Can You Get a Credit Card at 16?

Getting a Credit Card at 16: What You Should Know First

While you have to be at least 18 years old to get your own credit card, you can become an authorized user on someone else’s credit card as a 16-year-old. This allows you to have a copy of a credit card with your name on it — though the adult will still be the account holder and be responsible for paying the bills.

Keep reading to learn more about how to get a credit card at 16, which will involve becoming an authorized user.

How Old Do You Have to Be to Get a Credit Card?

Generally, you must be 18 years old to get a credit card on your own. Even after turning 18, you usually must prove that you have independent income or get an older cosigner before the age of 21 in order to get a credit card, due to regulations that govern how credit cards work.

While getting a cosigner (usually a parent) can be doable, many teens may struggle to find a credit card issuer that is willing to accept a cosigner. More often than not, if a teen wants to gain access to a credit card, their best path forward is to become an authorized user on someone else’s credit card.

What Is an Authorized User?

An authorized user is someone who is added to a credit card account by the primary account holder. Becoming an authorized user on someone else’s credit card can make it possible for a 16-year old to have a credit card, as virtually all major credit card issuers accept authorized users who are 16.

If an adult — such as a parent — wants to, they can add a teenager as an authorized user to their credit card. The account holder can then request that the authorized user receive a copy of the credit card with their name on it. This credit card will share the same number as the card of the main account holder.

The teen can then make purchases with the credit card anywhere that accepts credit card payments, but they won’t be legally responsible for paying the bills. Because of this, it’s important that everyone works together to communicate and is aware of what’s being spent and who will pay it off. If the parent is going to put a big purchase on their credit card — such as paying taxes with a credit card — an authorized user’s added spending can drive up the credit utilization ratio.

Recommended: When Are Credit Card Payments Due

Becoming an Authorized User

Becoming an authorized user on a credit card can impact a teen’s credit score and build their credit history. That’s because when a teenager becomes an authorized user on a credit card, the credit card issuer will begin to report the account activity to the three major credit bureaus (TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian).

The primary account holder must contact their card issuer to add you. Then, here’s how being an authorized user can benefit you:

•   When the primary account holder makes on time payments and keeps their balance low in comparison to their credit card limit, the teen’s score should benefit. On the other hand, if the account holder is late on their payments, the teen’s credit score could suffer.

•   It’s important for both the account holder and authorized user to know how much they can afford to spend and how much they can manage to pay off each month. Ideally, you’ll be able to pay more than the credit card minimum payment to minimize the interest that accrues.

•   It’s also wise to double-check that the credit card issuer is reporting the behavior of the authorized user to the three main credit bureaus. Some credit card issuers, like Wells Fargo, accept authorized users who are under the age of 18 but don’t report their behavior to the credit bureaus until they come of legal age — which won’t help the teen build their credit history or credit score.

Credit Card Options for 16-Year-Olds

If becoming an authorized user isn’t a good fit, 16-year-olds have other options. Teens may find that a debit card or prepaid card can give them the convenience of using a card without actually having a credit card or borrowing any money.

•   Because debit cards are connected to bank accounts, a teen can use a debit card to make payments without physical cash on hand. However, they can’t spend more than they have in their bank account.

•   They also won’t have to worry about any potential impacts to their credit score when using a debit card.

Another option: prepaid cards, which can be purchased at grocery stores, gas stations, and pharmacies. These can be loaded with a set amount of money. The user can then spend as much as the prepaid card is worth.

Neither a debit card nor a prepaid card will help teens build their credit score, nor do they offer the protections a credit card does, like requesting a credit card chargeback if there’s an incorrect charge. However, these options can get teens used to the concept of not overspending when shopping with a card instead of cash.

Are There Advantages to Getting a Credit Card at 16?

There are some unique advantages that come with getting a credit card at the age of 16 by becoming an authorized user. In addition to the teen gaining a firm grasp on what a credit card is, these are the main benefits worth keeping in mind.

Building Credit Score

As we briefly mentioned earlier, using a credit card responsibly can help teens build their credit history and credit score. Building credit when you’re young can make it easier to qualify for better credit products as well as rates and terms down the road.

Learning Good Financial Habits Early

Another headstart that teens can get by using a credit card at age 16 is learning good financial habits. Using a credit card can help teenagers learn how to budget, pay bills on time, and spend less than they earn. They can also begin to learn about annual percentage rate, or APR, and understand why it’s so important to find a good APR for a credit card.

