Woman Lends Homeless Man Her AmEx Card, Actually Gets It Back

Here in New York City, most people have become immune to the frequent requests for spare change from panhandlers. And under no circumstances would a sane person hand over their American Express Platinum Card to a homeless person. But not only does a high-powered ad executive do just that, she also got the card back.

The 45-year-old woman had stepped outside for a smoke break with a friend at a trendy SoHo eatery when she was approached by the homeless gentleman.

“He asked me if I had any money,” she recalls. “He said he just wanted to get a Vitaminwater. I said, ‘I don’t [have cash] — I only have my credit card.'”

The man asked her if he could borrow the card and the self-described “eternal optimist” agreed.

“This guy just seemed totally trustworthy,” she says. “He was very specific about what he wanted.”

10 minutes passed without the man returning to the restaurant. “”I thought maybe, ‘OK, he did leave with it,'” she confesses. That’s when he returned, card in hand. She hugged the man and told him she knew he’d be back.

In spite of the risk, the woman says he is “definitely happy I did it… I just really believe in the good nature of people.”

How about you? Would you ever hand off your credit card to a complete stranger?

Honest panhandler returns ad gal’s AmEx [NY Post]


Edit Your Comment

  1. Larkspur says:

    A sane person would have finished the cigarette, walked in *with* him and purchased the beverage, and never had to worry, while still providing the same assistance.

    • Rectilinear Propagation says:


      I’ve done this a couple of times. Once for a small, older homeless woman who said she was hungry and another time for a homeless man who wanted to buy a coffee so he could get out of the cold (IIRC, it was beginning to snow).

      • DariusC says:

        Speaking of which, do not hand them money… offer to buy them food or drinks, etc… I saw a friend hand a guy 5 bux and he turned around and walked down the street… Right into the liquor store.


        • Applekid ┬──┬ ノ( ã‚œ-゜ノ) says:

          What’s the problem with that? Charity is about easing suffering. Liquor can ease suffering. And before you say “oh, well it’s temporary!”, so is food.

          It’s not like they’re going to be able to turn their lives around permanently for :5bux:

          • womynist says:

            “It’s not like they’re going to be able to turn their lives around permanently for :5bux:”

            True, but they could start to turn their lives around by making a wiser decision than spending the $5 on alcohol.

            //social worker/homeless advocate

            • DariusC says:


              Yes, but the other guy is also right.

              Give a man a fire, he will be warm for a day, set a man on fire and he will be warm for the rest of his life…

            • speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

              OK, if he misrepresented the reason he needed the money, then he is a liar and a thief.

              But if he asked for money, and was given money, without any representations or understandings about what he was going to do with the money, then it is HIS money to do with as he pleases. If he chooses to get a drink, he has the SAME right any of us do to get one if he wants one.

              Goddamn sanctimonious do-gooder. You social workers think you can enforce what people SHOULD want instead of what they DO want.

              • DariusC says:

                Oh? What if that bum gets drunk and wanders into the street and you hit him? You would go to jail for manslaughter (should have been driving slower) and you just messed up your ride. Let me know after that point, while sitting in jail, that you think they should drink as they please…

                That isn’t helping them. If they don’t want help, why not just kill them? You seem torn between letting them rot in that lifestyle and letting them have what they want.

                • The Porkchop Express says:

                  or it could be ruled an accident and the bum be found at fault. No charges there. Or he could buy the food for the guy, it could be in some way tainted, the guy gets sick and dies…..could always be the worst case scenario huh?

                • speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

                  You wrote: If they don’t want help, why not just kill them?

                  Excuse me? Did you actually just say that? Dude. If you can actually write that as though it was an argument, why should I take anything else you say seriously? (Hint: I don’t, and shouldn’t.)

                • watch me boogie says:

                  I’m going to make the crazy suggestion that it’s not so black-and-white.

          • tonberryqueen says:

            Except that the liquor may have put him on the street, and/or it may be keeping him there. And he might have cirrhosis. Although at least he didn’t turn it into crack or heroin.

