What Is CVV Number on a Credit Card and How Do You Find It?

What Is CVV Number on a Credit Card and How Do You Find It?

A CVV number is a three- or four-digit number on the front or back of a credit card that helps prevent fraud. Given that credit cards are a form of payment frequently targeted by fraudsters, it’s crucial to understand how to protect them. One way that credit card companies attempt to secure your personal information is with the CVV number.

Here, you’ll learn more about what a CVV number is on a credit card, where to find it, and how to protect it.

What Is the CVV Number on a Credit Card?

A card verification value, also known as the CVV, is a three to four-code printed on your credit card, and it’s a crucial part of understanding how credit cards work. The CVV (sometimes referred to as a CID) on credit cards adds an extra layer of protection when you’re making a purchase online or over the phone since it’s harder to prove your identity when you’re not making a purchase in person.

While not every online merchant that accepts credit card payments may require the CVV in addition to your credit card number and expiration date, asking for this number helps the merchant to verify that you have the card in hand and that it’s not stolen. In other words, CVVs on credit cards are used to protect you against fraud.

CVV vs PIN: What’s the Difference?

Here’s how these two short series of numbers differ:

•   PINs are personal identification numbers that you create when you open an account. Usually, PINs are four digits, though some may have more digits. If you need to withdraw money from your debit card or take a cash advance from your credit card, for example, that’s when you will use your PIN.

•   A CVV is a number provided by your bank or credit card issuer on your physical credit card. You may be asked to provide the CVV number when completing a purchase over the phone or online as an added layer of security.

While some banks or card issuers may give you a PIN to use initially, you’ll typically have to change it within a certain amount of time. (You don’t have the same luxury with the CVV, since the financial institution generates the number for each card.

How to Find the CVV on Credit Cards

Different credit card issuers print the CVV in different locations.

•   Mastercard, Visa, and Discover credit cards place a three-digit CVV to the right of the signature box on the back of your card.

•   American Express places a four-digit CVV on the front of the card above your account number. American Express refers to the CVV as the card identification number, or CID.

The Purpose of CVV Numbers

In 2023, the Federal Trade Commission received more than 2.2 million fraud reports, totaling $10 billion in losses, with online shopping being the second most commonly reported type of fraud.

To help combat fraud, many merchants require a CVV to complete a transaction.

•   While merchants can store your card information, they are not allowed to store your CVV. Therefore, if hackers were to break into a merchant’s system, they wouldn’t get ahold of your CVV.

•   If someone were to attempt to use your card fraudulently, they would have to provide a CVV if the merchant requires it in order to complete the purchase.

Thus, when making a purchase online or over the phone, the CVV on credit cards can act as a way to verify that you have the card in hand and aren’t making a fraudulent purchase.

However, it’s important to note that not all businesses are required to request the CVV number. In those cases, a thief may still be able to make a purchase using just your credit card number. If that were to happen though, there are steps you can take to get your money back, such as a credit card chargeback.

How Your CVV Protects You From Identity Theft

CVV numbers are designed to protect your card from identity theft. While a fraudster may be able to gain access to your other credit card information in a hack or through credit card skimming, merchants cannot keep your CVV or CID on file after a purchase is authorized.

So, in other words, if a fraudster hacks a merchant’s database, they might be able to pull your account number and credit card expiration date, but the CVV or CID is a lot more challenging to access.

Is CVV a Fail Safe?

CVVs and CIDs are not fail-safe. As of now, merchants are not required to request the CVV or CID. So, unfortunately, if a fraudster has your card number, it’s possible they can use it at retailers that don’t require the CVV or CID number.

Some retailers may require a CVV or CID once if you frequently make purchases through their online shop. Other merchants may not require your CVV beyond your initial purchase.

A couple of scenarios to consider when thinking about security:

•   If a cybercriminal gains access to your account at that store, they may have free range of your credit card, potentially spending up to your credit card limit.

•   Cybercriminals can use software like malware to run off with your CVV or CID through various merchants.

•   They may also use phishing techniques to steal your CVV number directly from you. For instance, they might send you an email that may appear official at first glance requesting this information.

•   Additionally, if someone steals your physical card, they will have access to all its information.

Fortunately, however, some credit card issuers are toying with the idea of using dynamic CVVs that change frequently. Using a dynamic CVV would make it even harder to use your credit card for fraudulent shopping sprees.

In the meantime, it’s worth taking a look at a credit card issuer’s security measures when applying for a credit card.

How Can I Protect My CVV?

No one wants their credit card information stolen. So, to protect your personal information from getting hacked, there are a few things you can do to protect your CVV. Whether you’ve just become old enough to get a credit card or you’re a longtime cardholder, these tips are important to keep in mind.

•   Protect your home WiFi with a password. Without a password, you leave your WiFi open to anyone who wants to join. Cybercriminals can use your WiFi to access some of your personal information, including your CVV.

•   Monitor your account activity frequently. If you keep close tabs on your purchases, you can quickly identify when something seems out of sorts. Every time you receive a statement, take the time to carefully review it before just going ahead and making the credit card minimum payment. If something is off, contact your bank or card issuer immediately.

•   Install antivirus software. This type of software can scan your computer for any fraudsters’ tools that could steal your personal information.