Access to Emergency Funds

As teenagers gain more and more independence, their parents won’t always be with them when they’re out and about. If an emergency were to arise, like running out of gas, a credit card can give a teen the ability to spend more than just the cash they have on hand.

Rewards for Card Holders

The fun part about credit cards is that it’s possible to earn rewards when you use them. Because the teen will be an authorized user on a credit card, the account holder will be the one to redeem any credit card rewards. Still, this serves as a good opportunity to teach a teenager the benefits of using credit responsibly when it comes time for them to apply for a credit card of their own.

If they want, the primary account holder can even share some of their cash back or other perks with the authorized user.

Convenience for Both Parents and Children

Parents may find that their teen having a credit card saves them a lot of fuss. Do they need money for a yearbook or to buy prom tickets? No worries, they can use their credit card as long as they have permission or know their spending limits. With their own credit card (and the help of a responsible adult when it comes time to pay the bill), teens can use a credit card to manage their college applications, pay for SAT prep classes, or pick up school supplies.

Recommended: Does Applying For a Credit Card Hurt Your Credit Score

Common Pitfalls for 16-Year-Olds With a Credit Card

Of course, credit cards aren’t all fun and games. Here are some pitfalls that 16-year-olds should look out for when using a credit card.

Overspending

The biggest mistake any of us can make when it comes to credit cards is overspending and not being able to afford our bill. It’s important that parents or legal guardians have serious conversations with their teens about how credit works and what the consequences of overspending can be. This can include credit card interest, fees, and a bruised credit score.

Possibility of Credit Card Fraud

Credit cards come with fraud risks that teens who are used to paying in cash may not know what to look out for, such as credit card skimmers. While credit cards can be more secure than debit cards, it’s important to teach teens about how to use credit cards safely so their card isn’t lost or stolen and they don’t fall prey to identity theft.

The Takeaway

It is possible to get a credit card at 16 by becoming an authorized user on an adult’s credit card account. To get your own credit card, you’ll need to wait until you’re at least 18, and even then, you’ll need to prove you have independent income or get a cosigner. When it is time to get a credit card of your own, you’ll want to make sure you’re ready to manage it responsibly and that you take the time to select a credit card that fits your needs.

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

What is the minimum age to get a credit card?

You must be 18 years old to get your own credit card. Even then, you must prove that you have a steady source of income or else you’ll need to get a cosigner who is over the age of 21.

Can a 16 year old get a credit card with a cosigner?

No, you must be at least 18 years old to get a credit card — even if you have a cosigner. Those under the age of 18 can become an authorized user on an adult’s credit card account, but they can’t get a credit card of their own.

Can you use a credit card to build a good credit score?

When used responsibly, a credit card can help build a credit score. If a teen becomes an authorized user on a parent’s credit card, for instance, and that parent makes on-time payments and keeps their credit utilization low, they can build their credit score as well as the teen’s.

What payment card can you get at 16?

Before the age of 18, teens can get a debit card or a prepaid card on their own. Neither type of payment card will help build their credit score, but they are easier to obtain than a credit card. A teen can also become an authorized user and get a credit card of their own if approved by the main account holder, though this will not be their own credit card account.


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.

Photo credit: iStock/cyano66
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Can You Buy Gift Cards With a Credit Card? How to Do It

Can You Buy Gift Cards With a Credit Card? Everything You Need to Know

In general, it is possible to buy a gift card with a credit card. There are some instances where you might not be able to, though; namely at some specific stores that may limit or ban the purchase of gift cards with a credit card due to fraud concerns. However, you can usually go ahead and swipe or tap to get one of these cards, which can be a convenient and useful present.

Read on to learn more about when you can buy a gift card with a credit card and how it works.

What Are Gift Cards?

A gift card looks and functions similarly to a credit card, but instead it is a prepaid debit card. You can purchase one and load it with a certain amount of funds or many come preloaded in different denominations. These can be a convenient way to give a gift to anyone from your nephew to your dog walker.

Some gift cards can be used at just a specific retailer, like an Amazon or Target gift card. Others can be used at a variety of retailers, such as a Visa gift card that’s designed to be spent almost anywhere.

You can buy gift cards in store or online. Gift cards are activated at purchase so they can be used right away without any further steps necessary. Just like there are credit card expiration dates, gift cards can expire if they’re not used within a certain timeframe.

Types of Gift Cards

There are two main types of gift cards that consumers will come across:

•   Retail or store-specific gift cards

•   Generic gift cards.

