Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Liability Loopholes for Credit Card Fraud

My last credit card statement arrived in the mail last week and was unusually thick. I’m used to receiving an extra piece of paper or two, but this was really thick.

It turned out to just have a new cardholder agreement, a new certificate of insurance on purchases (12 leaflet pages), and smaller pieces of paper inviting me to read the longer pieces of paper.

One of the changed sections concerns the cardholder’s responsibility for fraud. Cardholders aren’t responsible for any fraud as long as they meet a list of criteria such as not knowingly contributing to the fraud, notifying the credit card company within 24 hours of noticing a problem, and having an account in good standing.

The last part about having an account in good standing caught my eye because it happens that I forgot to pay my bill on time last month and made an oversized payment (to break the cycle of interest charges) about 10 days late.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a definition of “account in good standing” anywhere in the agreement or online. Was my account not in good standing for those 10 days, or does my payment have to be later than 10 days for my account to be not in good standing? Maybe my account will remain not in good standing for some number of months after this incident.

So, I have no idea if this oversight has put me at risk if a fraudster starts using my credit card number. I may have been at risk for 0 days, 10 days, or longer.

Any insight into whether credit card companies tend to make use of this loophole and what the precise definition of “account in good standing” is would be appreciated.


  1. This post would have a lot more punch if tou had taken the time to actually call your credit card provider and ask them the question of "what is 'in good standing' mean?"

  2. Your comment might have more punch if you used a speell cheequer too.

  3. I would think it would take several missed payments in a row in order for a credit card to fall out of good standing. Likely, you would receive letters and/or phone calls to inquire about missed payments in order for the account to be in bad standing. But, you're right, it's unclear.

    I would recommend writing to them to explain that you were sorry for missing the payment and that it is really unlike you, since you always pay on time. They are likely to reimburse your interest charges.

  4. Adam: That might give some insight. I wouldn't want to take legal advice from someone who answers the phone for a living, but they might be able to point me to something more definitive online.

    Gene: There seems to be a state called in "arrears" that corresponds to the state you are referring to. I can't tell if there is anything between "good standing" and "arrears".