•   Avoid unsolicited or phishing requests for your personal information. Don’t quickly hand out your personal information if someone contacts you over the phone or via email requesting your personal information. For example, a scammer may send you an email requesting you verify your credit card information to keep your account open. Contact your card issuer or bank directly instead of sending information over email if you need to verify any information.

•   Steer clear of unsecured websites. If a website doesn’t have “https:” in the address, it’s best not to use your credit card information on the site. Also, check all websites for the SSL padlock. If the website doesn’t have it, you’ll likely want to avoid using your information on the site.

•   Skip saving your credit card information when shopping online. Many websites offer you the option to save your credit card information to expedite checkout next time you make a purchase with the retailer. While it may seem convenient for you, it also makes unauthorized purchasing more convenient for potential thieves.

•   Avoid sharing photos of your credit card with loved ones. Sending photos of your credit card or posting them on social media gives people access to the information on your card.

•   Consider a VPN when using your computer outside of your home. Using a VPN while traveling and using public WiFi can help to keep your personal information secure.

The Takeaway

The CVV helps protect your credit card from fraud and theft. But, while your CVV adds an extra layer of security, it’s up to you to protect your personal information the best you can. For example, avoid giving your personal information out to just anyone or saving your credit card information when shopping online. That’s part of using your credit card carefully and responsibly.

Whether you're looking to build credit, apply for a new credit card, or save money with the cards you have, it's important to understand the options that are best for you. Learn more about credit cards by exploring this credit card guide.

FAQ

Is it safe to give out your CVV number?

It’s usually safe to give your CVV number to merchants you trust. However, you should guard your CVV and make sure you’re only giving it out when you’re in a secure environment.

Can you use a credit card without a CVV?

Yes, some merchants don’t require a CVV to process online or by phone purchases. However, some retailers may require the CVV to complete transactions.

Can I change my CVV number?

As of now, the only way to change your CVV is when you request a new credit card. When the bank or credit issuer sends you a new card, they will generate a new CVV to coincide with the card.

Is a CVV number confidential?

Technically, your CVV should be confidential. However, if it gets into the hands of the wrong people, they could have access to your credit card information, which they may use at their discretion.


Photo credit: iStock/Kateryna Onyshchuk

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

Non affiliation: SoFi isn’t affiliated with any of the companies highlighted in this article.

Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.

SOCC0224012

Read more
Guide to Credit Card Age Limits

Guide to Credit Card Age Limits

If you’re young and looking to access and build credit, opening a credit card can be a great step. However, you need to be at least 18 years old to open your own account. If you’re under the age of 18, you can’t open your own credit card, but you can be an authorized user on someone else’s account.

Even if you’re old enough to get a credit card, when you’re under the age of 21, you may face additional requirements when applying. Read on for tips on getting a credit card when you’re young and options you might consider to be able to start building your credit.

At What Age Can You Get a Credit Card?

To open your own credit card, you must be at least 18 years old.

However, if you’re between the ages of 18 and 20, you may encounter stricter verification requirements, including showing proof of ability to repay, such as through income, or getting a cosigner. This is due to regulations from the Credit CARD Act of 2009, which is intended to protect young consumers from taking on more debt than they can handle.

After age 21, these regulations won’t apply to you, but card issuers may still review your income as part of your application. It’s also important to pay attention to the terms and conditions of the credit card, such as the APR on a credit card, as you consider your credit card options and apply.

If you’re younger and have a limited credit history, you may only get approved for a card with a higher APR. Do your research before applying to have an idea of what is a good APR on a credit card.

Tips for Getting a Credit Card When You’re Young

Once you understand what a credit card is and how credit cards work, you may see the appeal of a credit card and want to open one. If you’re under the age of 18, the best things you can do to work toward being able to get your own credit card are to start building credit and to learn the basics of financial management.

Start Building Credit

Building credit when you’re young may be hard, especially if you’re under 18 and not yet eligible for your own credit card. One way to do so, however, is by becoming an authorized user on a credit card account.

A responsible parent or guardian can add you as an authorized user for their account, even if you’re still under the age of 18. Being added to the primary cardholder’s credit history can help build your credit.

Learn the Basics of Financial Management

It’s also important for young people to learn the basics of financial management. Learning about things like budgeting, credit card interest, and credit scores before you even own a credit card can help put you on the path to financial success. That way, when you do eventually get your own credit card, you’ll know how to stay on top of credit card minimum payments and avoid debt.

This can also be a good time to familiarize yourself with common financial scams, such as credit card skimmers, so you’ll know what to be aware of when you do get your own card.

How to Get a Credit Card If You Are 18 to 20 Years Old

Many young people between the ages of 18 and 20 are attending college or trade school or working. They may not have a lot of income yet, and their credit history may be limited. Still, first-time cardholders do have options for getting a credit card, which can be an important step toward building their credit history and score.

Secured Credit Cards

One option is secured cards, which are a type of credit card that require the cardholder to make a refundable security deposit. The security deposit typically becomes the amount of the card’s credit limit.

Secured cards are often marketed toward people who want or need to build their credit, so they can be a great choice for young people who are age 20 and under. Once you make the initial minimum security deposit (which usually serves as your credit limit), you can use your secured credit card in the same way that you would use any other credit card. Like any other credit card, your credit card will have a credit card expiration date and a CVV number.

