 29 or PDF page 34 of this document: state that merchants may not make identification a condition of sale and while merchants may ask for ID, Visa discourages merchants from asking for ID as part of their regular card acceptance procedures.

Visa will accept reports at 1-800-Visa-911 of merchants who require ID.
Anonymous said…
My dad gave me an Amex card with my name on it, linked to his account, when he was overseas and I was in college. I am assuming that option exists in the US as well, thus obviating the need for people to use cards with someone else's name.

We mostly do chip and PIN here so that you have to know your PIN and punch it into the card reader. If you don't have a PIN you have to show ID. If you come to a smaller town like the one I am in now, chances are the cashier will only be able to process the payment if you have a Swedish ID. This is how when my husband wanted to buy me jewellery after Christmas, I ended up using my credit card.
Liz Dwyer said…
The Low Price Leader,
Thanks for all the info. So then we can all start to decline to show our IDs even when stores ask for them and then put those reporting numbers in the speed dials of our cell phones. I'm glad I sign AND put see ID on it because then I'm still protected. So I suppose I should x my "see ID" out with the sharpie. What I do is usually hold it so that they can see my picture but not any of my info. Gosh, remember back in the day when stores would actually ask for ID and a major credit card when you wanted to write a check at a store. They'd write your all that info down on the check. Crazy!
Liz Dwyer said…
Exactly! If someone wants you to be able to use their card, they'll give you one with your name on it! We only do PIN numbers for debit cards but it seems like credit cards could move in that direction too.
I thought in order to use someone else card you have to be an approval user of the card.

I used to work in retail and unless the parent called the store (this was back in the 80s) we were not going to let the person use the card end of story. What if they "borrowed" the card without that parent knowing?
Anonymous said…
Well they could have called the credit card company to verify she was an authorized user. Then her personal ID would have settled things. So what that manager did was totally about white privilege.

I used to have fraudulent charges on my card almost every time I shopped at Rock-n-Roll Ralph's for like $300 worth of gas. Who buys $300 worth of gas in one purchase?
Liz Dwyer said…
Making someone an authorized user and getting them a card with their name on it is what would make sense to me. Plenty of borrowing of parent's cards happens and then parents get stuck with the bill.

Ugh, I haven't been to that Ralph's in SO long! Yeah, gas stations are a gold mine for unauthorized charges. I've gotten false charges from gas stations too. Anyway, they're not going to call because store employees think it'll take too much time and besides, the credit card company will just eat the loss.
Anonymous said…
Hey, I'm WHITE and I've had stores refuse my card when I didn't have ID. Why make this non-racial incident into a racial incident. It's a sexist incident. Geez, don't confuse the two. I suggest that except for a few a-hole bigots, any pretty girl of any race is going to get whatever she wants from a manager at Albertsons. Hmmm, I wonder if they have any management openings there..
Liz Dwyer said…
Thanks for weighing in. Sure, there are other things going on but I do think race on a macro level has something to do with situations like this one. It's not a comfortable thought and it's definitely easier to ignore how race plays out in subtle ways in our society. I'm thinking about the insidious ways our attitudes about race impact our lives on a day to day basis, about how the race of the person impacts situations like this. Maybe not in every instance, thank goodness, but we are, overall, conditioned to think of people in certain ways. There's no denying that. I certainly think gender and atractiveness both play a part in this situation and others similar to it, but the inclusion of those two aspects of identity does not necessarily negate the impact of race.
Dirty Red said…
Tag your it!!!

Check my blog for the details
BlackLiterature said…
I'd be willing to bet 20 bucks that if I walked into Albertson's with my year round tan (smile), I'd be asked for another form of payment. ESPECIALLY since she was buying gift cards which are basically cash.
Liz Dwyer said…
Dirty Red,
Cool, I'll come check it out.

