In general, it’s a good idea to wait until your child is in their teens before you allow them to use credit cards because there’s little benefit in establishing credit history prior to that time. Additionally, older children are more inclined to be responsible about spending. Many parents turn credit spending into a learning experience, sitting down with their kids on a monthly basis to review the credit card bill, discuss what's been spent, and talk about how it's going to be paid.
When the time is right, there are several options for getting your child a credit or debit card. Here are a few of our favorites:
- If you want to help your child establish a positive credit history and think your kid is ready for the responsibility, you should add your child as a secondary cardholder to one of your existing credit cards. It's a good idea to sign up for a card that the parent will benefit from, too. We really like the Capital One Cash card. It features a 0% intro APR until February 2013, 1% cash back on all purchases, a 50% bonus on the cash back you earn every year AND $100 Bonus after you spend $500 in the first 3 months. If you'd like to see the other options out there, take a look at NextAdvisor.com's credit card reviews. Keep in mind; you’ll need to keep close tabs on your child's spending with this approach.
- If you'd like to get your child their own pre-paid debit card, BillMyParents® Reloadable Prepaid MasterCard is a smart solution because it was literally developed to help parents manage their teen's spending. It offers all sorts of great features, including the ability to put your child's allowance onto the card, text notification every time the card is used (including the purchase location and amount), and being able to lock/unlock the card via text. Note that this card won't help establish a credit history for your child because it's a debit card and not a credit card, and like other debit cards, it charges fees that can add up.
- For young adults in college, we recommend the Citi Dividend Platinum Select MasterCard for College Students. Parents do not need to co-sign on this card if their child can qualify and it offers a 0% APR on purchases during the first 7 months, as well as cash back rewards.
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