This is how these two types of gift cards work.

Retail or Store Specific Gift Cards

Retail or store-specific gift cards can only be used at select (if not just one) retailer. So, for instance, if you buy a gift card for a particular restaurant or cafe chain, the funds are only spendable at that restaurant, not anywhere else. This type of gift card is also known as a closed-loop gift card.

Generic Gift Cards

Generic, or open-loop, gift cards can be used at a variety of retailers as long as they accept credit card payments from that specific payment card network. This type of gift card is offered by most major credit card networks, such as American Express, Visa, and MasterCard.

These cards are often reloadable, though there may be a fee to do so. Open-loop gift cards also often charge an activation fee when the card is purchased.

Recommended: When Are Credit Card Payments Due

Can You Buy Gift Cards With a Credit Card?

Generally, it’s possible to buy a gift card with a credit card. Of course, whether you can do so will depend on whether the retailer allows credit card purchases and accepts payment from the consumer’s specific credit card network.

Some retailers may not allow you to buy a gift card with a credit card or they may place limits on purchases. This is because of fraud concerns, as the purchase of gift cards with stolen or counterfeit credit cards is common. These limitations generally apply to store-specific gift cards.

Recommended: What Is a Credit Card Chargeback

Things to Watch Out for When Buying Gift Cards With a Credit Card

Plenty of people buy gift cards with a credit card, especially when buying gift cards online. Even though it’s possible to buy a gift card with a credit card, there are some things worth looking out for when making this kind of purchase.

Can You Get Rewards for Purchasing Gift Cards With a Credit Card?

While some credit card issuers make it possible to earn rewards like cash back and miles when purchasing a gift card, other issuers don’t reward these purchases at all. For example, the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express does not consider gift cards an eligible purchase for rewards. This may be something to keep in mind when applying for a credit card if you plan to purchase gift cards often.

To find out if you’ll earn rewards for buying a gift card with a credit card, check your credit card issuer’s terms for more details on how your credit card works.

Does Making a Gift Card Purchase Count as a Cash Advance?

Buying a gift card with a credit card can potentially cost consumers more than they realize. This is because some credit card issuers may view buying a gift card as taking a cash advance, particularly for open-loop cards.

Why is that a bad thing?

•   Credit card issuers charge interest and fees on cash advances, which is when a credit card allows the cardholder to borrow a set amount of cash as an advance.

•   Plus, interest starts accruing immediately on cash advances, with no grace period offered. Usually, interest only begins accruing if you make only the credit card minimum payment rather than paying off your balance in full.

•   Also note that the APR of a cash advance also can be higher than the purchase APR on a credit card and can add up quickly.

How to Avoid Cash Advances When Buying Gift Cards With Your Credit Card

Most people don’t realize that a gift card purchase with a credit card can count as a cash advance. Before buying a gift card with a credit card, it’s a good idea to double check what a credit card issuer’s policies are surrounding gift card purchases. You may be charged a higher interest rate, which can contribute to credit card debt.

If the card issuer does count the purchase of gift cards as a cash advance, then it can be wise to buy a gift card with cash or another card whenever possible. And if you do end up needing to buy a gift card with that credit card when you’re in a bind, know this: Your credit card’s cash advance limit may be different than your average credit card limit.

The Takeaway

It is often possible to buy gift cards with a credit card, and you may even earn rewards for doing so. However, it’s a good idea to learn the details before you buy as you might be charged as if you are accessing a cash advance. That can mean a higher APR assessed, and you may have a different limit, too. These are important points to know to make sure you are using your credit card 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

Do credit card providers issue rewards for gift card purchases?

It’s possible with some credit cards to earn rewards points when purchasing a gift card. However, many credit card issuers don’t consider gift card purchases eligible for earning rewards (they deem them cash equivalents and ineligible). Double check the cardholder agreement for a specific card for details.

How can you avoid gift card scams?

Only buy gift cards from trusted retailers to help protect against gift cards scams. Avoid purchasing gift cards from online auction sites that offer discounts, as the gift cards they sell may be stolen or fake. It’s also a good idea to check for protective stickers on a gift card before buying it and to confirm that the gift card’s pin number isn’t showing. If you do spot an issue, get a different gift card.

Can you put money on a gift card with a credit card?

Yes, it is possible to add money to a gift card by using a credit card. It’s up to consumers to choose how much they want to add to a gift card. Retailers can offer gift cards that come in pre-set amounts like $50 or $100, or they may allow customers to add a custom amount to their gift card.


