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I have a U.S. bank account with debit card and everything. Right now, I'm not in the U.S. but a friend of mine is going there for holidays.

Can he borrow my Debit Card with pin so he can withdraw money from ATM?

Can I do that, is it legal? Knowing that I'm not entered in the country can I have problem in the future if someone discover that I have used the card even if I am not entered in the country?

Any thought?

  • 13
    You could do this, but if your "friend" takes all your money and runs off to Mexico, the bank is not going to help you, since you authorized him to use the card. – Michael Hampton Jul 9 '16 at 8:09
  • @MichaelHampton so this is legal, if I authorize him. – rebatoma Jul 9 '16 at 8:22
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    I doubt there's any law against it but: What do your T&Cs with the bank say? If they forbid it, then you would be in breach of contract with the bank. Also, if your friend does come to the attention of the police, carrying (and using) a debit card in someone elses name will not look good for him. – CMaster Jul 9 '16 at 9:27
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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it's not about travel – JonathanReez Supports Monica Jul 9 '16 at 10:00
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    I have voted to leave this question open. While it can also be asked in a non-travel context (and better suited for money SE), the link to travel here is obviously stated and thus on-topic. – mts Jul 9 '16 at 10:08
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Well first of all, as has been pointed out in comments, you will really want to trust your friend. He could run off with all of your money, not pay you back the full amount or lose the card.

If all of that is no issue for you, look to your terms and conditions that you signed for the debit card. Very likely there is a clause that prohibits your from sharing your card and/or PIN with anyone. By sharing your card with someone you are in breach of your terms and if shit hits the fan your bank is not going to be happy. That could happen as soon as a clerk notices that their signature is not the one you used to sign the card.

The right way to proceed would be to add your friend as an "authorized user" to your debit card. There is likely additional paperwork involved and probably also fees, but this is the only correct way of doing this. Note that given you are not currently present in the U.S. nor is your friend a resident there, this process might be rather difficult.

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    OP is not currently in the US, so adding an authorized user to his/her credit card from overseas can be a complicated or impossible process. – Federico Poloni Jul 9 '16 at 11:41
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    I want to point out that being in breach of contract doesn't make it illegal, so I wouldn't say that it's the “only legal way”. – Andrey Tarantsov Jul 9 '16 at 11:56
  • Thanks for pointing out, I have edited as both of you are right in your comments @AndreyTarantsov and @ FedericoPoloni ! – mts Jul 9 '16 at 12:01
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    If you add an authorized user, they will get a card in their name so it will be their card for your account. – Johns-305 Jul 9 '16 at 12:53
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    For my bank, if they found out you used someone else's bank card, authorized or not, they immediately confiscate the card and lock out your account until the account holder shows up in person. Each bank is different, so you MUST check with them first. – Nelson Jul 9 '16 at 14:21
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This is completely legal and people (against good sense) do it all the time.

The three possible issues are:

  1. (Somewhat likely) The "friend" takes your money, now or later, or otherwise leads to a security problem for you.

  2. (Unlikely) He's using it in a grocery store or something and acting real twitchy and doesn't have ID matching the card (some stores check ID to match debit cards), and they call the cops and the cop wants to make sure he didn't steal the card. Can be cleared up, but nobody likes police hassle. It's perfectly legal, however. And they're not going to "report it to the bank," no one gives a crap or has time for that.

  3. (Unlikely) Sure, this is probably against your bank's T&Cs. The only way they would know, though, is if their auto fraud detection kicks in and they freeze the card because the activity in a different country from usual looks suspicious. Just call ahead and tell the bank "I'll be travelling to the US" so they turn that off. In general that would just lead to a temporary freeze you could unblock, but if in the very unusual case it lead to more inquiry and they found out you had loaned your card, they might (probably would not, but might) cancel your card and/or account, but they're certainly not allowed legally to keep your money. While you could add them as an authorized user, then you're just doubling down on the much more likely problem #1, so I'd recommend the don't ask/don't tell method. People do this over here with family members &c all the time.

TL;DR this is fine, tell them not to use it in stores where they would be asked for ID and call the bank and say you'll be travelling to avoid any complications.

  • 1
    +1 but note the OP seems to be U.S. based but currently abroad and fraud detection systems might kick in if they find activity from U.S. and abroad at similar times. I see trouble more in terms of bad remarks in the OPs credit score if the bank gets notice. – mts Jul 9 '16 at 13:14
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    Bank could leave a remark in the databases that OP has violated their T&C. @JonathanReez Just my opinion though, not based on any experience or sources. – mts Jul 9 '16 at 13:24
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    regarding point 2: "And they're not going to 'report it to the bank,' no one gives a crap or has time for that." - I expect this is the first thing they are going to do. They will call the number on the back of the card long before they contact someone living in another country whose identity they can't verify. – Joel Jul 9 '16 at 13:53
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    «And they're not going to "report it to the bank," no one gives a crap or has time for that.» Complete nonsense. – Lightness Races with Monica Jul 10 '16 at 12:52
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    @JonathanReez: It can't. It definitely can't. The Fair Credit Reporting Act specifically requires the removal of fraudulent transactions within 30 days of their being reported to the credit agency. If the bank initially knows or suspects that the transactions are fraudulent, the rules get stricter from there. – Kevin Dec 21 '18 at 3:16
5

If the reason for doing this is to avoid (or reduce) bank fees when your friend uses their non-US bank card in the US, then they are better of getting a pre-paid travel credit card.

These (generally) work by loading money in the user's home currency, and then transferring the money into US Dollars (in this case), or other currencies. You can then treat it like a regular debit/credit card. Others do not require you to swap money, which saves the (minor) expense of swapping any unspent money back to your home currency.

There are several different providers, and they have different fees. Which one is best depends on how often you travel abroad; Fees can be annual, loading, swapping or usage. Annual fees generally benefit those who travel aboard extensively.

  • Supposing there is some benefit in the friend not converting his own money into US dollars (eg. the OP gives him dollars when he is at US and he pays him back in his local currency when he's at his country), the OP could as well charge the friends prepaid card with his own US dollars, which is probably cheaper than the currency conversion. – Ángel Jul 9 '16 at 23:18
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It is highly unlikely that the bank will act unless some sort of crime is committed. That issue is almost unheard of, unless thousands of dollars are involved (ie, hotel fees might trigger some issues.) Many cards will require you to 'unlock' transactions which are from unexpected locations (eg a different country). The real question is if your friend has the ability to pay you back, why would he/she need your money in the first place? The advice to never loan friends and family money is wisdom. If you can't afford to lose everything in your account, don't do it. The other issue is theft. If you give your card to a friend and it is lost or stolen, you may never recover any money. This could affect your credit report as well as impact job interviews (many companies do background and credit checks). Since your friend can buy a debit card pre-loaded with money, it doesn't make much sense to me why your friend needs you to give him/her yours.

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