            (I volunteer weekly at a women’s shelter. I know that plenty of the women do exactly this if they do have substance abuse problems and receive cash. Better to make sure someone is at least well-fed, which is why I’ve long been in the habit of buying someone a cup of coffee and/or sandwich instead.)

            • watch me boogie says:

              Adults are free to make their own decisions, though. And you’re free to give them food instead of money, or money instead of food, or nothing at all.

              There are really good arguments both for and against giving money to panhandlers – I go back and forth. There’s one guy I see all the time who is really a bum – hopelessly alcoholic, the kind of skinny that drinks vodka for meals, probably 40 but looks 75. If he stopped drinking he’d probably die. Sometimes I give him a buck if I can spare it; it doesn’t really matter what he does with it because it’s not going to change his life one way or the other – people in his situation generally stay on the streets, maybe cycling in and out of short-term rehab a few times.

              On the topic of the story, no honking way would I ever lend a credit/debit card to anyone I didn’t know, homeless or not. Bless this woman for being so kind, but the reason this story is remarkable is because *it’s remarkable.* Still, nice to read.

          • c!tizen says:

            Scrooge McDuck started his billion dollar empire with a lucky dime. Imagine what he would do with $5.00.

        • ARP says:

          I understand your message, but I don’t care too much about it. When I give them the money, I have it in my head I already at 2 to 1 odds that they’re going to get drunk, high, etc. with the money. Homeless people can lead a pretty miserable life and many are mentally ill, so if they want to escape that, its fine by me. It’s probably not the best for them, but that’s the bit of libertarian in me.

        • Awesome McAwesomeness says:

          I wouldn’t care if they bought alcohol with the money I gave them. If I give them money, it is now legally theirs to do with as they please. Alcohol probably gives them far more pleasure than food. And, they will get their booze sooner or later.

          With that said, I have always thought about carrying some $10 gift cards from McD’s to give to the homeless.

          Maybe I should put together little gift bags- bottle of cheap booze, some gummi bears, a gift card, and a cute little note.

    • TinaBringMeTheAx says:

      A sane person wouldn’t be smoking in the first place.

    • TheMonkeyKing says:

      I’ve bought meals and drinks before, but I was the one doing the buying. One guy asked for dessert and then I thought that’s some balls but why the heck not?

      Sorta off-topic: everyone I know that had a black AMEX card (6 folks) are now unemployed or working at a very small fraction of their original salaries.

    • c!tizen says:

      agreed, but still… this makes me want to hug the whole world. That is until we see the follow up to this story.

      “Homeless man buys house with my AmEx info”

    • dg says:

      A sane person would have told him to beat it, got nothing for you. What was this guy, an upscale bum? Asking for a “vitamin water”? What kind of bullshit is that?

      Wait until next month when she reveals that her card was skimmed and she’s disputing charges with Amex for $10,000… Technically she gave him the card so he was “authorized” to use it – she’d be on the hook for the full amount…

  2. dustindmw says:

    yeah… no

  3. NarcolepticGirl says:

    I agree with Larkspur. Maybe I would go with the guy and pay for it… but not just hand it over – especially if he specifically asked to borrow it.

    did he purchase anything else?

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      I wonder if it’s not credit card fraud when you give the card out. If he spent $10,000 on the card, would she even have a case to do chargebacks?

      • Rectilinear Propagation says:

        Nope, it’s not fraud if you let the person who spent the money use it.

        • hills says:

          but she only gave permission for Vitamin Water – so yes, if buys a tv, that’s fraud (I just saw this on Judge Judy – so it’s gotta be right!)

    • hypochondriac says:

      You won’t find out until they mail out the statement. Wonder if we will see another post about fraudulent charges on the card

      • Traveshamockery says:

        Or she can check her statement online in about a day to see which transactions processed.

    • knoxblox says:

      Yeah, and I wouldn’t have been nasty about it either. I’d just say, “Okay, let’s go get you one, then” and walk over there with him.
      I try to get to know a person first before I act. I was homeless for a few months when I was a teenager, so I have a little experience there.
      I once bought 25 bucks worth of groceries (non-perishables mixed with a little bit of ready-to-eat) for a guy who openly admitted to getting kicked out of his girlfriend’s place when they broke up. He was able to show how he was trying hard to keep his act together despite being on the street. Others who approach me hollering, “Hey boy, lemme talk at you a minute” don’t get the same respect.

