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Should Kids Have A Credit Card?

giving kids a credit cardIt’s pretty safe to say that we won’t get giving our daughter a credit card for her 8th birthday next month. I can’t believe how fast eight years have passed, and I bet the next eight will go by even faster. While I’d like to bury my head in oblivion, we are getting to the point where financial and life education are very important. Hopefully, our daughter will be as smart as possible about the real world before we turn her loose to become a productive member of society. Part of that will include learning about debt and credit cards. The question today is, should kids have a credit card?

Pros of Giving Kids A Credit Card

Hands On Financial Education

By giving kids a credit card while they still live at home, parents can keep tabs and set limits. The first credit card would likely be a joint venture between child and parent, which would allow family discussions about credit limits, interest rates, purchases, payments, and how to decipher a credit card statement.

Building Credit

Many pros suggest giving kids a credit card to build credit, but I don’t agree with that. Kids will have plenty of time to do that as they become young adults. I don’t know why a teen would need a credit history in most circumstances.

Credit Cards Can Be Replaced If Lost or Stolen

Kids are not the most responsible people. Even with good intentions, they are easily distracted and don’t always make the best decisions.

I’ve had my credit card information stolen a couple of times, and in both instances, I did not have to pay the charges in question. It was an inconvenience, but no money was lost. With cash, it’s gone. Even with debit cards, you may be responsible for all or part of the charges if the card is stolen. If my kid is going to lose something, a credit card would be the lesser of the evils.

Cons of Giving Kids a Credit Card

Credit Cards Mean Instant Gratification

Kids might start to equate credit cards with money or instant gratification. Instead of waiting for actual cash in hand, they might use the card thinking they will have money by the time the bill comes. This is not a problem limited to children, I know many adults who bank on this philosophy.

Credit Might Make Kids Spend More

When Jim was in high school, his parents gave him a gas card that was supposed to be for fuel only. When his friends found out, they talked him into buying snacks for the whole crew. Being popular in high school is just about as important as breathing for many kids. Buying crap for your friends can certainly make you popular, at least for the short term.

Parents Could Be Responsible For Kids’ Bad Decisions

If parents do get a joint credit card with their kids, it’s important to cancel or remove themselves from that card once the child becomes an adult. You don’t want junior carrying bad debts associated with your name long after he’s moved out of the house.

I had a friend whose kid did just that. My friend had no idea until he got a denial on a home refinance. His son stopped paying the bill and also forgot to let Dad know he was broke, so credit scores for both father and son went into the toilet.

Will I Give My Kid A Credit Card?

We have a few years before we have to decide, but I think that we will let our daughter apply for a credit card, probably when she starts driving. I’ve been in a couple of emergency situations where a credit card would have been handy, and I want her to have the ability to call a locksmith or have a car repair done if necessary.

When I went to college, I was book smart but money stupid. I applied for my first card to get a free t-shirt, with no clue about interest rates or how much credit can cost if you use it incorrectly. I don’t want my daughter to be that dumb when it comes to anything about money.

How To Get Kids To Understand Credit Cards

I know kids can and will make mistakes, but I hope to lessen the chances by teaching our daughter about credit cards.

Let Her In On Our Past Mistakes

I think it’s important to share past financial mistakes with your children. Some parents might be afraid to come clean, thinking the truth might give kids permission to repeat bad family behaviors, but I don’t think so. I believe being honest makes kids more likely to ask questions and seek help if they aren’t sure about a financial decision.

Make Sure Kids See and Understand the Credit Process

Parents and children should go over credit card statements together. That way everyone can see if all charges are correct and understand when the bill needs to be paid to avoid interest charges. If parents aren’t going to make sure the bill is paid in full every month, then I don’t think they have any business letting their kids get a credit card. You can teach irresponsible habits as well as you can teach good ones.

Do you think kids should have credit cards? When did you get your first credit card? Did you know what you were doing?


Image: Freedigitalphotos.net/imagerymagestic



About Kim Parr

Kim Parr is a private practice optometrist, freelance writer, and personal financial blogger. You can follow her journey to 20/20 financial vision at Eyes on the Dollar.


  1. I think a kid can have a card with a lower limit. It should help to build credit and teach them how to be responsible.

    Teaching them how to use it is a great thing for them. One day, they will not have you as a teacher, and will have to learn the hard way about how quick 18% interest rates add up.

    • I think that you could teach that kid just as much about being responsible by giving him or her a DEBIT card linked to a checking or savings account in the child’s name. The kid’s allowance (if any), cash gifts from relatives, and amounts earned from after-school jobs could all go into the account and be available for use through the debit card.

      That approach would still teach the child a lot about money management — without stoking (quite as badly) the fires of instant gratification and peer-pressure spending.

      I just don’t think that one person (the child) can learn much about financial discipline using someone else’s (the parents) money or credit.

      • I agree to a point, but I would want my daughter to understand the difference between a debit card and credit card. If you don’t want to pay off a credit card, you don’t have to. I’d like to go over the statements and show how it works and how to make sure you do pay it off every month. You don’t get that education from a debit card.