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.

Photo credit: iStock/Tingting Ji
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Credit Card Network vs Issuer: What Is the Difference?

Credit Card Network vs Issuer: What Is the Difference?

Credit card networks provide the financial infrastructure for transactions, while credit card issuers are responsible for providing cards to consumers and managing their accounts. To put it another way, credit card networks facilitate transactions between merchants and credit card issuers, and credit card issuers pay for transactions on the cardholder’s behalf when they use their card.

Once you understand this difference, however, you may be confused by the fact that some credit card networks are also card issuers. To get a better understanding, keep reading for a closer look at the differences between a credit card network vs. issuer.

What Is a Credit Card Network?

Credit card networks create the digital infrastructure so merchants can facilitate transactions between themselves and the credit card issuers — meaning they’re key to how credit cards work. In order to facilitate these transactions, the credit card networks charge the merchants an interchange fee, also known as a swipe fee.

Here’s an example of how this works:

•   Say someone walks into a clothing store and uses their credit card to buy a pair of pants. They swipe or tap their credit card to make the purchase.

•   The store’s payment system will send the details of this transaction to the cardholder’s credit card network, which then relays the information to the credit card issuer.

•   The credit card issuer decides whether or not to approve the transaction.

•   The clothing store is alerted as to whether or not the transition was approved.

Essentially, credit card networks make it possible for businesses to accept credit cards as a form of payment, making them integral to what a credit card is. Credit card networks are also responsible for determining where certain credit cards are accepted, as not every merchant may accept all networks.

The Four Major Card Networks

The four major credit card networks that consumers are most likely to come across are:

•   American Express

•   Discover

•   Mastercard

•   Visa

All of these credit card networks have created their own digital infrastructure to facilitate transactions between credit card issuers and merchants. These four credit card networks are so commonly used that it’s possible to find a business almost anywhere in the U.S. that accepts one or more of the payment methods supported by these merchants.

When traveling and using a credit card internationally, it’s more common to come across Visa and Mastercard networks.

Now, for the detail mentioned above that can cause confusion: Two of these popular payment networks — American Express and Discover — are also credit card issuers. However, their offerings as a credit card network are separate from their credit card offerings as an issuer.

Does It Matter Which Card Network You Use?

Which credit card network someone can use depends on the type of credit card they have and whether the credit card network that supports that card is available via the merchant they are purchasing from. Most merchants in the U.S. work with all of the major networks who support the most popular credit cards, so it shouldn’t matter too much which credit card network you have when shopping domestically. When traveling abroad, however, it’s important to have cash on hand in case the credit card network options are more limited.

Merchants are the ones who are more likely to be affected by the credit card networks that they use. This is due to the fact that credit card networks determine how much the merchant will pay in processing fees in order to use their system.

Recommended: Charge Cards Advantages and Disadvantages

What Are Credit Card Issuers?

Credit card issuers are the financial institutions that create and manage credit cards. They’re responsible for approving applicants, determining cardholder rewards and fees, and setting credit limits and the APR on a credit card.

Essentially, credit card issuers manage the entire experience of using a credit card. Cardholders work with their credit card issuer when they need to get a new card after losing one, when they have to make their credit card minimum payment, or when they want to check their current card balance.

Credit card issuers can be banks, credit unions, fintech companies, or other types of financial institutions. Some of the biggest credit card issuers in the U.S. are:

•   American Express

•   Bank of America

•   Barclays

•   Capital One

•   Chase

•   Citi

•   Discover

•   Synchrony Bank

•   U.S. Bank

•   Wells Fargo

Credit Card Network vs Issuer: What Is the Difference?

Credit card issuers and credit card payment networks are easy to confuse. The main difference, as noted, is as follows:

•   Credit card networks facilitate payments between merchants and credit cards.

•   Credit card issuers create and manage credit cards for consumers. If you have an issue with your credit card — like in the instance you want to dispute a credit card charge or request a credit card chargeback — it’s the issuer you’d go to.

These are the main differences to be aware of when it comes to credit card networks vs. issuers, provided in chart form:

Credit Card Issuer Credit Card Payment Network

•   Creates credit cards

•   Manages credit cards

•   Accepts or declines applicants

•   Sets credit card fees

•   Determines interest rates and credit limits

•   Creates rewards offerings

•   Approves and declines transactions

•   Processes transactions between credit card companies and merchants

•   Creates the digital infrastructure that facilitates these transactions

•   Charges an interchange fee to merchants

•   Determines which credit cards can be used at which merchants

How Credit Card Networks and Issuers Work Together

Credit card networks and issuers need each other to function. Without a credit card network, consumers wouldn’t be able to use their card to shop with any merchants, and the credit card issuer’s product would go unused. Credit card networks create the infrastructure that allows merchants to accept credit cards as payment.

