Are Minors Responsible For Their Credit Card Debts?

We’ve had a couple of different people ask recently if one is responsible for credit card debts made as a minor. See, people under 18 aren’t supposed to get credit cards (unless an adult cosigns). Now, some of these people lied about their age to get the cards. That’s fraud. Fraud is bad. Don’t do it.

But the onus is on the credit card companies to check and make sure that an applicant’s stated DOB matches up with their SS #. The law is the law and that’s what we’re here to find out…


We emailed the credit bureaus and asked if a minor is liable for these charges. TransUnion spokesman Steven Katz said, “A minor cannot enter into any contractual agreements.”

A credit card is a contractual agreement, so we construe this as, “No.”

We then asked how a person gets these charges removed. Steven said, “If a debt appears on a minor’s credit report, he/she can call the credit reporting agency and dispute the account stating that he/she was a minor. Once received, the credit reporting agency would follow the necessary steps to verify the information with the creditor.”

Basically, do the same stuff you would normally do to dispute a debt:

1) Go to each of the three credit bureaus (an easy and free way is AnnualCreditReport.com)
2) Find the debts you incurred as a minor.
3) Each debt should have a dispute option next to it.
4) Follow that and say your reason for disputing is that you were a minor.
5) Do this for each bureau (TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax).

You should receive notice after about 30 days informing you of the results.

The readers who contacted us about this issue say they lied about their date of birth to get a credit card. Need we say, don’t do this? Now that you’re responsible adults cleaning up your credit history you can get in serious trouble for committing fraud, bucko. — BEN POPKEN

Comments

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  1. QuirkyRachel says:

    I remember seeing an article not too long ago about the identity theft of a 3-year old! Which means that someone managed to take out loans as a toddler.

  2. Katharine says:

    Some places like Capital One will give cards to minors without them having to lie about their ages. I got one while I was in high school and I didn’t lie about my age.

  3. rocketslide says:

    This was a trick we used in high school to get cds from those 10 cds for a penny clubs. I’m a minor, I can’t enter into a contractual agreement!

  4. chemman says:

    When I was 17 and working for a high end retailer they required us to have a house credit card in order to make any purchases and use our discount. I filled out the application truthfully and a few weeks later received my new card with a $10,000 limit. Apparently the card issuer did not do their homework, my Dad and I have the exact same name (for some reason Jr was not designated on my birth certificate), so they gave me a credit limit based on his SSN and credit history. I toyed with the idea of running up 10K worth of high end clothes and just walking away, since I was technically a minor and could not be held liable. In the end my sense of right and wrong won out and I didn’t do it and I’m glad I didn’t, it probably would have still some how come back to bite me in the end.

  5. thrillhouse says:

    Right- if your 3-year old starts getting credit card offers in the mail then its time to pull a credit report.

    Just another example of how out-of-control the credit card industry is in the country. They’ll bombard anyone they think they might be able to squeeze.

  6. katana says:

    The credit card companies are not responsible for your actions. Its about personal responsibility, minor or not. As long as that 3 year old is paying the bill every month, then there’s nothing wrong with that. Imagine the credit rating they would have by the time they are in their teens. Could probably qualify for a great rate on a mortgage in middle-school, lease a sweet BMW once 16. Imagine the possibilities.

  7. bound008 says:

    this is not fully true. in fact it is very misleading. instead of wasting your the time of everyone, i will just post this link with from the southern illinois university of law which covers this topic accurately and succinctly (in accordance with illinois law), but it is bascially the same everywhere in the us.

  8. datruesurfer says:

    Interesting encounter I was in:

    At 16 years old i decided to rent a dedicated server to host a couple websites and an IRC server Not knowing what i was doing, I racked up about $200 in data overage charges. The company demanded i pay the overage or have the charge sent over to a collection agency. I was worried that if i said i was a minor, it would get my parents involved, but i decided to pay off the overage and avoid problems with my credit in the future.

  9. jgodsey says:

    last time i checked a minor can’t enter in a contract. that’s what MINOR means.

  10. mopar_man says:

    @datruesurfer:

    Good man!

    See, people under 18 aren’t supposed to get credit cards (unless an adult cosigns).

    See, the way I see it, nobody under the age of 18 should have a credit card, cosigned or not. Sure it’s supposed to teach kids responsibility but parents don’t care to teach their kids that anymore so giving them a CC is a bad idea.

