(MONEY Magazine) – "I Can't Get Off My Dad's Credit Card!"
Q When I went to college, my father got a Capital One credit card and told me he'd add me as an authorized user so I could pay for expenses. A few years later, I discovered that I'd been listed instead as co-applicant on the card. I contacted Capital One, but the company reps refused to remove me from the account. My father carries a balance--currently about $14,000--which has hurt my credit rating. What can I do? --Leslie Dyer Maxwell, Albuquerque
ANSWER Had your dad successfully added you as an authorized user, you'd have been able to use the card, but you wouldn't have been on the hook for the balance. And while his actions might have affected your credit score, the damage would've been undone once he asked to have your name taken off the card.
By accidentally listing you as a co-applicant, however, your father made you co-responsible for all debt later incurred on the card, including his debt. Since he accumulated quite a bit--and your credit history is short--your score has suffered. And that's not so easy to fix. Since you're a joint account holder, your name remains on the card until the bill is paid in full and the card is closed. Seeing as your father's carrying a sizable balance, the pay-and-cancel option didn't seem likely in the short term.
You might have been stuck had it not been for an interesting glitch: On the original application, which customer service sent in response to your queries, your father had filled in your name and Social Security number, but you'd never signed on the dotted line. Without a signature, the creditor shouldn't have added you as a joint account holder. You'd already pointed that out to a company representative, but it wasn't until we raised a flag that Capital One took another look.
A spokesperson was openly contrite and promised that someone from the company would call you to apologize. Your name was removed from the account, and Capital One also promised to contact the credit bureaus to have the card removed from your file. It has sent you a letter confirming this, but you should check your credit report in a few months just to make sure it's been done.
TIP If you have a less than exemplary credit history, beware of adding a child to your card as an authorized user. Your behavior can affect your kid's credit score as long as his name is on the account.
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Reporting By Kate Ashford contributed to this article.