    • I’m hoping I can teach my kiddo to never have to pay 18% interest on anything!

  2. I don’t think its a bad idea if they have one while in high school under guidance from the parent. Getting them in the habit to pay the bill on time would be a great discipline to have before going off to college.

  3. I didn’t have a credit card until I married my husband and he had one. When our son went to college, we put him on our account as an authorized user so we could see his charges. I wouldn’t do it any other way. Kids have cell phones and tablets etc. which I think is also unnecessary. You can teach them financial responsibility without giving the their own card. Plus, IMO, it does a kid good to learn that some things come to them when they are grown. You wait until 16 (in some states) to drive and 18 to vote. As you grow and mature you get more responsibilities and privileges. Credit is for adults.

    • would certainly be on the account at least until my daughter was done with college. Then, she would hopefully be responsible enough to be on her own.

  4. Generally speaking, I’d say no to giving a child a credit card but I also think it depends on the situation and the given child. I too got my first credit card in college, for a free something or other, and the rest was history. I think things like telling them about your past mistakes, letting them know your purchase decisions, etc can all be good things to try and accomplish much of the same thing. You could also go the route of a pre-paid card and set limits on it to help as well.

    • I got the whole idea for this post from the Target pre-paid red card because it said you could get on for your child. That might not be a bad way to start out.

  5. I got my first credit card when I was in university. I’ve had a debit card since I was 5 or so. Our daughter is only 2, so we’ve got a lot of time to think about how she’sll get her allowance. I would like to give her the same credit card basics that I got in school (lucky) but I’m not sure if that will mean sharing a card with her. Her debit card has VISA on it somehow already (which is kind of creepy, but I think it’s for online purchases, you know, for a 2 year old?)

    • I didn’t know you could get cards that young, but I guess it’s not really that surprising. Visa likes their money, no matter who is spending it.

  6. I don’t think I will. I believe I can teach my kids how to be responsible with money without the need of a credit card. But parenting, like personal finance, is very personal and each person does what he/she feels it’s the best course for themselves and their children.

    • I think kids are curious and will try out most things, even if you tell them not to. There are tons of things I can only give advice about in general terms. I can’t let my kid get drunk in the house to test it out, but I can let her see what a credit card is like before she’s on her own and has to make the decision whether to get one or not. That’s my opinion anyway, but we all do have our own ideas on the subject!

  7. I plan on giving Lauren and Taylor a credit card when they are in high school, although I haven’t decided the exact age yet. I have a few years, thankfully! Money is something we regularly talk about in our home, as you know. The girls know that Mom and Dad work hard to buy the things we have, even when we use our credit card to pay. But seeing is one thing (and a good thing!) but doing it themselves is also important. And I want them to learn how to manage credit wisely while I can still provide guidance. Like you, many kids go to college book smart, but not money smart. I want my girls to be both book and money smart when they leave for college. To appreciate the power of a credit card because you can now buy things you cannot afford but to understand there is a price to doing so. To face that temptation (and peer pressure friends too) and not succumb.

  8. I think if you’re going to do that, it should be secured cards. The kids can’t overspend, and they get used to the idea that you can only spend a certain amount with your card each month.

  9. I think giving a kid a credit card while they’re still under your supervision is a good way to ensure they learn how to use it properly rather than going to college and figuring it out for themselves with potentially disastrous consequences.

  10. Smart post, Kim. I think it’s wise to teach kids how to handle credit responsibly in this way, but like you mentioned, we’d do it while they’re still under our own roof. Our kids are pretty anti-debt, but we’re still cautious in how much rope we give them regarding money.

    • I can’t imagine a kid living at home would need a credit card for anything. It would just be a learning experience so they aren’t tempted to sign up for a card later in life and have no idea how they work.

  11. We actually gave our daughter a credit card last summer at the age of 14. She was headed across country to visit a friend so we sent her with a little cash and a credit card. We felt better knowing she had the means to pay her own way when out with our friend’s family and we didn’t want to give her a bunch of cash for safety reasons. It worked out well and she was very responsible with it. She still carries it in her wallet but has not used it. My son, on the other hand, likes to shop. I would have to be a little more proactive with him;0)

    • I would not have wanted to give cash in that type of situation either. I think 14 would be OK if my daughter is responsible enough to handle it.

  12. This is a big YES in my books. I had the same arrangement in high school as Jim did. My sister brother and I went to a high school that was 17 miles from home. It was a private school and kids live all over the metro area, so 17 miles wasn’t out of the ordinary. They gave us one (used/old) car to share and gave us a credit card to pay for gas. I only used it for gas and it worked out great because I had an awesome credit history by the time I was 18/19, at least compared to my friends. I’m really reaping the benefits now as it’s been over ten years since I first got that card and my credit history dates WAY back compared to others my age. I do think you need to watch the spending closely, though. My sister used it for food and clothes on a number of occasions and each time she got it taken away, which actually made my life more difficult because I was the only one who had a card to fill up the tank!

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