    • Rachacha says:

      This homeless guy now has the nicest cardboard box in SoHo…complete with 52″ 3D plasma display, 1000W 7.1 surround sound, brand new recliner and one of those fancy $1500 “looks like paper” leather bags.

  4. ConsumerPop says:

    She also said she had been drinking so I’m sure her judgement was not 100%. Call me grumpy, but screw this story.

  5. Megalomania says:

    Just because it ended well doesn’t make it a dumb idea. Someone has to eventually win the lottery, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t an idiot for playing.

  6. RandomHookup says:

    Only the stranger who presents himself at my table while wearing the attire that roughly approximates that of the others employees in the restaurant.

  7. the Persistent Sound of Sensationalism says:

    As an eternal cynic, I would have given him the card, and when he didn’t return, lived out the rest of my life like Diogenes, preaching the predictable failure of humans.

  8. LetMeGetTheManager says:

    Well the homeless guy just needed enough time to write down the credit card number and the security code on the back. Now he can wait a few weeks and then go on a spending spree!

    • DariusC says:

      Yes, and the billing zip co…

      Wait a second…

      Okay, how about he orders stuff to a dfiferent addre….


      Nope, fresh out of ideas.

      • Miss Malevolent says:

        Heh, you’d think that’d matter, but my friend lost his bank card, and now is in a dispute with the bank about charges from Texas.

        We live in Michigan.

        If they’re unscrupulous, they’ll find a way around the system.

      • Miss Malevolent says:

        Heh, you’d think that’d matter, but my friend lost his bank card, and now is in a dispute with the bank about charges from Texas.

        We live in Michigan.

        If they’re unscrupulous, they’ll find a way around the system.

  9. Jacquilynne says:

    I’m so glad we have such awesome credit card security that a homeless man was able to use a woman’s credit card and apparently nobody noticed.

    • redskull says:

      That’s exactly what I was thinking. Did no one in the store notice a guy paying with a card with a woman’s name on it?

    • Cyniconvention says:

      …Wow. That’s a good point. Don’t you have to sign after you use it on one of those electronic pads, or even a receipt?
      (I don’t have one yet)

      • Rectilinear Propagation says:

        You don’t have to sign for purchases $25 or less.

        • RayanneGraff says:

          Yes you do. At 99% of places I use my Visa at, I’m always asked to sign, whether it be on the electronic pad or the receipt.

          • Brunette Bookworm says:

            Many places anymore are switching to not making you sign for purchases less than $25. I.e. the card issuer doesn’t require it, it’s up to the merchant.

          • dp05 says:

            No you don’t, it depends entirely on the location. Dept. stores and the like seem to require it for all, but for places like coffee shops and fast food restaurants, I haven’t had to sign a receipt anytime I’ve used my card. Just swipe and go.

            • AustinTXProgrammer says:

              Target is now up to $50 without signature, and ChicFilA is $20 (at least near my house).

          • nutbastard says:

            even if you have to sign, the signature doesn’t matter. it’s not like a PIN, you can just draw a smiley face.

    • lukesdad says:

      Seriously. WTF?

    • leastcmplicated says:

      EXACTLY what i was thinking. A homeless man (i’m going to assume he wasn’t in the most presentable attire) walks into a store with an AMEX with a woman’s name on it and purchases something and no one says a word. I suppose she could have had a unisex name but still… a homeless man with a credit card, red flag.

    • qwickone says:

      He could have gone to a pharmacy or grocery store with self checkout.

  10. agraham999 says:

    If you want to facilitate change you don’t give change. Give some time or money to local charities that actually work with people on the streets (that’s what I do). I remember living in SF and being new to the whole panhandling experience…always giving out pocket money…only to learn later that some of these people had really nice apartments and make a pretty good living at hustling.

    As for this story…all feel goodie…but I doubt very much if American Express would be very pleased that you gave your card out to a stranger and just hoped for the best. Not really a good charge back scenario and not really fair to Amex if it fails…to have to eat that.