A few points to note:

•   Since your credit limit is often equal to the amount of your security deposit, secured credit cards often don’t have very high credit limits compared to the average credit card limit. However, having a lower credit limit can help prevent young people from overspending.

•   With a secured card, your money is tied up temporarily in the security deposit. While you get your security deposit back when you close or upgrade the account, that’s money you otherwise can’t use in the meantime.

Become an Authorized User

Young cardholders could also become an authorized user, which is someone who’s added to a credit card account with authorization to use that account. The authorized user typically has their own card and can use it to make payments as usual. However, only the primary account holder is held responsible for payments.

The authorized user benefits from this arrangement because the primary cardholder’s account history and activity are reported on the authorized user’s credit report, which can help build their credit history.

Apply for a Student Credit Card

Student credit cards are designed and marketed for students roughly between the ages of 18 and 22 years old. Students generally have different needs than other credit card customers, so it may make sense for them to get a credit card designed specifically for them.

As an added bonus, some students may qualify for credit cards with rewards, such as cashback on categories that students may spend more on, like restaurants and grocery stores.

Consider Credit Builder Credit Cards

There are also some credit cards that are available to applicants with poor credit who are looking to build their credit. Responsible use of a credit card can be a great way to build or improve credit, as your payment history will be reported to all three major consumer credit bureaus. Just keep in mind that these cards can have higher than average credit card interest rates and more fees due to their availability to those with lower credit scores.

Get a Cosigner

Another option for young applicants is to get a cosigner for a credit card. Indeed, applicants within the 18 to 20 age range must get a cosigner if they can’t provide proof of employment or income when applying. Also, people in this age may not have much of a credit history, if any, which can be a downside.

A cosigner can be a parent, guardian, or other family member who assumes legal and financial responsibility for the applicant if they are unable to pay off the balance of the card. Ideally, the cosigner should have a decent credit history to improve the chances of the credit card application getting approved. If the cardholder fails to repay a card or falls in debt, it will negatively affect the credit score of both the cardholder and the cosigner, so this is an important responsibility.

Check with your bank or credit card issuer before using a cosigner, since not all banks allow cosigners on credit cards.

The Takeaway

Once you reach the age of 18, you will be able to get a credit card of your own. You can make sure you’re ready for this responsibility by building your credit history, getting down the financial basics, and knowing how to apply for a credit card when the time comes. You’ll have options as a young credit card applicant, from secured credit cards to student credit cards to credit builder cards and more. Learning how to use a credit card responsibly is an important part of your financial life.

Whether you're looking to build credit, apply for a new credit card, or save money with the cards you have, it's important to understand the options that are best for you. Learn more about credit cards by exploring this credit card guide.

FAQ

Can I get a joint card?

Some card issuers allow cosigners on credit card. If you’re not able to qualify for a credit card on your own, you could also explore becoming an authorized user on someone else’s credit card account.

Does a student credit card affect credit score?

Yes, a student credit card affects your credit score. A student credit card is a regular credit card that’s just designed with students’ unique needs in mind, so it will affect your credit like any other credit card would.

What is the limit on a student credit card?

Credit limits on student credit cards vary by issuer and card. However, credit limits on student cards are often lower than the average credit card limit due to the fact that students generally have more limited credit histories and lower incomes.

Do you need credit for a secured credit card?

Most secured credit cards have less restrictive requirements for an applicant’s credit. In fact, many secured credit cards consider applicants with very poor or limited credit.


Photo credit: iStock/RgStudio

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

Non affiliation: SoFi isn’t affiliated with any of the companies highlighted in this article.

Disclaimer: Many factors affect your credit scores and the interest rates you may receive. SoFi is not a Credit Repair Organization as defined under federal or state law, including the Credit Repair Organizations Act. SoFi does not provide “credit repair” services or advice or assistance regarding “rebuilding” or “improving” your credit record, credit history, or credit rating. For details, see the FTC’s website .

SOCC0224013

Read more
Are Student Loans Installment or Revolving?

Are Student Loans Installment or Revolving?

Student loans are considered installment loans, or loans that are repaid through regularly scheduled payments or installments.

Revolving options, like credit cards, let borrowers take out varying amounts of money each month, repay it, and take out more money as they go. Learn more about installment loans and revolving credit below.

Learn more about installment loans and revolving credit below.

What Is Revolving Credit?

Revolving credit is an agreement between a lender and an account holder that allows you to borrow money up to a set maximum amount. The account holder can choose to pay off the balance in full or make minimum monthly payments on the account.

As the account holder makes repayments, the amount available to borrow is renewed. Account holders can continue to borrow up to the maximum amount through the term of the agreement. Examples of revolving credit include credit cards and home equity lines of credit (HELOCs).

Recommended: The Different Types Of Home Equity Loans

What Is Installment Credit?

Installment is a type of credit that allows a borrower to make fixed payments on a loan over a set period of time. Before the borrower signs the installment loan agreement, the lender will decide on the interest rate, fees, and repayment terms, which will determine how much the borrower pays each month.

Common examples of installment loans include student loans, mortgages, auto loans, and personal loans.


💡 Quick Tip: Fund your education with a low-rate, no-fee SoFi private student loan that covers all school-certified costs.

Revolving Credit vs Installment Credit

Here’s a high level overview on the differences between revolving credit and installment credit.