Yeah, being able to get away with buying gift cards with a shady form of payment is really something. I don't think me and my year-round tan could get away with that either.
Anonymous said…
If I were that cashier I would have been "I bet Daddy really wants to you blow money on wine while you're out here, you skanky ho." That is, if it WERE your daddy's card. How suspicious is that? COME ON.
Yes, it is amazing how far it has gone with securing personal information. Checks are incredibly insecure to use. I've had stores who will refuse an out of state ID for credit card use, refuse a work ID, refuse a student ID, etc. I've had other stores who will allow "anything with your name and picture" as ID with a credit card. I once made a homemade work ID (with a nonexistant company name) and used it, and very few places blinked let alone said anything. It was a terrible job I did on it, too.

I think many consumers think they are responsible for fraud, thus showing ID protects them. Showing ID may save them a few phone calls, but the bottom line is if someone wants to use a stolen credit card, they will figure out a way to do so. Some merchant asking for ID isn't going to stop them. Only very inexperienced crooks attempt to pass off stolen cards at the retail level, anyway. This is just a small portion of credit card fraud.

Back to the original post, I asked some questions and got some answers...

Albertsons Southern California Division Credit Card Acceptance Policy:

Ask for ID on the following transactions:

1. Over $100
2. Gift card of any amount is being purchased within transaction

If ID is not available, they are to compare the signature on the back of the card with the signature on the receipt. If signatures do not match, they are not to complete the transaction.

Sounds like the cashier followed the policy, but the manager sort of blew it by approving the transaction.
the joy said…
At my job we were told to stop asking for ID. This year alone I know of 2 separate instances of fraud in my department, and those are just the ones we caught right away. But yet, the only way I know if a person is really who they say they are is if it says "see ID"(if the ID doesn't match we still can take the card) or if they're in meetings and they wear name tags. Wack huh?
Anonymous said…
This is exactly right. Yep. Even if she looked poor, she'd be sol. I hate that about our world.

Check this - you can get an additional card in 24 hrs from most companies.
tamigill said…
Hmmm...I commented earlier that I've used my hubby's and my parent's credit and debit cards a lot and never been asked for ID. However, I've NEVER tried purchasing gift cards! I think that's the major difference here that makes this clearly a race privilege thing. I'm pretty sure I would have been sent out of there WITHOUT the giftcards OR the credit card back either!

Meanwhile, I'm going to the store this weekend to grab a pack of blank name tags.
Liz Dwyer said…
You can only think such things, not say it. Otherwise you get fired and homegirl still gets her gift cards.

The Low Price Leader,
You made your own ID and places took it??? Wow, that's bad. The only thing I use checks on is my rent. I wish I didn't have to use one for that. I remember seeing something about how crooks use the cards online and share numbers online. It was really something. Thanks for the Albertson's policy. Gosh, the manager really did blow it, didn't he? Unbelievable.

The Joy,
Gosh, the ID thing has me thinking about how when I was 19 I took my friend's birth certificate and gas bill and got State ID -- all so I could get into clubs. My face and her name and address. Goodness, I guess that's how fraud starts, right?

Yes, you can get another card in 24-48 hours and if her daddy really wanted her to have one he'd send it to her so she wouldn't have to be hassled, ever.

Yeah, the gift card thing just makes it a whole different thing. I am so tempted to go in there with one of my husband's cards just so I can report back to you all on what happens.
Anonymous said…
I've never been able to buy a gift card with credit. Debit yes, credit no. So that in itself is odd.
Arianna said…
Since I live with my parents, I occasionally run errands for them, which means I have a credit card with my dad's name on it. The last name is the same, but the first is very obviously not mine. Not only do people rarely ask about it, they almost never ask me for ID; in fact, I once had a checker automatically look at the screen and say, "Thank you, Robert," when I had completed a transaction. It took him a solid 30 seconds to register that perhaps the young woman standing in front of him wasn't named Robert...

The whole thing, though, always makes me nervous. Even when my card is marked with "See ID," most cashiers don't ask for it if a transaction is under a particular amount.

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