The material presented here is for educational purposes only, and is not intended to be used as financial, investment, or legal advice.
The Best Credit Card Options for Teens
Your child’s teenage years are the perfect time for them to learn how to use credit wisely. But how do you do that when they don’t love listening to mom and dad? Find out the best credit card options for teens to help you guide them toward smarter money management skills.
One of the best things you can to do help your teenagers get started out right financially is to teach them to responsibly use credit. Without good guidance, your child might make some rookie money mistakes when they turn 18 — like charging up excessive debt or worse, failing to pay on time and ruining their credit.
We know it’s a little scary to think about your kids growing up, much less trying to build their credit. But with a little help from a parent or guardian, they can be better set up for success when they start adulting. Here are the best credit card options for teens to help give them a great foundation for using credit wisely.
According to T. Rowe Price data, 17% of kids 8-14 years old have access to a credit card.1
1. Add a Teen to Your Credit Card
Until your child turns 18, they won’t be able to get approved for a credit card on their own. They can, however, be added as an authorized user to your credit card accounts with your local credit union or bank. Contact the financial institution and request that your child be added to your account. Your child will then have access to use the card but cannot be held legally responsible for paying the card balance.
Of course, this option isn’t without risk. You’ll want to have a serious talk with your child about how and when they are allowed to use the card — for example, by giving them a monthly budget to purchase school supplies or clothes. It’s also crucial to regularly monitor your credit card account activity and statements. At the end of each month, sit down with your child and review their purchases to see if they have stayed within budget.
21% of kids without a credit card have used one without their parents’ permission1
2. Get a New Card as a Teaching Tool
If you don’t want to have your finances mingled with your teen’s, it might be a better option to open a new credit card account just for his or her use. If your child is under 18, it will be your account with your teen added to it as an authorized user. Follow a similar process as with the suggestion above, reviewing statements regularly with your teen.
It’s recommended to either choose a secured card, where you deposit a set amount of money that can be used by your child, or an unsecured card with a low limit. This will reduce risk while allowing your teen to experience feelings of freedom and pride as they use the card responsibly. If you go with the secured card option, your child could use money from their allowance or a part-time job to secure the card.
57% of college students have (and use) a credit card, national lender Sallie Mae reports.2
3. Have Them Open a Student Credit Card
If your child is 18, they can open a credit card account in their own name. But, as parents know, many older teens (and even twentysomethings) aren’t quite “there yet” when it comes to the financial responsibilities of adulthood. Help your child look for a card that’s specifically designed for young adults, such as the Visa® College Real Rewards Card from Desert Financial. These accounts typically have manageable limits that someone just starting out can handle.
Make sure to emphasize the importance of making at least the minimum payment before the due date and paying down balances whenever possible. Note that for some student credit cards, your child will need to show proof of part-time or full-time income, which is a convenient way to encourage them to earn extra money to pay for educational expenses or living costs.
Helping your teen manage their credit card use is a great introduction to financial responsibility, but don’t stop there. Set up a checking or savings account to teach them money management and saving skills. Request a copy of your teen’s credit at annualcreditreport.com and walk through it together to have them learn how credit scores work.
Whichever credit card option for teens you choose, your child will likely learn more by managing their account than they would learn from just talking about it. By coaching your child through these important life lessons, you’re setting them up for a smoother transition into adulthood. Then, you can just sit back, relax and not worry about your child at all (just kidding).