I didn’t want my teenager to have to wait to start building their credit history at 18, so I got them a credit card at 13.
By adding them as an authorized user on my credit card account, they get access to their own credit card and can start establishing their own credit — and learn to avoid foolish mistakes.
Let’s explore why I made this decision and why you might want to do the same for your kids.
The primary reason I got my 13-year-old a credit card is so that they can start building their credit history. Typically, you can’t get a credit card until you’re 18. But most major credit card issuers let you add children as authorized users and provide them with their own card linked to your account.
The age limit for an authorized user depends on the credit card company. Some companies say 13 or older, while others don’t have any minimum age requirements.
The main benefit of adding an authorized user is that they can build their credit if your account stays active and in good standing. As a result, my teenager can jumpstart their credit-building journey years before they turn 18.
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Teach financial responsibility
It’s one thing to teach kids about using cash or a debit card linked to a bank account, but it’s a bit different introducing credit cards and credit history into their lives.
I wanted to take this next step in teaching financial literacy to my teenager and supply them with a credit card because it gives them firsthand experience with how credit works. It’s not quite the same as spending money that you know you have in your linked checking account. Once that money runs out, you can’t spend anymore.
With a credit card, you can spend up to the credit limit without any guarantee that you actually have the money to pay off your balance. So there has to be more self-discipline involved with credit usage, which I think is an important lesson for a kid to learn.
This likely isn’t the most important reason to get a child a credit card, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to have an authorized user on a credit card that earns rewards.
With most rewards cards, you earn cash back, rewards, points, or miles on eligible purchases. You can then redeem your rewards for a variety of things, including flights and hotel stays.
If you have an authorized user on your credit card, their purchases tend to also earn rewards. So it’s a win-win situation where my teenager can learn how to use a credit card and start building their credit history, while I earn valuable rewards from their purchases.
Have an emergency fund
A credit card can act as an emergency fund if you need it. It’s not an ideal option for replacing money in a bank account, but it can work in a pinch since many major credit cards are generally accepted worldwide.
There likely aren’t too many situations where my 13-year-old would need to resort to using a credit card in an emergency, but it could happen.
Whether it’s because they don’t have enough cash on hand or their debit card isn’t working, it’s nice to know that they have another option available to access money.
Provide consumer protections
Credit cards generally provide more protection than debit cards in case of fraud. For example, it’s common for most credit cards to have zero-fraud liability, which means you’re not responsible for unauthorized charges made with your card or card information.
That could include situations where your credit card is lost or stolen, or if your credit card information is leaked online or offline. Having this protection in place gives me peace of mind that nothing disastrous will happen if my teenager misplaces their credit card.
The solution is often as simple as checking for unauthorized charges and then reporting the card lost so we can get it replaced.
This has more to do with a parent and child relationship, but giving your child a credit card is a big sign that you trust them to make responsible decisions. That means not running up a bill or making purchases that they can’t pay off.
I had already spent time nurturing a trusting relationship involving money with my teenager before giving them a credit card.
I think it makes sense to take a step or two, such as using a debit card, before jumping into the world of credit. But it’s also possible to monitor spending or set spending limits with certain authorized user accounts on different credit cards.
Support financial independence
A teenager might not fully understand how important credit can be for people once they become adults. This can mean qualifying for valuable rewards credit cards, getting a loan for a new car, and setting up a mortgage as a homebuyer.
Without a good credit score and a proper amount of credit history, these opportunities could be few and far between.
By starting to build a credit history now, my teenager can open up the doors to more financial opportunities in the future as an adult. This essentially helps them get a head start on the credit-building process rather than beginning when they’re 18 or older.
I want to trust my kid with a credit card, and I do. But it’s helpful to know that I can track the spending of any authorized user attached to my credit card accounts.
This gives me some control over how credit is being used and whether I need to step in for any teaching opportunities.
I got my teenager a credit card for multiple reasons, but primarily because I want to help build their credit history, teach them how credit works, and maybe even grow their wealth.
If they can get a head start on having more financial freedom by the time they turn 18, I want them to have that opportunity. And if that means I’ll be walking them through how a car loan works around that time, I’ll be ready.