Dear Mary: My wife and I have been married for three years. She has memorized my credit card information. This is my personal account, and she is not listed as an authorized user. However, she charges to it without my knowledge, and it’s getting out of hand. About a year ago, I took a loan from my 401(k) and paid off the balance, only to have her charge it up again.
Here’s my question: Because she is not a primary owner or authorized user on the account, can I dispute the charges? Or am I responsible because we are married?
By the way, we have just begun reading your book “Debt-Proof Your Marriage” one chapter at a time, and then we talk about it. Thanks for your support. —Anon (obviously)
Dear Anon: Disputing the charges is certainly an option and a legal right you have as protection against unlawful activity on your account. However, you need to realize that while you may not be held responsible for those disputed charges, you will be reporting unlawful activity on your account. You must assume, depending on your state laws, that may lead to your wife being prosecuted for criminal activity. I’m fairly certain you don’t want to go there.
Knowing that the two of you are reading my book gives me a great deal of relief and hope. Help is on the way, so keep going! You are about to discover this is not a money issue at all. It’s a matter of trust. Without trust—a precious commodity in any relationship—your marriage is in jeopardy. This situation is a symptom of a much deeper need—the need to be fully open and honest with each other. Without that, you will never experience financial intimacy. I can’t wait to hear from you again, once you’ve finished the book.
That being said, there is a simple way that you can stop her use of your account: Call your credit card issuer (phone number on the back of the card), and report the card lost or stolen. They will immediately void your current account and send you a replacement card with a new account number. Provided you retrieve the mail, she will have no way to discover the new number. It’s a shame that you may be forced to do this, but it might be a necessary move to stop the bleeding until you enjoy full healing in your relationship. Just a thought.
Dear Mary: I am completely dedicated to getting out of debt, but my husband does not fully cooperate. He loves to spend money on little things, but they add up to big things.
That keeps us from reducing expenses and building our emergency fund and rapidly repaying our debt. He says he wants to be debt-free, but he won’t work with me. Any suggestions? —Beccy
Dear Beccy: Sounds like it’s time for a compromise negotiation meeting. Let me caution you that it would be easy for you to take on the role of a stern parent to this “errant child,” but don’t let yourself go there.
It is not reasonable to think that either of you will never spend money again, so how about this: Each of you gets $100 cash a week (or an amount you determine) to spend as you like. When it’s gone, you have to wait until the next “payday.”
All plastic goes into a secret hiding place both of you know about, and you pledge to the other that it’s “hands off!” unless both of you are present and in full agreement.
If you back off a bit and begin living what you believe instead of talking about it so much, you may get his attention more effectively—and learn that you can trust him.
Mary Hunt is the founder of EverydayCheapskate.com, a frugal living blog and the author of the book “Debt-Proof Living.” Mary invites you to visit her at her website, where this column is archived complete with links and resources for all recommended products and services. Mary invites questions and comments at EverydayCheapskate.com/contact, “Ask Mary.” Tips can be submitted at Tips.EverydayCheapskate.com. This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Copyright 2021 Creators.com