Giving a business address for a personal credit card / Patriot Act
January 9, 2014 6:11 PM   Subscribe

Aside from whether I should or why I should care what address I give a credit card company or bank, I am wondering whether the Patriot Act actually does allow consumers to give companies a business street address. It appears so but I'm no legal whiz so I'm looking for some answers out there.

In a nutshell, the Patriot Act requires financial institutions to ensure that they're dealing with a legitimate person - in doing so, they must verify

"1) Name;
2) Date of birth, for an individual;
3) Address, which shall be:
i) For an individual, a residential or business street address . . . "

Link to full text of the regulation:

To me, it seems clear that an individual can provide a residential or business street address; this makes sense because the purpose of the Patriot Act is to make sure that someone can be found somewhere (anti money laundering)--hence no P.O. boxes.

On the other hand, I know some banks on credit card apps will write things like "this is your residential home address" when you hover your mouse over the address part, which seems misleading to me (maybe they do it to get more people to provide home addresses and therefore better marketing material to sell).

So what's the deal? The regulation doesn't distinguish between business and personal credit cards. Can anyone shed any light? Bottom line: can you use a business address for a personal credit card? (I realize you might be asked to follow up with proof that you work at the company because your app might not match info in the credit reporting databases that companies rely on--but can you do it?)
posted by trandolph to Law & Government (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
One thing I can think of is that, if you're applying for a credit card and use a business address, it may be hard for them to run an accurate credit check on you.
posted by Sara C. at 6:24 PM on January 9, 2014

I haven't read the law or anything, but it's possible that the Patriot Act sets a baseline minimum for what a company must do to confirm your identity. Then a company could still set a higher bar by its own choice to confirm your identity with a home address (if it chose). Again, I don't know this law, but nothing you're saying makes me think of it as a consumer's rights statute.
posted by J. Wilson at 6:33 PM on January 9, 2014

There might not be any reason why the law requires you to give them a residential address but if you only give a business address (instead of giving them your residential address but having statements delivered to a business address or PO Box) you're going set off all kinds of fraud flags.

Also, the regulator agencies that enforce these laws at the banks will often tell the bank, "Our interpretation of of this lines is..." So banks might have been told that they have to get the address where you live.

That jives with how I was trained when I was a retail banker. They told us that we needed to get some kind of address even if it was just a physical description (Eg: 2 miles north of Hwy 61 in a van down by the river). But, you could have all correspondence mailed to any address you wanted.

Lastly, the bank's policy might require them to get the residential address for all of their customers.
posted by VTX at 7:25 PM on January 9, 2014

I've used my work address for two personal credit cards (of five) for almost 20 years. Never had the slightest problem.

Bank of America and Citibank, if matters.
posted by spitbull at 7:56 PM on January 9, 2014

The Patriot Act doesn't spell out consumer options, it spells out bank requirements.

There are two requirements at play. They're not conflicting; one is a sub-set of the options allowed by the other.

The broad requirement is the Patriot Act, which requires a financial institution to collect a business or personal address. The narrow requirement is from your bank which will require a customer to provide (A) a business address, or (B) a personal address, or (C) a business or personal address. You can't answer the narrow requirement using the options given to you in the broad requirement.

If you're asked for a personal address, you can't provide a business address.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 4:26 AM on January 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

Throwing out another reading of the reg: an individual can be a sole proprietor opening an account for a business, in which case the business address would be appropriate. I didn't do any further research so it's unclear if "individual" includes a single member LLC that is treated as a disregarded entity for federal income tax purposes as well.

TL;DR individual does not necessarily imply non-business account.
posted by melissasaurus at 5:31 AM on January 10, 2014

Also be aware that in some cases, the "it's our policy" or "it's our standard procedure" of twenty years ago has morphed into "The Patriot Act requires it." Some banks prefer it because it makes it look like they aren't responsible. I've heard "Patriot Act" blamed for some rather ridiculous stuff. Sometimes the best answer is to press ahead anyways, and sometimes you'll find out that the "requirement" ... isn't.
posted by jgreco at 9:16 AM on January 10, 2014

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