Revolving Credit

Installment Credit

Account holders can use the borrowed money at any time, repay it, and borrow more as needed. Account holders borrow one lump sum, the sole amount of money they have access to, and repay it over a set time period.
May come with higher interest rates than installment credit. May have stricter lending requirements than some revolving credit options, such as credit cards.
Account holders owe interest on the amount they spend, and possibly additional fees. Account holders owe a fixed number of payments over a predetermined time frame.

Revolving Credit

Revolving credit is a more open-ended form of credit obligation. Let’s use the example of a credit card:

1.    The cardholder uses the card to make purchases as they please, pays them off either in-full or partially each month, and continues to make charges on the line of credit.

2.    The amount of money the cardholder spends is their decision (up to their credit limit), and the amount of money they repay each month isn’t set in advance by the lender.

3.    The cardholder can pay off the account balance in full each month, or they can opt to pay the minimum and “revolve” the balance over to the next month (though this will accrue interest on the account).

An important note: To avoid any late fees or potential dings to their credit score, people who are borrowing from revolving credit are advised to pay their monthly bill on time. Revolving credit can play a major role in calculating a person’s credit utilization rate, which is considered the second biggest factor in determining their credit score. For FICO® scores, it is generally suggested that borrowers use no more than 30% of their available credit.

Installment Credit

Installment credit is less open-ended than revolving credit. Installment credit is a loan that offers a borrower a fixed amount of money over a predetermined period of time. When a borrower signs the loan agreement, they know exactly what the monthly payments will be.

Let’s use the example of a student loan:

1.    The student borrows a specific dollar amount. The lender specifies the interest rate and repayment terms. In the case of federal student loans, interest rates and terms are set by federal law.

2.    The predetermined funds are released to the borrower. Typically, the funds are released in a single lump sum payment.

3.    The borrower repays the loan based on the agreed upon terms. Terms will be set by the lender, for private student loans, or by law for federal student loans.

An important note: Having an installment loan on their credit report can help some borrowers diversify their credit mix, which is a factor in determining an individual’s credit score. The amount of the installment loan, however, won’t play a major role in the borrower’s credit utilization rate (versus with revolving credit).

Is a Student Loan an Installment Loan?

Student loans for undergraduate school are considered installment loans, which means they come with a starting balance, are disbursed to the qualifying borrower, and are repaid over a set amount of time through a fixed number of payments.


💡 Quick Tip: Need a private student loan to cover your school bills? Because approval for a private student loan is based on creditworthiness, a cosigner may help a student get loan approval and a lower rate.

Pros and Cons of Installment Credit

There are advantages and disadvantages to taking out an installment loan:

Pros of Installment Loans

Cons of Installment Loans

Can be used to finance a major purchase like a house, car, or college education. Can come with hefty fees.
Is repaid with a set number of payments of the same amount, which can make it easier for budgeting purposes. Missed or late payments may negatively impact the borrower’s credit score.
For some installment loans, it is possible to reduce interest charges by paying the loan off early. Depending on the type of installment loan and the lender, there may be penalties or fees for paying off the loan early.
Offers the perk of paying the loan off over a longer period of time. Longer terms typically mean you’re paying more in interest over the life of the loan.

Pros of Installment Credit

Here’s a brief breakdown of a few installment credit pros:

Payments

Installment credit payments are made on a set schedule that’s determined by the lender. This makes them a predictable, long-term strategy for paying off debt, and also makes it easier to factor them into your budget, especially if the installment loan has fixed interest rates.

The monthly payment for an installment loan with a variable interest rate may change from month to month, depending on how the variable interest rate changes.

Borrowing Cost

In terms of the loan amount and length of the loan, installment loans can be tailored to the borrower’s specific financial circumstances. This means the cost of the installment loan is fairly flexible based on what the borrower needs. Additionally, interest rates are generally lower on installment loans than with revolving credit, so borrowers may find that borrowing an installment loan with a competitive interest rate is a more affordable option.

Cons of Installment Credit

And here’s more info on the cons of installment credit:

Expensive

If the borrower takes out an installment loan over a longer period of time, they may end up making payments at an interest rate that’s higher than the current market rate, unless they’re able to refinance the loan.

Either way, the borrower is locked into a long-term financial contract with an installment loan. If they encounter a financial pitfall, they may be unable to make the scheduled payments or risk defaulting on the loan and damaging their credit.

Prepayment Penalty

Some loans impose prepayment penalties if a borrower pays their loan off early. This isn’t necessarily the case for all installment loans, but it’s important to read the fine print in the loan agreement to determine whether a prepayment fee will be triggered if the loan is paid off early.

Recommended: How to Avoid Paying a Prepayment Penalty

Ways to Pay for School

When looking for ways to pay for school, undergrads and grad students often look to installment loans. Tuition and living expenses may also be covered by savings and scholarships and grants.

Recommended: How to Pay for College

Federal Student Loans

Federal student loans are installment loans available to students. To apply, students fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) each year. Federal student loans have fixed interest rates that are set annually by Congress, offer flexible repayment options, and have some borrower protections and benefits such as deferment and the option to pursue Public Service Loan Forgiveness.

However, there are borrowing limits for federal student loans, so students may need to review other sources of financing when determining how they’ll pay for college.