However, it’s up to the credit card issuers to approve or decline the transaction. The credit card issuer is also the one responsible for getting credit cards into consumers’ hands when they’re eligible and old enough to get a credit card, thus creating a need for the credit card networks’ services.

Recommended: When Are Credit Card Payments Due

The Takeaway

A credit card network provides the financial infrastructure for cards and facilitates the transaction between the issuer and the merchant. The issuer is responsible for creating, offering, and managing consumers’ accounts. A couple of businesses are both credit card networks and issuers. Understanding the fine points of how credit cards operate can be an important part of your financial literacy and using credit 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

What is a credit card network?

A credit card network is the party that creates the necessary infrastructure to process transactions between a credit card issuer and a merchant. In return for processing the transaction, the merchant pays the credit card network an interchange fee, which is how the credit card networks make money.

How do I know my credit card issuer?

To find out a credit card’s issuer, simply look at your credit card. There will be a string of numbers on the credit card, and the first six to eight digits represent the Bank Identification Number (BIN) or the Issuer Identification Number (IIN). The Issuer Identification Number identifies who the credit card issuer is.

Who is the largest credit card issuer?

The four largest credit card networks are American Express, Discover, Mastercard, and Visa. Most merchants in the U.S. work with all four credit card networks. When traveling abroad, it’s more common to come across Visa and Mastercard networks.


Photo credit: iStock/Poike

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.

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What Is a Credit Card Chargeback and How Does It Work?

What Is a Credit Card Chargeback and How Does It Work?

If you’ve purchased a product or service using a credit card and never received it, or if the item arrived damaged, then you may be eligible for what’s known as a chargeback. A credit card chargeback is when a bank reverses an electronic payment to trigger a dispute resolution process.

In this guide, you’ll learn more about what a credit card chargeback is, how it works, and when you may be able to request one.

What Is a Credit Chargeback?

Credit card chargebacks usually occur between a merchant and a bank that issued the credit card used for the transaction. Chargebacks are used to reverse a payment after a billing error, unauthorized credit card use, or the failure to deliver a product or service. You can also request a chargeback when the goods or services that you paid for with your credit card you received aren’t delivered as advertised.

For example, if you ordered a red jacket, and you received a blue one, you could request a chargeback if the merchant refuses to exchange or refund your purchase.

Chargebacks can be initiated for almost any merchant that accepts credit card payments.

Credit Card Chargeback vs Refund

While both a chargeback and a refund can result in you getting your money back, they aren’t the same thing. Knowing the difference is an important part of understanding how credit cards work.

•   With a refund, it’s the merchant rather than the consumer that initiates the return of funds. Additionally, a consumer typically deals with the merchant to get a refund

•   When a chargeback occurs, it’s the bank issuing the credit card that you’ll work with.

How Does a Credit Charge Back Work?

If you have an issue with a product or service you received or you notice a charge on your credit card statement that you don’t believe was authorized, you can initiate a credit card chargeback. These are some details about how this typically works:

•   You can usually only make a chargeback within 120 days of the date of purchase.

•   Once you’ve contacted the credit card issuer to dispute the charge, the bank will take over the process and contact the merchant. The merchant will have the opportunity to either accept or refute the chargeback, and you may be asked to provide evidence supporting your request.

•   At the end of the investigation, the chargeback will either be accepted, in which case you’d get your funds back, or it will be rejected.

•   If you disagree with the decision, you can always continue to dispute the charge through a process called arbitration.

When to Use a Chargeback

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) provides protections to consumers who use credit cards, including the right to accurate billing, protection from unauthorized charges, and the right to dispute credit card charges for goods or services that are different than described. As such, chargebacks are issued for a variety of reasons.

Before proceeding, however, keep in mind that if there was an issue with your service or goods, you may consider giving the merchant the opportunity to make it right before requesting a chargeback.

Fraud or Unauthorized Use

A common reason to request a credit card chargeback is due to fraud or unauthorized use. If you don’t recognize a transaction on your credit card statement or believe someone used your card without your authorization, you may consider requesting a credit card chargeback.