    • nutbastard says:

      i have 2 rules – i dont give money to people younger than me and i don’t give rides to people older than me.

  11. shadow67 says:

    how did he use tht card? dont they check the sign or verify?

    • Rectilinear Propagation says:

      If he only bought a vitamin water then it was under $25 and many stores don’t make you sign a credit card slip for purchases that small.

    • aja175 says:

      you’re kidding, right?
      I have “CHECK ID” written into my sig strip on the back of my cards, nobody ever checks.

      • Rectilinear Propagation says:

        Well, you’re not supposed to put CHECK ID on your cards. If someone ever does check it they’re supposed to take it away from you because it’s an unsigned card.

        • AnonymousCoward says:

          Then they’re obviously not checking the signature, are they? I think that was the poster’s point.

          • Rectilinear Propagation says:

            Then they’re obviously not checking the signature, are they?

            I wasn’t arguing that they were checking their ID and I don’t know how you got that from my comment. I was pointing out that putting CHECK ID on the back of the card wouldn’t make them actually check the ID anyway.

        • dolemite says:

          Maybe you could do “Joe Smith – Check ID”

          • speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

            Or do what I do. Sign the card lightly in black ballpoint, and then write over that in nice bold Sharpie marker, “Please Check Picture ID”. If a Photoshop expert is able to get my signature out of that mess (given that my signature is a hieroglyph crossed with something a figure skater might trace out on the ice), they could spend their time better some other way.

      • kjs87 says:

        I always check. Come shop at my Hallmark! Or at least hope the person who steals your card does.

        I had a lady yell at me for checking when she specifically wrote “See ID” on the back. “I don’t have it on me, I’m running late, I need to pick up my kids from school! No one ever checks anyway!” Then why write it?

        I decided to leave one card unsigned and one signed with “See ID” written in bold letters next to the signature (the cards get equal use) just to see if anyone would check. I’ve had them that way since February and no one’s checked yet. It’s depressing.

    • hypochondriac says:

      Where do you live that they compare signatures? I can’t remember the last time someone compared the signature on the card to the receipt

  12. Pinget says:

    Stupidity should not be celebrated. The dissemination of this story far and wide will only encourage others to be similarly stupid. This is not a feel good story. This is the story of a fool hardy, stupid woman.

    • Dre' says:

      The above is an example of a blog comment made by a misanthropic ass.

      • pantheonoutcast says:

        And yet, he’s correct.

        /person who gets called a lot worse when he points out the truth, too.

    • Marshmelly says:

      I think what is being celebrated is that he guy gave the card back….as in, there are good people left in the world. *gasp* crazy, right? Of, you know, you could continue on being an “intelligent” scared-of-the-world pessimist…sounds like a good life.

  13. kompeitou says:

    If I was foolish enough to do this, I wouldn’t go around telling the media about it.

    Next month we will hear of the sudden rash of credit card fraud by homeless… naive victims will be scratching their heads.

  14. Torgonius wants an edit button says:

    She’s probably the same kind of idiot who spends $1,000 (or more) on a bag.

  15. Rectilinear Propagation says:

    Now that this is public, she won’t be able to get her money back if her card becomes compromised because they know she willingly gave it to a stranger AND out of her sight.

    BTW, isn’t it actually against the TOS to do that? Isn’t part of the security section a part that says you agree not to do stuff like that?

    • ariven says:

      Yeah, if I remember correctly the Amex TOS doesn’t allow you to give other people the right to use your card. We have had to decline charges as a result of that at one store I worked at.

  16. sopmodm14 says:

    i agree, CC security sux so much that a *MAN* uses a card with a *WOMAN name and its no problem

  17. aja175 says:

    I wouldn’t hand off my card to a friend, let alone a complete stranger.

    • Dre' says:

      That says a lot about the quality of people you know.

      • Rectilinear Propagation says:

        You don’t read any of the disclosures or Terms of Service agreements you agree to, do you?

        • myCatCracksMeUp says:

          I consider them to be suggestions.

          I’ve let my grown kids use my card a few times, when I’ve offered to buy them something, but it’s inconvenient for me to go shopping.