Recommended: FAFSA 101: How to Complete the FAFSA

Private Student Loans

Private student loans are installment loans you can use to pay for a college education. Private student loans are not funded by the federal government. To apply for them, borrowers can browse the offerings of individual lenders like banks, credit unions, and online lenders and decide which private student loan works best for their finances. As a part of the application process, lenders will generally review the applicant’s credit history and credit score among other factors.

Private student loans can help fill the gap between the cost of college and their total financial aid, like federal loans, grants, and scholarships. However, private loans are generally considered only after all other options have been depleted. This is because private lenders are not required to offer the same borrower protections as federal student loans. If you think private student loans are an option for you, shop around to find competitive terms and interest rates, and be sure to read the terms and fine print closely.

Personal Savings

Using personal savings to pay for college means less debt and more flexibility. Not only that, but it costs significantly more to borrow money to pay for college than it does to use personal savings.

Still, this isn’t financially feasible for everyone, as evidenced by the fact that there are 43.2 million student loan borrowers in the U.S. as of the first quarter of 2024. Sometimes, going into debt is the only reasonable option.

Grants

Unlike student loans, which require repayment, and work-study programs, which allow students to work on campus, grants are a type of financial aid that doesn’t require repayment.

Grants may be awarded by the federal government, states, or colleges. The amount of aid a student receives depends on a number of factors, such as the student’s financial needs and the type of school they’re attending.

Recommended: The Differences Between Grants, Scholarships, and Loans

Scholarships

A scholarship is a lump sum of funds that can be used to help someone pay for school. The key stipulations with scholarships are that a) they’re contingent on a particular qualification, i.e. a grade point average (GPA), act of service, or athletic performance, and b) they never have to be repaid.

Scholarships are usually awarded by colleges, universities, corporations or organizations.

The Takeaway

Student loans are installment loans, meaning borrowers receive a set amount of money from a lender and are required to repay the loan over a fixed period of time.

For those looking for ways to pay for college, there are other alternatives to installment student loans — such as scholarships, grants, personal savings, and private student loans.

If you’ve exhausted all federal student aid options, no-fee private student loans from SoFi can help you pay for school. The online application process is easy, and you can see rates and terms in just minutes. Repayment plans are flexible, so you can find an option that works for your financial plan and budget.


Cover up to 100% of school-certified costs including tuition, books, supplies, room and board, and transportation with a private student loan from SoFi.

FAQ

Is a student loan an installment loan?

Yes, a student loan is a type of installment loan, which means you pay it back in set amounts, over a fixed period of time, and it shows up on your credit report.

Is a student loan a revolving loan?

No, a student loan is not a revolving loan. It is considered an installment loan.

What are the benefits of an installment student loan?

A few of the benefits of installment student loans include being able to easily factor the loan into your monthly budget, the same payment terms for the life of the loan, and a longer period of time to pay off the loan.


Photo credit: iStock/SDI Productions

SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC). For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal. Equal Housing Lender.


SoFi Private Student Loans
Please borrow responsibly. SoFi Private Student Loans are not a substitute for federal loans, grants, and work-study programs. You should exhaust all your federal student aid options before you consider any private loans, including ours. Read our FAQs. SoFi Private Student Loans are subject to program terms and restrictions, and applicants must meet SoFi’s eligibility and underwriting requirements. See SoFi.com/eligibility-criteria for more information. To view payment examples, click here. SoFi reserves the right to modify eligibility criteria at any time. This information is subject to change.


Non affiliation: SoFi isn’t affiliated with any of the companies highlighted in this article.

External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third-party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

SOIS0224001

Read more
What Happens to Credit Card Debt When You Die?

What Happens to Credit Card Debt When You Die?

When you die, your credit card debt does not die with you. Rather, any remaining debt you have must be paid before assets are distributed to your heirs or surviving spouse. The debt is subtracted from your estate, which is the sum of your assets. If your debts exceed your assets, then your estate is considered insolvent. That could mean your loved ones don’t receive any funds at all.

Read on to learn what happens to credit card debt after death, including who is responsible for credit card debt after death and what steps you should take after a cardholder dies.

Who Is Responsible for Credit Card Debt When You Die

An unfortunate part of understanding how credit cards work is grasping who is responsible for credit card debt after death. Typically, relatives aren’t responsible for paying a family member’s credit card debts upon death.

However, you may be responsible for paying your deceased loved one’s credit card debt if you cosigned for a credit card, given the responsibility cosigning carries. Joint account holders also can be held responsible for credit card debt left after death since both account holders are equally responsible for paying the credit card balance.

Authorized users, on the other hand, are not usually responsible for the outstanding balance on a deceased person’s account — unless, that is, you live in a community property state. These states, which typically hold spouses responsible for each other’s debts, include:

•   Arizona

•   California

•   Idaho

•   Louisiana

•   Nevada

•   New Mexico

•   Texas

•   Washington

•   Wisconsin

If you live in one of these states, you may have to pay your spouse’s credit card debts if they die, even if you were only an authorized user on their card.

Next Steps After a Cardholder Dies

If you have a relative or loved one who recently passed and left outstanding credit card debt, theses are the steps you should take to make sure their debt is properly handled:

1.    Ask for multiple copies of the death certificate. You’ll likely need to send official copies to various credit card companies and life insurance companies. It may also be needed for other estate purposes.