Moving forward, a good way to prevent credit card fraud can be to keep your credit card expiration date and CVV number on a credit card safe.

Incorrect Amount

If an amount on your credit card bill is incorrect, you can file for a chargeback. For example, if the merchant adds an extra zero to your bill and you can’t reach the company to have it corrected, then this would be a good time to request a chargeback — especially if the overcharge has pushed you close to your credit limit.

Recurring Billing Was Not Stopped

If you cancel a subscription service but continue to be billed afterwards, a chargeback can make sense. It can help if you have proof in hand that you had canceled the subscription already.

Goods and Services Not Delivered

Paying for a good or service that you never received is another reason to file a chargeback. If you order something that never arrives and are unable to get the company to send it or give you a refund, then filing a chargeback may be your best course of action. After all, you don’t want to potentially pay interest on something you never received, even if you do have a good APR for a credit card.

Goods or Services Were Not as Described

If you receive a good or service that was substantially different from what was described or agreed to, you can file a chargeback for the cost of that good or service. For example, if you paid to have work done on your house, but it was done incorrectly and the service provider refused to fix it, then you could request a chargeback.

However, remember that the merchant will get the opportunity to prove that the services were provided as described.

Return Credit Not Processed

If you returned an item or canceled a service within a merchant’s return policy but never received credit for the return, such as a refund, you can file a chargeback with your credit card. This can help you recoup the funds you were owed (plus any credit card interest that may have accrued in the meantime).

Recommended: How Many Credit Cards Should You Have?

How to Submit a Chargeback

Here are the typical steps for submitting a credit card chargeback:

1. Contact Your Bank or Card Issuer

To submit a chargeback, you first initiate the process with your bank or card issuer, often through its website. Some card issuer websites allow you to initiate or process most disputes entirely online. Otherwise, you can call your card issuer to file the chargeback or request a chargeback by mail.

2. Receive Confirmation of Your Request

After you’ve submitted the chargeback request, your bank will provide written confirmation of your chargeback request. They will then either post a temporary credit to your account to cover the disputed amount or pause required payments and APR on a credit card on the disputed amount while the issue is being investigated.

3. Wait While Your Request Is Submitted to the Merchant

Next, the bank will submit your chargeback request to the merchant. The merchant has a certain amount of time to respond to the bank’s inquiry.

During the investigation, make sure that you continue to pay your credit card bill for the remaining charges. At the least, make sure that you’re making the credit card minimum payment. Otherwise, you’ll end up paying interest on the non-disputed charges.

4. Receive a Decision

If the chargeback is accepted by the merchant, your billing dispute will be closed and your bank will provide an account credit to cover the disputed charge.

However, if the merchant rejects the chargeback request, your bank will evaluate the information and make a decision, which they will notify you about in writing. If you disagree with the bank’s decision, you can dispute your bank’s decision through the bank’s dispute resolution process.

Recommended: What Does Preapproved Mean for a Credit Card?

The Takeaway

Credit card chargebacks allow you to dispute a charge on your credit card. You can initiate a chargeback from a variety of reasons, such as fraud or unauthorized use, being billed for an incorrect amount, or encountering a situation where goods or services either aren’t delivered or aren’t provided as described. To start the process, you’ll contact your credit card issuer, and they will then reach out to the merchant.

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

What happens when you submit a chargeback?

When you submit a chargeback, you initiate the process with your bank. The bank contacts the merchant for the request, and the merchant decides whether to accept or reject the chargeback request.

Does a chargeback hurt your credit?

A chargeback doesn’t hurt your credit in itself, but any unpaid credit card bill during the dispute process could temporarily impact your credit score. If the disputed charge or charges are large and comprise a significant portion of your credit limit, this could also negatively affect your credit score temporarily, since your credit utilization ratio will be high.

Are chargebacks always successful?

Chargeback requests are not always successful. The merchant can respond that the charge is valid and provide documentation to support the claim. In this case, the credit card issuer may deny your request for a credit card chargeback.

How much is the chargeback fee?

A chargeback fee only applies to the merchant, not to the customer. The average chargeback fee is less than 1% (0.60%, to be exact), but businesses with more chargebacks will face higher fees.

Is it worth fighting a chargeback?

Whether it’s worth fighting a chargeback depends on a variety of factors and will vary from person to person. Consider the amount in question, the time it may take, and the reason for the chargeback request. It’s also a good idea to contact the merchant first to give them a chance to correct the problem before requesting a chargeback.


