When Should My Child Get a Credit Card?

The minimum age to apply for a credit card and be approved for an account is 18. However, a parent can opt to make their child an authorized user on their credit card account before age 18. Not all credit card issuers have the same age requirement policies, however.

When Should My Child Get a Credit Card? 

In a 2017 T. Rowe Price survey, which involved parents of eight to 14-year-olds, 18 percent said their children had access to credit cards. But experts say the age a child should have a credit card depends on how responsible the child is.

A child’s level of maturity, as well as their willingness to listen and learn, are two factors parents may want to consider. For example, a child who generally follows the rules and who has shown restraint and good judgment when it comes to money may be a good candidate for a credit card.

What is an Authorized User?

Children under age 18 are not eligible for their own credit card accounts, however if you have a credit card, you can add your child to your account as an authorized user.  

As an authorized user, your child will have the ability to make purchases without being responsible for making payments. As the primary cardholder, you, as the parent, will continue to receive the bill and be solely responsible for any charges or fees that are incurred. 

Why Can’t Children Under 18 Apply for a Credit Card?

The Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009 set up rules for issuing credit to individuals under 21 years of age. These rules include:

  • Credit card applicants who are least 18 but under 21 must submit proof that they can make payments or have a cosigner who is at least 21 years old.
  • Credit card companies are prohibited from marketing preapproved offers to individuals under 21 years of age.
  • Credit card companies are prohibited from offering gifts as enticements to get students on or near campuses or at school-sponsored events to apply for a credit card.

Pros of a Child Having a Credit Card

Consider the advantages of your child having a credit card and ask yourself whether it’s the right decision for you. Here are some advantages to think about.

1. Can help establish credit history

If your creditor reports authorized user account information to the credit bureaus, your child will begin to build their credit history. Having a positive credit history can help your child qualify for loans, such as private student loans and car loans, without a cosigner. 

2. Can be used in an emergency

If your child travels without you, having a credit card for emergency purposes can be helpful. Authorized users receive a credit card with their name on it.

The key is to establish what qualifies as an emergency expense and what doesn’t.

3. Can help teach proper credit use

By adding your child as an authorized user to your credit card account, you can teach them how to use credit in a responsible manner. You can also educate your child about annual percentage rates and how they can affect what you owe if you don’t pay off the balance each month.

Cons of a Child Having a Credit Card

Just like the pros, the cons are also important to understand. Here are some to consider when thinking about giving your child access to a credit card.

1. Your negative credit habits could rub off on your child

If you aren’t in the habit of only charging what you can afford to pay off each month and making your credit card payments on time, your bad habits could rub off on your child. By setting this example, your child may grow up not realizing that credit card debt and a missed payment here and there can negatively impact credit.

2. You might be skipping a step in responsible money management

Before giving your child access to a credit card, it might be wise to teach them how to open a savings account and meet a savings goal. Then, in the future, if they have an emergency and need quick cash, they can rely on their savings instead of racking up debt on a credit card.

3. Your child could potentially overspend

As an authorized user, your child could run up your credit card balance if you don’t keep a close eye on purchases. If the new balance is too high for you to pay off in the same billing cycle, you’ll likely end up paying interest.

Issuers That Allow Children Under 18 to be an Authorized User

Not all credit card issuers have the same policies when it comes to adding authorized users. Here are examples of authorized user age requirements for some of the top credit card issuers. These may change over time, so please check with the bank for verification.

Credit Card IssuerMinimum Age RequirementSocial Security Number Required
Capital OneNoneYes
Chase None No
Bank of America None May request
US Bank16 years old Yes
Barclays13 years old Yes
Citibank None No
Wells Fargo None No
SynchronyVaries by card Varies by card
Discover15 years old Yes
American Express13 years old Yes

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