2.    If you’re an authorized user on the deceased person’s credit card, stop using that card upon their death. Using a credit card after the primary cardholder’s death is considered fraud. If you make any payments on the authorized user card, the credit company will accept the credit card payments and can claim that you have taken responsibility for the entire balance of the card. If you don’t have another credit card of your own, you may want to explore how to apply for a credit card.

3.    Make a list of the deceased person’s financial accounts, including their credit card accounts. A spouse or executor of the deceased can request a copy of the person’s credit report to check for all accounts. This way, you’ll know which accounts you’ll need to handle.

4.    Notify the credit card companies of the death. You’ll want to make sure to close any accounts that were in the deceased person’s name.

5.    Alert the three consumer credit bureaus of the death. You’ll also want to put a credit freeze on the person’s account. This can help prevent identity theft in the deceased’s name. Only the spouse or executor of the estate is authorized to report this information to the credit bureaus, which include Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax.

6.    Continue to make payments on any jointly held credit cards that you aren’t closing. Making the credit card minimum payment can help prevent a negative effect on your credit score.

Assets That Are Protected From Creditors

If a deceased relative’s credit card debt exceeds their total assets, don’t panic. In the instance the estate doesn’t have enough money to cover all of the deceased’s debt, state law will determine which debt is the highest priority.

Credit cards are considered unsecured loans, which are lower in priority for loan repayments after death. Mortgages and car loans are secured by collateral, so they are considered higher priority. Often, unsecured debt may not even get paid.

It’s also important to know that some types of assets are protected from creditors in the event of death. This includes retirement accounts, life insurance proceeds, assets held in a living trust, and brokerage accounts. Homes may also be protected, though this will depend on state law and how title to the property is held.

Remember: Credit card companies can’t legally ask you to pay credit card debts that aren’t your responsibility.

Credit Card Liability After Death

The best way to keep your loved ones from having to deal with your credit card debt is to responsibly manage your credit card balances while you’re alive. For instance, you can avoid spending up to your credit card limit each month to make your balance easier to pay off.

You can also take the time to look for a good APR for a credit card to minimize the interest that racks up if you can’t pay off your balance in full each month.

Knowing your credit card debt won’t disappear after you die may also make you think twice before making a charge. For instance, while you can technically pay taxes with a credit card, it might not be worth it if it will just add interest to the amount you owe.

If a loved one has recently passed and you shared accounts in any way, keep an eye on your own credit reports and credit card statements. Make sure to dispute credit card charges that you think are incorrect.

How to Avoid Passing Down Debt Problems

If you want to avoid passing down the issue of sorting out your debt, you can have an attorney create a will or trust. A will or trust will offer your loved ones guidance on where you’d like your assets to go after your death, and, in some cases, could allow them to bypass the sometimes costly and time-consuming process of probate.

However, making a will or trust won’t necessarily stop debt collectors from contacting your family members after your death — even if those family members aren’t responsible for the debt. Keep in mind that the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act does prohibit deceptive and abusive contact by debt collectors, so your loved ones will have some legal protections from excessive collections efforts.

Still, it’s important to share as much information as you can about your debt with family members so that they’re aware of your finances after you are no longer there. You don’t need to share information as personal as the CVV number on your credit card or your credit card expiration date, but it is helpful for your loved ones to have an idea of how many accounts you have and what the general state of them is.

The Takeaway

Unfortunately, you don’t get automatic credit card debt forgiveness after death. While your loved ones generally won’t be held responsible for your debt — unless you have a joint account, served as a cosigner, or live in a community property state — your debts are still deducted from your estate. If you want to avoid leaving your loved ones with a mountain of debt, the most important step you can take is to responsibly manage your credit cards while you’re still here.

Whether you're looking to build credit, apply for a new credit card, or save money with the cards you have, it's important to understand the options that are best for you. Learn more about credit cards by exploring this credit card guide.

FAQ

Do I have to pay my deceased parent’s credit card debt?

You don’t have to pay your deceased parent’s credit card debt unless you were a cosigner on their credit card. If you were an authorized user on your parent’s credit card, you are not responsible for their debt.

Do credit card companies know when someone dies?

You should notify the credit card company when your close relative dies to close any accounts in their name. You should also notify the three consumer credit bureaus of the death to put a credit freeze on the person’s account to prevent identity theft.

Can credit card companies take your house after death?

Homes are usually protected from creditors in the event of death, though this does depend on state law and how the title of the property is held. In general, however, credit card companies usually can’t take your house after death.

Is my spouse responsible for my credit card debt?

Your spouse is not responsible for your credit card debt unless they were a cosigner on your credit card. If they were an authorized user on your credit card, they generally are not responsible for your credit card debt unless you live in a community property state (California, Arizona, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin).

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third-party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.

Tax Information: This article provides general background information only and is not intended to serve as legal or tax advice or as a substitute for legal counsel. You should consult your own attorney and/or tax advisor if you have a question requiring legal or tax advice.

Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.

Non affiliation: SoFi isn’t affiliated with any of the companies highlighted in this article.