  11. kcs says:

    When I was in high school I signed up for one of those scams where you get 10 cds for a penny, but then are obligated to buy 3cds a month for the next six months. The CDs ended up being $25-30 a piece when you included S&H. My dad found out about it and wrote a letter to the company, informing them that I am a minor, the contract wasn’t valid, and that I would not be purchasing any more CDs. The company never bothered me again.

    I learned a valuable lesson at 16 – -there’s no such thing as a free lunch.

  12. Bourque77 says:

    I dont think the credit industry is to be totally at fault. If you are a minor and lie about your age to get a credit card then no you shouldnt have to pay the debt, as you were a minor. However if you as a minor get out of debt that way you should be charged and prosecuted for fraud. Kids know they arent supposed to have credit cards but try to get them anyway then use the excuse they were a minor, although they clearly knew what they were doing. Although I’m sure its not a huge cost, fraud from these kids (minors, young ppl, whatever) cost us adults who actually use the services and pay our debt. We make far to many excuses for minors to be absolved from responsibility although they clearly know what they are doing.

  13. bloodr says:

    I had a friend that entered college at 16. During that time she was pressured into filling out one of those college credit card apps for free stuff. The guy at the table assured her that American Express wouldn’t give her a card because she was under 18. So she got her free stuff and lo and behold a few weeks later an AmEx card. One month and 25,000 dollars later AmEx cancels the card, and does nothing does nothing for over a year. Then 2 days after she turns 18 she starts getting collection notices for the 25k. About a year later this ends up in court where AmEx claims she lied about her age and presents a fake copy of the original credit card application to the judge. The judge see through this ruse and rules that my friend is not liable for the charges since a minor cannot enter into a contract.

    God I wish I was a kid again.

  14. dohtem says:

    @bloodr: That is scary. What did she spend $25,000 on?

  15. Trick says:

    @dohtem says:

    @bloodr: That is scary. What did she spend $25,000 on?

    Really. I root for the 17 year old who was given a credit card by AmEx and then spending $250 on concert tickets, not really knowing it would cost her…

    But $25,000?

    Underage or not, the person knew she was committing fraud.

  16. Mogbert says:

    I agree with the person who said it was fraud. There isn’t a magic light that gets switched on your 18th birthday.
    If someone who is 16 or 17 can be tried as an adult for murder, they should also see if they can be tried as an adult for fraud.
    In the end, I think it should come down to one thing: if the credit card application is filled out correctly, then the credit card company should have to bite the bullet and lose the money, WITH the person in question getting a BIG black mark on their credit, like a bankrupt mark.
    IF the person lied on the application (like using someone else SSN or the wrong birthday) then they should be held accountable for the full amount.

  17. bloodr says:

    @Trick, Dothem, Mogbert

    I called her up to ask for more details last night, she told me the freebie was some gift certificate for some store (she couldn’t remember which) and that the 25k came from all sorts of things, such as clothes, food, music, ect.

    It’s funny, the incident came up in her character and fitness state bar interview but for some reason the bar was more concerned about a 1,000 dollar power bill that was not even in her name.

  18. katana says:

    Katana_: “The credit card companies are not responsible for your actions. Its about personal responsibility, minor or not. “

    I agree. Of course with the whole under 18 not being able to enter into legally binding arguments, legally, somebody ‘done it. Either they screwed up and lied, or someone is using their name and lying.

  19. katana says:

    Katana: “The credit card companies are not responsible for your actions. Its about personal responsibility, minor or not. “

    and if your 3 year old runs up the bill buying diapers and crap, then thats his problem. That doesn’t change the fact that its easy to misconstrue comments by taking them out of context, especially when you can’t recognize sarcasm.

  20. katana says:

    A 3 year old can’t use a credit card. You could use it for him/her on your own credit card, making you responsible for this debt. Your point?

    Minors can’t enter into a contract in the U.S. without an adult signer, if at all. So, if Johnny Jr., age 15, lies and says he’s 18 to get a credit card, he’s broken some laws there by misrepresenting himself on a credit application.. blah blah. Not good.

  21. katana says:

    Katana_: The point is personal responsibility. It should be beaten into kids early and often. They should be taught to swipe, but swipe responsibly.

  22. Optimistic Prime says:

    Another problem is if you have a common name, like John Smith. Half the time the credit bureaus only look at your name and maybe the first three numbers of a social. When I was 18 I found out I already had bad credit tied to my name. Apparently I was buying crap from Swiss Colony when I was six, and I had a bitch of a time arguing A: not me, B: if it was, I was obviously a minor. To which they argued “of course it’s you, it’s in our records. Our records are perfect…”