          And everytime my daughter and I meet for lunch someplace where you order at a counter, like Pot Bellies, I hand her my card to get food for all of us, while I sit with the kids at the table.

          My husband and I have used each others cards every once in a while. There has only been one place that wouldn’t let me use his card.

  18. dolemite says:

    I don’t even want to hand the credit card over to my wife.

  19. Miss Malevolent says:

    She’s a dumbass.

    Wait til she starts getting random charges later cause he has her card number.

  20. Rectilinear Propagation says:

    Is there any store that actually bothers to check the signature or ID if the purchase is under $25? Most places actually advertise that: you don’t have to sign for small purchases. The cashier where ever this guy bought the vitamin water probably never even held the credit card or saw the front of it.

    I don’t think this proves a lack of security, at least not any lack that isn’t on purpose.

  21. AnonymousCoward says:

    So, call me skeptical, but a woman who works at an ad agency does that’s essentially a private act between two people, and gets loads of free publicity. How did the NY Post find out about this again?

  22. pantheonoutcast says:

    “The 45-year-old woman *who had recently moved to New York City by way of turnip truck* had stepped outside for a smoke break…”

    There. Fixed.

  23. Caveat says:

    That’s what has this country so messed up. Drunk high powered executives too addicted to tobacco can’t stop their puffing long enough to keep their credit under control. Then you have the bums that cannot drink regular water, they have to have vitamin water (as if the vitamins would make any difference to people who abuse their bodies on the streets).

  24. Anakela says:

    For those who were wondering the Post had a follow up story in this morning’s paper-

    “Valentine said he bought deodorant, body wash, a pack of Nat Sherman cigarettes and Vitaminwater. It all cost about $25, he said.”


  25. RobofNYC says:

    No – I might have gone in and bought it for him. But give my credit card. NOPE

  26. AI says:

    My Amex card is a company card….so yeah sure homeless guy, go crazy.

  27. Froggmann says:

    Not just NO but Aw Hell NO!

  28. racordes says:

    Oh God, here come the chain letters with the little sparkly animations for the next 10 years. Pass this on to everyone you know. It will be on Snopes by Monday.

  29. Bob Lu says:

    Really? Vitaminwater? No matter how much I earn I will never, ever buy those heavily overpriced stuff.

    • dolemite says:

      Although any regular person probably gets enough vitamins from the meals we eat, I think the vitamin water was probably a smart purchase for him.

      • Yo Howdy says:

        What?…you think he was fighting scurvy or something? Vitamin water is just sugar water with some vitamins thrown in. It isn’t nutritious.

    • physics2010 says:

      Setting aside Vitamin water being bad for you, wtf would a homeless person even need with Ozarka? If you’re that poor I’d hope you could come up with a cheaper replacement. With that said I’ll start humming to myself and assume that he was really after a re-usable container for storing tap water….and that he didn’t write down her cc info, because now that she’s admitted to not keeping her cc info secure she will probably be liable for all fraudulent charges.

  30. evnmorlo says:

    She was really putting her faith in Amex to cover the risk, not in the good nature of humanity. And it was less about charity than demonstrating to herself and now the media that she is wealthy enough to be beyond caring about such things.

  31. kylere1 says:

    I am not sure why Consumerist is posting a story that promotes poor behavior as a consumer.

  32. hosehead says:

    No. I would not have hugged him either.

  33. raybury says:

    American Express cards, like Visa and MasterCard, are non-transferable. If you want your spouse or child or significant other or homeless stranger to use your account to make a purchase, you must first get them a card linked to your account.

    Also, yes, this woman is nuts. The gentleman who returned her card is one in a million. The far, far likelier scenario is what happened to me when I dropped my Gold American Express card at a drug store: Someone made a beeline to the gift card section of the grocery store (not sure if those $400 in gift cards got canceled or what), then got $30 worth of Taco Bell (I assume this involved enough to fill six refrigerators) before even leaving the shopping center.

    As far as the gentleman being specific as to what he wanted, again the likelier scenario than him being the good person he apparently is would be that someone being specific knows this makes her or him sound credible, but is really just a good liar. Those of us who know addicts know the drill.

