OLIVER SPRINGS (WATE) - The death of a loved one is never easy, but it can also bring financial complications.
A widow said her credit card was canceled eleven days after her husband died.
Depending on the card company, if you are an authorized user on a credit card, but the primary cardholder dies, your card could be canceled.
For Barbara Gillis, the emotion of losing her husband to cancer is still painful.
Married for 18 years, they enjoyed traveling and always paid their bills on time when using their Discover card.
But in less than two weeks after George died in late September, a letter came from their card company with surprising information.
"They closed the account. And we had it since 1996," Gillis said. "First I was shocked. Then I was insulted. Finally, I got darn mad."
Barbara and George had Discover cards with their own names on them.
Once she received the letter, Gillis promptly called the company to find out why the account was closed.
"They said he applied for it, he signed for it, he agreed to make the payments. I was just an additional signature, they were very sorry for my loss, but that was their policy," she said.
Barbara was told she had no authority over the card.
"Fortunately, I had another card in my own name that I had been using. Because I would have been embarrassed if I had taken the family out to dinner and had them reject the card," Gillis said.
Since her experience, we wondered what policy other credit card companies follow if a cardholder dies.
Kim Bohannon is compliance manager for TVA's credit union that offers credit cards.
"We don't, as a standard, close the account. But the first thing we'll start doing is monitor the account," Bohannon said. "Unfortunately, we found in some cases fraud does occur when there is a death in the family."
Card companies handle the death of a cardholder in different ways.
It's likely a card would not be canceled if it was co-signed, meaning there are joint applicants.
"That simply means you are both responsible for the credit card, you both have equal access to the credit card," Bohannon said. "An authorized user simply means you are allowed to make charges, but you are not liable for any of the debts on the account."
Gillis has now made the necessary changes with her Discover card.
"Whether you're male or female, make sure you have credit in your own name so that you won't have a problem if there is an emergency in your family," Gillis said.
Co-signing credit cards is a technique often used among family.
A co-signer, sometimes called a joint user, is a person who signs an agreement to pay off the card if that someone else defaults.
Whether you're called a co-signer, joint user or a different name altogether, what's important is that you are legally responsible for the account balance.
If you have a consumer issue, call the 6 On Your Side Hotline at 865-633-5974 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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