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Does Dad Need a Credit Card?



"My father wants to keep his credit card, though I think he should give it up. He has early dementia, and I just don’t trust him to manage it. I pay all of his bills, so he doesn’t need it for that. He wants it in case he needs to pay for something. You know how you can pay for a coffee at McDonalds with a credit card? He wants to be able to do that sort of thing. I think he should just carry $20 in cash and call it a day. What do you think?"



Credit cards represent cash to most of us these days. I can remember a time when I did not even have a credit card and used checks at the grocery store.  It seems like a very long time ago. I am sure that it does also for your father. I perfectly understand how he feels.

Taking away his credit card may be a very difficult adjustment for him to accept. It also may not be necessary to make that adjustment. Most of us carry limits that allow us to make purchases that are large, like a dishwasher or couch. We keep higher limits than we need for those once a year or every other year purchases. Some folks even brag about how high their credit limits are, though that just puzzles me.

You did not mention that your father is losing his card or is misplacing his wallet around the house on a regular basis. With that not said, negotiate with dad what seems reasonable. If he wants a credit card for those minimal every day purchases, I do not see why he should not have one. Besides, a credit card is much safer than a debit card as it does not immediately withdraw funds from his account and does not require him to remember a code or PIN to use it. 

I recommend that you and dad negotiate a reasonable solution. Drop the credit level to a low amount that will cover his monthly expenses for dining out or impromptu purchases of minimal value. If needed, have a second card for large purchases, and lock it away until it’s time.  If he no longer drives (just an assumption on my part) he will be going with you or a sibling anyway. 

What I like about credit cards is that, if stolen or lost, the credit card company will assist you and reverse the charges. As you know, lost cash is just that--lost cash. You also can go online at any time and see what charges have been listed to your card. Additionally, each month you get a statement or can download one. 

As you can see, I am a huge fan of credit cards and I think it is safer for your father. 

I suspect the most difficult part of aging is losing independence.  Anything you can do to protect your father’s independence and keep him out there and active is a good thing. A credit card with a low limit is fairly low risk and a risk I would be willing to take. 

You will experience many challenges navigating the future with your father. I wish you well on this shared journey.