The idea sounds simple enough: Your friends and relatives might not care about earning points and miles, so you’d like to earn credit card bonuses in their names. You’ve already got that credit card, but earning another sign-up bonus a second time with a card in your dad’s name sounds juicy.
Can you get credit cards in a friend’s or relative’s name to help you earn more points and miles? Let’s look.
What do the rules say?
Since this question involves opening a credit card in someone else’s name, there are two paths to take: having or not having that person’s permission.
Opening a credit card in someone else’s name without permission is identity theft. That’s illegal, and penalties can include fines, jail time and forfeiture of anything used or gained in the commission of this crime. Don’t do this.
On the other hand, let’s assume you ask a friend or relative if you can open cards in their name, promising to manage them responsibly and not hurt that person’s credit score. In return, you meet the spending requirements and get to keep the points from the sign-up bonus or welcome offer. Is this allowed?
Consider the application terms for The Platinum Card® from American Express:
By submitting this application, you authorize us to issue an Additional Card(s) on your Account to the individual(s) whose name(s) appear(s) on the application.
USA PATRIOT Act Notice: Federal law requires all financial institutions to obtain, verify and record information that identifies each person who opens an account, including your name, address, date of birth and other information that will allow us to verify your identity.
Or the terms for the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card:
USA PATRIOT Act: Federal law requires all financial institutions to obtain, verify, and record information that identifies each person who opens an account. We require the following information or documents as a condition to your opening an account: your name, residential address, date of birth, Social Security number, driver’s license or other identifying documents.
Both cards mention the Patriot Act, which requires banks to verify applicants’ identities. It could be difficult to do this if you’re applying for a card in someone else’s name, as they’d need to answer requests for documents, provide you with their Social Security number and reveal other personal details. Your uncle might not be comfortable providing all this information for a credit card he doesn’t want or care about.
Additionally, the credit card (if approved) will be sent to your friend’s or relative’s address, which creates another obstacle. And, should the bank realize what you’re doing, there’s a strong probability the account will be closed and earned points and miles forfeited.
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Even if you get past this stage, there’s still the issue of programs that don’t allow you to pool points and miles together.
What you can do instead
It’s clearly a bad idea to open credit cards in other people’s names. Instead, let’s look at the underlying idea: You want to earn more points and miles.
Open more cards yourself
Obviously, you can open additional credit cards for welcome bonuses. See the following:
Add authorized users
Additionally, you may receive an offer of bonus points or miles for adding authorized users to your existing credit cards. Ask your friends and relatives if they’re comfortable with being added to your card(s) since they won’t be responsible for the bills this way.
Refer your friends and family
You also could teach your friends and family members about points and miles and then refer them for credit cards. Many banks offer referral bonuses.
Take advantage of upgrade and retention offers
And don’t forget about earning extra points and miles through upgrade and retention offers. These offers are targeted and can vary from person to person, but they can be excellent methods for growing your points balance.
If you remember nothing else, remember this: Opening a credit card in someone else’s name with their permission isn’t a good idea, and doing it without permission is illegal. Other strategies exist for earning more points and miles without risking points forfeiture or committing a crime.
You should be able to find ways to grow your points balance without upsetting a bank or law enforcement agency. They include opening more cards yourself, adding authorized users, referring your loved ones, and taking advantage of upgrade and retention offers.
Editor’s note: “Points of View” is a series evaluating decisions on which credit card to use. If you’re facing a dilemma about which card is best for an upcoming payment, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with “Points of View question” in the subject line.
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