Credit Cards

Important Warning If You Have a Corporate Credit Card

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Can you be personally liable for a corporate credit card you get from your employer? Can the business card you use as an employee of the company for which you work affect your credit rating? I dug into those questions recently after getting two emails from women who found themselves dealing with the spillover when their employers didn’t pay charges on the corporate cards they were issued.

The first email came from a woman who had relocated to another state to take a sales position. Her supervisor told her to charge her relocation expenses to the corporate card the company gave her. But when the job didn’t pan out, the company did not pay the bill and it now appears on her credit reports as a charge-off of just over $5000. About to buy a home, she was worried she would have to fork over the money to pay off the bill in order to get a mortgage.

The other woman who emailed me has been a contract employee for a firm that is now having financial problems. She was informed by the manager of that firm to stop using the corporate card he had given her for business expenses because he is no longer able to pay the bills. Her cell phone has been ringing off the hook with calls from the creditor. “Will this hurt my credit reports?” she asked.

To get to the bottom of this story, I talked with consumer law attorneys and contacted the major card issuers themselves. In large part, what happens depends on which type of corporate card you carry. It’s vital that you know the difference.

[Article: How Does a Corporate Card Affect Credit Scores?]

Two Types of Cards

There are generally two types of corporate cards. With the vast majority, the employee gets a card from his or her employer, the bill goes to the employer, and the employer is completely responsible for payment. In those cases, the employee is an authorized user and is not responsible to the card company for payment.

The other type of card, however, does carry individual liability. The employee fills out an application, gets the bills, gets reimbursed by his or her employer, then pays the card issuer. This type of card may affect the employee’s credit scores, since activity can appear on their personal credit reports.

Only one issuer, Capital One, stated it does not issue corporate cards that allow for personal liability on the part of the employee. “Employees are not liable for charges. They are not reported to bureaus and not responsible for the debt. The primary (accountholder) and business are jointly liable for the debt, not the employees,” said spokesperson Pam Girardo by email.

The other issuers I queried—American Express, Bank of America, Chase and Citibank—all said they offered cards with and without individual employee liability. Here’s what they told me…

[Resource: Get your free Credit Report Card]

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What the Card Companies Say »

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  • Cilyn Myers

    My mother, the owner of a small business, passed away 10/2010. My husband and I were corporate officers of the business. My mother opened a credit card with Wells Fargo that was used to purchase materials for the business. Unfortunately, she ended up with a balance of over $5,000 on the card at the time of her death. My husband negotiated a settlement with WF to pay off the credit card with funds from the business. I recently checked my credit report and found that WF has included the balance and the write off amount on my credit score, and caused it to drop by 150 points in one year. Can I be held responsible for business debt that I was not involved in making?

    • http://www.Credit.com Gerri Detweiler

      Cilyn,

      I’d like to talk with you about your situation. Would you please email us at creditexperts (at) credit.com?

  • Jill culp

    Gerri,

    Just wanted you to know that cash advances were taken from the Wells Fargo accounts that were used to pay Cilyn and Charlie’s personal expenses; not business expenses. One example would be the payment of Cilyn’s car payments. I have all the documentation.

    Jill

  • Tamara Bryant

    If you never filled out an application and your credit was never run for a card, does that mean you’re not liable? Also, if it can affect your credit negatively, then shouldn’t it also affect it positively?

    • Gerri Detweiler

      Your liability depends on the terms of the corporate card. If you are an officer or manager in the firm, you should be especially careful as you may be held personally liable for the charges if the company doesn’t pay. Also, not everyone wants their corporate card to report positive information – since that could include debt that’s paid on time but which may affect the score.

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