Photo credit: iStock/PamelaJoeMcFarlane

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.

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Credit Card Debt Forgiveness: What It Is and How It Works

Credit Card Debt Forgiveness: What It Is and How It Works

If you’re overwhelmed by credit card debt, you might consider credit card debt forgiveness, which can involve paying less than you owe. This type of credit forgiveness is rare, however, and it usually comes with some financial consequences.

Still, if you’re unable to repay your credit card balance, it may be an option worth exploring. Read on to learn how to get credit card debt forgiven and what options there are to credit card forgiveness.

What Is Credit Card Debt Forgiveness?

Credit card debt forgiveness occurs when a portion of your credit card debt is effectively erased. However, this rarely happens. And when it does, it usually comes at a high cost.

As part of the terms and conditions you agreed to when signing up for a credit card, you likely committed to repaying your credit card debt accrued from swiping your card to make purchases. For this reason, it’s unlikely the credit card company will forgive your debt unless you have a compelling reason for why you don’t have to repay it.

(If your identity was stolen and a fraudster ran up your credit card bill, for instance, you’re probably not responsible for repaying the outstanding balance. In this case, you may consider disputing a credit card charge.)

When you don’t pay your credit card bill for an extended time, the credit card company may sell your debt to a debt collector. At this point, the debt collector will reach out to try to get you to repay all or a portion of the debt you owe. However, if you agree to repay a portion of your debt, they may forgive the rest, resulting in credit debt forgiveness.

Recommended: Charge Card Advantages and Disadvantages

How Does Debt Forgiveness Work for Credit Cards?

If a debt collector forgives your debt, you’ll generally still have to pay off a portion of the amount you racked up. Here’s a look at how credit card debt forgiveness works:

•   Say that you owe $10,000 in outstanding credit card debt. If you haven’t paid your bill for the last six months — not even your credit card minimum payment — your credit card company may have sold the debt to a debt collector.

•   At this point, you’ll no longer communicate with your credit card company about debt negotiations since the debt collector is now responsible for recouping the loss.

•   If you agree to repay $5,000 of the debt, your debt collector may require you to make a lump sum payment or installment payments over a set period of time.

•   This means that the other $5,000 of your outstanding credit card balance is now forgiven, meaning you don’t have to pay it.

While this may seem like a relief, here’s one important point to note: You’re still responsible for paying taxes on the amount of credit card forgiveness you receive in most cases. Essentially, you will claim the forgiven debt as taxable income and report it on your tax return.

When Does Credit Card Debt Forgiveness Work Best?

When you’ve fallen behind on your credit card payments and your creditor sells your debt to a debt collector for a fraction of the total balance, this is usually the best time to request credit forgiveness. Typically, debt collectors are more willing to settle some of your debt since they purchased your debt for a portion of what you owe. In other words, any debt you agree to pay back will help the debt collector make a profit from the transaction.

However, if your debt has not yet gone to a debt collector and the creditor is about to charge-off your account, you could still consider credit card forgiveness. A charge-off means that the creditor is accepting your debt as a loss. Therefore, they can recoup the funds by selling your debt to a debt collector. So, before they sell the debt, they might be willing to negotiate credit card debt forgiveness with you.

How Credit Card Debt Forgiveness May Affect Your Credit

The most significant financial implication of credit card debt forgiveness is the negative impact it can have on your credit. When you don’t pay your credit card bill for an extended amount of time, the creditor may report this as a charge-off to the three major credit bureaus (TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian). A charge-off indicates that you didn’t follow through with your financial commitments to a lender, and it can stay on your credit report for up to seven years.

Because credit bureaus use this information to calculate your credit score, a charge-off could lower your score for a while. A lower credit score may make it challenging to qualify for future loans or credit cards. And if you do qualify, you may have to pay a higher than average credit card interest rate, which can make borrowing more expensive.

To avoid this situation, it’s best to contact your credit card issuer as soon as you get behind on payments. Credit card companies may be willing to help you if you’ve fallen on hard times. They may offer a hardship plan, which can lower your monthly payments or reduce your interest for a set amount of time and ultimately help you get back on your feet. This is only a temporary solution though, so if your financial issues are more significant, you may need to explore another solution.

Pros and Cons of Credit Card Debt Forgiveness

If you can’t make your credit card payments, credit card forgiveness might be a viable option. But, while getting your debt forgiven can help alleviate the financial burden, it also can harm your credit and cost you financially.