  34. Yo Howdy says:

    I think I saw this movie once but in the movie the rich woman and homeless guy fell in love and got married.

  35. FlashFlashCarCrash says:

    HELL NO.

  36. richcreamerybutter says:

    Remember yesterday’s article about certain companies’ unprofessional interview/post-interview behavior? Let’s just say I thought this article was very, very interesting, considering the woman’s employer.

  37. grapedog says:

    I don’t ever give money/anything to homeless people. I do donate my old cloths to goodwill, but that’s about the extent of it, and that’s more to get rid of stuff I don’t want anymore than to help them out. I’d just rather keep it out of the dump.

  38. common_sense84 says:

    And the delay was him writing down all the info on the card for future purchases.

  39. jp7570-1 says:

    The scarier part of this is that the merchant that sold the water to the homeless man didn’t ask for ID, assuming the woman’s name wasn’t gender-neutral (like Kris, Sydney, Pat, etc.).

  40. jcota says:

    10 minutes is an awful long time. She should check her statement for unauthorized charges now or in the future. The guy could have written down all her credit card details so he could use it at a later time. Very stupid and naive of her.

  41. The Marionette says:

    I had off my card to a complete stranger every time i need to have them swipe my card somewhere. They could easily have skimmers (not all of them of course).

    But on all seriousness, no i wouldn’t. There are some people who are honestly trustworthy, but in our time (economically) it wouldn’t be such a good idea with people itching more for money and lack of money as it is.

  42. laughingisfree says:

    so would this lady be an accessory to identity fraud? don’t think american express will be too happy about her violating TOS

  43. meg99 says:

    I would be worried that a man who appeared to be homeless was able to use my card no questions asked? Why didn’t she just go with him and buy the food?

  44. YdoUthinkURright says:

    Hmmmm….a fool and his/her money are soon…ypou know the rest. That was lucky but crazy. And there are still a few things that can go wrong as many others have already pointed out.

  45. classic10 says:

    I once gave 10 dollars to a homeless.
    After a few minutes he came back saying: “Hey man, you must be mistaken. You gave me TEN dollars.”

  46. Sarcastico says:

    And just maybe he stepped away to upload her credit card info to his offshore friends who are even now scamming her for all she’s worth and then some.

  47. bwcbwc says:

    If I were homeless, of all the things I’d panhandle for, VitaminWater would be near the bottom of the list.

  48. uber_mensch says:

    I bet she leaves her keys in her car too.. OH.. and leaves the back door unlocked to her house.

  49. smo0 says:

    I believe, just like it’s citizens, the homeless are unique to each city they live in…

    here in Las Vegas, absolutely not – but maybe in New York… different mindset….

  50. mbemom says:

    I am impressed with her good natured, optimistic attitude. I don’t share it and would never do that but good for her and him. Still, if he ran off with it, a quick call to Amex would cancel the card and he wouldn’t be able to do any real damage.

    AND, why did the store take a card from a man with a woman’s name? I had my card stolen and it was used twice by a man (I am a woman, BTW) and he successfully used it twice. He tried a third time at a CVS to charge 300 bucks and the clerk called him on the name. I had no idea it was gone. I mean, common sense people, how hard is it to look at the homeless guy in front of you and think “huh, does this guy really have an Amex and is he named Elizabeth?”

  51. foogoo says:

    In ancient times, the Greeks always had to help vagabonds because they never knew if the beggar might be one of their gods in disguise. I guess nowadays, it just seems safer to assume that each stranger is the devil.

  52. EcPercy says:

    And then you check the balance on the card and there is about $10,000 on it…

  53. Zydia says:

    People will do risky things for their beliefs. She seems like the person who would have regretted not going out on a limb more than getting shafted.

  54. Jimmy37 says:

    The woman should have insisted that he get real food instead of soda masquerading as a health drink. Coca-cola got sued about it by the CPSI.

  55. probee1981 says:

    The homeless guy probably had more money on him than the available balance on my credit card…So, yeah, what could it hurt? On a serious note though, it is nice to know there are still a few honest people left in the world. Warms my little $5 heart :-)