Photo credit: iStock/PixelsEffect
SOCC0224001

Read more
Differences and Similarities Between Personal Lines of Credit and Credit Cards

Differences and Similarities Between Personal Lines of Credit and Credit Cards

Credit cards and personal lines of credit both allow you to borrow money over time until you hit a credit limit. You typically pay back what you owe on a monthly basis, paying interest on your balance.

Each method has its pros and cons (for example, while a line of credit may have a lower interest rate, it likely won’t offer rewards and may be tougher to qualify for). Here, you’ll learn the ins and outs of a personal line of credit vs. a credit card so you can decide which is right for you.

What Is a Personal Line of Credit?

A personal line of credit operates under the same concept as a credit card, with slight differences. It’s a type of revolving credit that allows you to borrow a set amount, which is typically based on your income. Here are details to know:

•   The majority of personal lines of credit are unsecured, meaning there’s no collateral at risk if you default on payments. However, you can obtain a secured personal line of credit at some institutions if you put down a deposit. This deposit will be used to pay your balance due if you default on payments, but it can also help you achieve a lower interest rate. Personal loans secured by a deposit are typically used as a method for building credit.

•   A home equity line of credit (or HELOC) is similar to a secured personal line of credit in that your house acts as the collateral in the loan. You’re borrowing against the equity in your home. If you default on payments, your house could be foreclosed on to make up the difference.



💡 Quick Tip: A low-interest personal loan can consolidate your debts, lower your monthly payments, and help you get out of debt sooner.

How Does a Personal Line of Credit Work?

Get acquainted with how a personal line of credit works:

•   As with any other credit transaction, personal lines of credit are reported to the three major credit bureaus. You will have to provide details about your financial standings in order to qualify for a personal line of credit. Typically, this comes in the form of demonstrating your income, in addition to other requirements.

•   The interest rate for a personal line of credit usually fluctuates with the market conditions, such as the prime rate. You may also have to pay a fee each time you use your personal line of credit.

•   Some banking institutions may require you to have a checking account established with them before offering you a personal line of credit. This is critical for using your personal line of credit, since the money can be transferred to a linked checking account. (In some cases, you might receive funds via a payment card (similar to a debit card) or use special checks to move the funds.

•   Personal lines of credit contain what’s called a “draw period.” During this predetermined amount of time, you can use your available credit as you please, as long as you don’t go over the limit.

•   Once the draw period reaches its end, you may be required to either pay your remaining balance in full or pay it off by a certain date after that.

What Is a Credit Card?

Is a credit card a line of credit? Not exactly. A credit card is a type of unsecured revolving credit that includes a credit limit. This limit is determined by your financial situation, which requires a hard credit check. There are credit cards for practically all types of credit scores, from poor all the way up to excellent.

Many credit cards offer rewards in the form of cash back or travel rewards. You may also receive a bonus for signing up for a new account, either as rewards or as an interest-free, introductory financing period. Also, a credit card can offer cardholder benefits such as purchase protection or travel insurance.

How Does a Credit Card Work?

Your personal bank or other financial institutions may offer their own credit cards, but you don’t have to belong to a particular bank or lender in order to qualify for a credit card. After you’ve applied for a credit card and been approved, the lender will likely set a credit limit.

•   When you make a purchase with a credit card, it constitutes a loan. At the end of each billing cycle you’ll receive a statement. You can usually avoid interest charges by paying your statement balance in full.

•   If you choose to pay a lesser amount, you’ll incur interest charges. Credit cards typically charge high interest, so it’s important to stay on top of the amount you owe, which can increase quickly.

•   If you don’t make a payment by the statement due date, you will likely also incur a late payment fee. Interest charges and fees are added to the account balance, and interest will accrue on this new total.

•   If you miss payments by 60 days typically, you could be assessed a higher penalty APR.

Recommended: Average Personal Loan Rates

Personal Lines of Credit Vs Credit Cards Compared

Now that you know a bit more about each of these options, you know that the answer to “Is a line of credit the same as a credit card?” is no. Now, take a closer look at the difference between a line of credit and a credit card.

Similarities

Both personal lines of credit and credit cards are types of revolving credit. This means you can borrow up to a certain amount as it suits you, as long as you pay the balance back down in order to make room for future purchases.

Both personal lines of credit and credit cards also report your balance and payment history to the three major consumer credit bureaus.

Differences

Here’s a quick summary of the main differences between personal lines of credit and credit cards.

Features

Personal Line of Credit

Credit Card

Interest rate Typically lower than credit cards Typically higher than personal lines of credit
Borrowing limit Often up to $50,000 or more Typically, $28,000 but varies
Rewards None Many cards offer cash back or travel rewards
Fees Annual fee, late payment fees, fees for drawing on account Annual fees, balance transfer fees, late payment fees and penalty APRs, overdraft fees
Application process Can be lengthy Usually very simple
Grace period No Yes
Other benefits Good for emergency and/or unexpected expenses Many cards offer travel insurance, purchase protection, and other benefits.



💡 Quick Tip: Swap high-interest debt for a lower-interest loan, and save money on your monthly payments. Find out why credit card consolidation loans are so popular.

Pros and Cons of Personal Lines of Credit

There are times when a personal line of credit can make life much simpler. However, you may have to accept certain tradeoffs.