Here’s a breakdown of the pros and cons of pursuing credit card debt forgiveness.

Pros

Cons

Potentially avoid bankruptcy Can harm your credit score
Repay only a portion of the debt you owe Will remain on your credit report for up to seven years
Pay off debt in a shorter time frame Must pay income tax on forgiven debt

Alternatives to Credit Card Debt Forgiveness

An alternative to credit card debt forgiveness may make more sense for your financial situation. Exploring all of your options in advance can help ensure that you make the best decision for your needs.

Debt Management

Third-party credit counseling agencies offer debt management plans that help you establish a plan for debt repayment. Working with one of these agencies may help you lower the fees you owe as well as your interest rate. However, you usually must agree to repay the total amount of outstanding debt before moving forward.

With a debt management plan, you’ll make one monthly payment to the credit counselor, who will then distribute the funds among the creditors you owe. Most plans help you repay your debt within three to five years. During this time, your account will still accrue interest, though your creditor might be willing to offer a lower rate.

To use one of these plans, you usually have to close your credit card account. This can negatively impact your credit score since it lowers your total credit card limit, thus increasing your credit utilization rate. Your credit utilization ratio is one of the most significant factors credit bureaus use when calculating your credit score.

Also, you will likely have to pay a monthly fee to your credit counselor. If considering this option, carefully vet the counselors you are considering and make sure the one you are working with has a good reputation.

Debt Settlement

Working with a debt settlement company can help you to lower the amount of debt you owe. For example, if you owe $10,000 as your credit card balance, the credit debt settlement company may try to help you settle your debt for $5,000 instead. But, of course, this strategy will only work if the creditor would rather have some of your debt repaid instead of having you default on the account.

Debt settlement also can harm your credit. Usually, debt settlement companies require you to stop making credit card payments while they negotiate with your creditor. At this time, your payments will go toward the debt settlement company so they can offer your creditor a lump sum payment as an incentive to settle your debt. However, pausing payments can negatively impact your debt since payment history is another factor used to calculate your credit score.

While debt settlement may sound good in theory, you should use it as a last resort option before filing bankruptcy. This solution is risky since it doesn’t guarantee that you’ll settle your debt. Your creditor could reject the offer.

Debt Consolidation

If your credit isn’t damaged too much, you might be able to qualify for a debt consolidation loan. While this isn’t technically a debt relief option, it can help you to consolidate your debt and potentially lower your interest rate, allowing you to save money.

To consolidate your debt, you’ll apply for another loan, ideally one with better terms than your existing debt. You’d use the loan to pay off your outstanding credit card debts. Then, you will make installment payments to the lender instead of paying the creditors.

Before you apply for a debt consolidation loan, compare your options to identify the loans with the most competitive terms and interest rates.

Declaring a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 Bankruptcy

Depending on your situation, declaring Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy may make the most sense. For instance, if you can’t make the payments with a debt management or debt settlement plan, bankruptcy could be an option to avoid going deeper into debt. But before you declare bankruptcy, consider speaking with a bankruptcy attorney to weigh out the pros and cons of this solution.

Bankruptcy should be one of your last resorts since it can drastically harm your credit. Also, it will stay on your credit report for up to 10 years after the filing date. To settle your debts with bankruptcy, you may also be forced to sell some of your assets.

The Takeaway

Credit card debt forgiveness involves paying less than the full amount you owe. While this prospect may sound great in theory, in reality it can harm your credit and end up costing you financially. If you find yourself starting to struggle with debt repayment, contact your credit card company to see if they will offer a hardship plan. If they’re unwilling to help or your financial troubles require a more long-term solution, you can explore credit debt forgiveness and other alternatives.

While credit cards can land you in a heap of debt, they can also be a great financial tool when used 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

How long does it typically take before a debt is forgiven?

Depending on the route you go, the time frame for debt forgiveness may vary. For example, bankruptcy can take four to six months, while debt settlement can take 36 months or more.

Does debt forgiveness hurt your credit score?

Yes, once you become delinquent on payments, your credit score can be negatively impacted. Then, when your credit card company sells your debt to a debt collector, they may report your balance as a charge-off or a complete loss, which can also impact your credit drastically.

How do you get your credit card balance forgiven?

Usually, once a creditor sells your outstanding debt to a debt collector, the debt collector may agree to forgive some of your credit card debt. But, you must agree to repay a portion of the debt for this to happen.


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.

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.

Photo credit: iStock/damircudic
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