Credit cards can be a great tool for building credit and improving your financial standing. But can and should a teenager get a credit card? Below, we discuss credit cards for teens and other alternatives, such as prepaid debit cards.
What age can you get a credit card in the US?
You must be 18 years old to apply for a credit card. If your teens are under 18, they won't be able to get a credit card. You can add a teenager to your own credit card as an authorized user, but you may be charged extra fees for each extra cardholder. Plus, some banks still have age restrictions on added cardholders.
With GoHenry, children as young as six can have a prepaid debit card.
What are the alternatives to credit cards for teenagers?
Prepaid debit cards can be a good alternative to credit cards for teenagers. They work in a similar way to credit cards, but your teenager can only spend the money that’s loaded onto the card. This can help them stay within their budget and avoid getting into debt, meaning they’re a great way to learn about spending within their means. They are also a good alternative to credit cards as there’s no chance of interest rates or late fees. With the average annual interest rate on credit cards at 20.6%, this is a definite bonus.
Reasons your teen should get a credit card
They can get used to being responsible with money: According to GoHenry’s 2022 Youth Economy Report, over 78% of US teens believe that earning their own money is important. So, giving a teen their own credit card to manage can be an empowering experience that helps teach them the value of money and how to budget.
They don’t have to ask for cash: This can be really useful if they want to buy something online or in a store. They can just use their card and not have to worry about having the correct amount of cash on them.
You can have visibility of what your teen is spending money on: If you are the primary cardholder, you can see what your teen is spending money on and help them to understand why it might be better to save up for something rather than buying it on credit.
They can use it in emergencies: There are also added advantages to a teen with a credit card in an emergency when neither cash nor parents are available.
Reasons your teen shouldn’t get a credit card
For any parent supporting a teenager with their own credit card, the road can be as daunting as when teaching them to drive. Here are some of the disadvantages parents may have to deal with along the line:
Some teens may be irresponsible with their spending: While of course, every individual is different, the enthusiasm of youth combined with the huge responsibility of managing a credit card can be a heady combination. The lure of the latest sneakers, a smartphone upgrade, or an online subscription can often seem far more important than maxing out their parent’s credit limit or paying their contribution to their parent’s monthly bill.
Lots of credit cards don’t have instant spending notifications: This means you may not see what teens are spending until you get your statement. This can lead to unexpected surprises, particularly if your teen is using their credit card to shop online where it’s easy to spend without really thinking about it.
Lack of parental controls: The lack of controls means that parents may then be faced with the prospect of a hefty and very unwelcome monthly bill. Credit cards for teens, without clear education and a back-stop, can be a minefield that affects the whole family.
Easy for teens to rack up debt, spending money they don’t have: One of the main dangers of credit cards is that it can be easy to spend money you don’t have. This can quickly lead to debt, which can have a long-term impact on your child’s financial future.
You’re responsible for your teen's credit card debt: As the primary cardholder, you’re ultimately responsible for any debt your teen racks up. This means that if they can’t or don’t pay their bill, it will affect your credit score and could lead to you having to pay their debts.
Consider a GoHenry prepaid debit card
If you don’t feel your teen is ready for a credit card, but they still need experience with using a card, GoHenry offers an alternative.
GoHenry is a prepaid debit card for teens that comes with a number of features beneficial for parents too. To help your child you can set spending limits, track spending and get instant notifications when money is spent. The card also has a built-in safety feature, allowing parents to freeze the card if it is lost, stolen, or misused.
An allowance feature that lets you set up regular payments into your teen's account and teens can use Apple Pay to make contactless payments with their iPhone or Apple Watch.