Talk about eager to lend with no money down.
That's what 11-year-old Tommy Mullaney of Crownsville, Md., thought when he returned home from camp last month and found a new gold MasterCard with his name on it and a hefty $5,000 limit.
"I jumped up and down and said 'Wow' -- the hologram on it was cool," said Tommy. "But it sure made me wonder about who was running that bank."
While he is a very hard worker, according to his mother, Tommy says it's unlikely that he would be able to pay back any charges on a credit card, since his allowance is only $5 a week.
But Tommy says he listed that allowance -- scrawled in little-kid handwriting -- in the salary section of a pre-approved application, sent to him by First Card/FCC National Bank of Elgin, Ill.
"It was an error, and we are looking into it," said Lorraine Person of First National Bank of Chicago, which owns First Card/FCC. "It happens quite a bit when some kids fill out a form using information from their parent's credit history. But we don't know what happened here."
Tommy said he filled his application out honestly, including his birth date -- Nov. 10, 1978 -- and his occupation. Besides being a basic kid and an almost-junior high student, Tommy is publisher of the Pollution Solution newsletter he produces bimonthly on his computer, because he's concerned about the environment.
But these days he's more worried about the entire financial system of the United States.
"I'm very scared about how safe my money is right now, if they are just giving it away to a kid like me," said the self-professed baseball card collector of Anne Arundel County. "Maybe this isn't a very serious mistake, but it makes you wonder what other things they mess up."
Plenty, Tommy. The savings and loan crisis likely will end up costing taxpayers what kids like Tommy would characterize as a jillionzilliontrillionbillion. But he won't add to that, since he never even charged one Nintendo game or a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles sweat shirt on his new card.
"I was too scared to use it, so I showed it off to my teacher and all the kids at school," said Tommy. "I thought, hey, I could be sent to jail, so I waited until my mom and dad got back from a trip in Oregon."
Mary Mullaney was flabbergasted when she got home and found her kid had better credit than she did. She figured he got the application because of his subscriptions to Newsweek and Business Week -- Tommy, a budding entrepreneur, sometimes likes to invest in the stock market.
"I let him fill out the application, because I thought it would be good practice," she said. "We were all laughing about it and thought the bank was too intelligent for this."
She thought wrong and immediately called the bank, which at first did not seem concerned about the mistake.
"They just said they'd cancel it," said Mary. "But I was worried that with banks in such trouble, they should look carefully at what went wrong here."
Tommy's mother asked the bank to write him a letter explaining the mistake -- which First Card's Person said has been done.
She also asked them to make a small donation in Tommy's name to one of his favorite environmental groups for his trouble.
"But the bank did not want to hear this and said it was his fault," Mary Mullaney said. "He could have had a ball with it and since he's a kid, not been held responsible, for goodness sake."
Not that Tommy, who keeps the now-canceled gold credit card as a memento, would have been anything but well behaved. "And when I grow up I will try to get another for good," he said.
And by that time, he'll be qualified for a credit card, as a lawyer, a photographer or head of a wildlife group, he said. And what about a banker?
"Nooooo," said Tommy. "But I'd make a better one than a lot of people."