Pros

Cons

Lower fees for a cash advance Potential fees for usage
High borrowing limits Preset credit lifespan
Lowwe interest rates No spending rewards or perks
Funds can be used at your discretion No interest-free grace period
You only pay interest on what you borrow Annual fee

Pros and Cons of Credit Cards

Credit cards are a powerful financial tool you can use to wisely manage your spending. Knowing the terms of the game, however, is just as important as learning how to be responsible with credit cards.

Pros

Cons

Many cards offer rewards for spending Some cards have annual fees
Can be used for retail purchases Typically high interest rates
One for practically every credit score Hefty fees for cash advances
Useful tool in establishing and/or rebuilding credit Balance transfer fees

Recommended: Credit Score vs. FICO® Score

Alternatives to Revolving Credit

Besides personal lines of credit and credit cards, there are a few other types of financial products you can use to access credit.

Personal Loans

It may be easy to get personal loans vs. lines of credit confused, but it’s crucial to know the difference. For example, a personal line of credit is a potential amount that can be borrowed. Personal loans, however, are a lump sum of money that you receive shortly after your approval. Here’s how this kind of loan typically:

•   Obtaining either a secured or unsecured personal loan requires a credit check. The potential amount you may be able to borrow ranges from $1,000 all the way up to $40,000 or more.

•   Some personal loans are taken out for a specific purpose, such as a home renovation, a personal line of credit can often be used for whatever reason crops up. For example, you may want to go with a personal loan instead of a line of credit if you need to make home renovations.

•   A personal loan rate calculator can be used to see what terms you may be able to expect. While these calculators may not give you the exact terms you’ll receive if you do obtain a personal loan, they can be a great starting place.

Auto Loan

Many people don’t have thousands of dollars sitting around to help pay towards a new car, so they use auto loans. An auto loan is a kind of personal loan that’s secured by the title of the vehicle.

If the borrower fails to pay the loan, the vehicle can be repossessed. And the name of the lender typically appears on the title of the car, so the loan must be paid off before the car can be sold.

Mortgage

A mortgage, or home loan, is a loan that’s secured by a real estate property. Because of the inherent value of real estate, a home mortgage can often have a lower interest rate than other types of secured loans. Most home mortgages are installment loans that have a fixed repayment period, such as 30 years or 15 years.

A home equity loan or a home equity line of credit is a second mortgage taken out against the existing equity in a property. Because of their low interest rates these are sometimes used instead of unsecured personal loans.

Student Loans

Student loans can allow students to fund their education; you may not need to start paying those loans off until you’ve graduated.

Federal student aid can help pay for college-related costs as well. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) is one way to determine how much and what type of federal student aid students and parents might qualify for. Some individual colleges also use the FAFSA in determining eligibility for their own financial aid programs.

Private student loans are another option, both for loans and to refinance federal loans. In terms of the latter, however, there are two important considerations:

•   If you refinance federal student loans with private loans, you forfeit the federal benefits and protections, such as forgiveness.

•   If you refinance for an extended term, you may pay more interest over the life of the loan.

•   For these reasons, think carefully about whether private student loans suit your situation.

The Takeaway

Personal lines of credit are similar to credit cards in that they are both generally unsecured loans issued based on your personal creditworthiness. By understanding how a credit card differs from a personal line of credit, you can choose the loan that best fits your needs or decide to access cash through an alternative method.

Think twice before turning to high-interest credit cards. Consider a SoFi personal loan instead. SoFi offers competitive fixed rates and same-day funding. Checking your rate takes just a minute.


SoFi’s Personal Loan was named NerdWallet’s 2024 winner for Best Personal Loan overall.

FAQ

Here’s a list of the most common questions associated with personal lines of credit and credit cards.

Is a personal line of credit the same as a credit card?

Personal lines of credit and credit cards are similar but not the same. A credit card is a form of payment accepted by merchants and a kind of revolving loan. A personal line of credit is a revolving loan, and the funds are typically transferred to the borrower’s personal bank account before they are used for purchases. Credit cards can also have numerous benefits not offered by a personal line of credit but the interest rate may be higher.

Are there additional risks to lines of credit vs credit cards?

Both personal lines of credit and credit cards require you to pay back what you owe, whether it’s on a monthly basis or at the end of the draw period, in the case of a line of credit. Making late payments or missing payments can negatively affect your credit score and incur fees.

Do personal lines of credit affect your credit score?

Yes, personal lines of credit, just like credit cards, are subject to reporting to the major credit bureaus. If you make late payments or miss payments, your credit score can be negatively affected. However, personal lines of credit can also be used to build your credit if you make your payments on time and use your credit responsibly.


Photo credit: iStock/Deepak Sethi

SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Bank, N.A., NMLS #696891 (Member FDIC). For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal. Equal Housing Lender.


Disclaimer: Many factors affect your credit scores and the interest rates you may receive. SoFi is not a Credit Repair Organization as defined under federal or state law, including the Credit Repair Organizations Act. SoFi does not provide “credit repair” services or advice or assistance regarding “rebuilding” or “improving” your credit record, credit history, or credit rating. For details, see the FTC’s website .

SoFi Mortgages
Terms, conditions, and state restrictions apply. Not all products are available in all states. See SoFi.com/eligibility for more information.


Non affiliation: SoFi isn’t affiliated with any of the companies highlighted in this article.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.

SOPL0124046

Read more
TLS 1.2 Encrypted
Equal Housing Lender