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QUESTION


Q: My teenager is bugging me for her own credit card. What should I do? — Panicky Parent

ANSWER


A: Dear Panicky. The starting place is to inquire with your teenager about why he or she wants a credit card. Is it to keep up with friends? Or truly for convenience? This is a great opportunity to pass on the kind of values and life lessons that are inherent to parenting. credit_card

If you just say yes or no out of hand, you are missing a big opportunity for impact in your child’s life.

Getting your teen a credit card tied to his or her own bank account could be the perfect chance to teach your child about how to manage money and credit, which is not often taught in school. This may make it more likely for your teen to be able to handle his or her own financial affairs when your child is out on her own.

The major lesson to impart to teens is that credit cards can be used for convenience to avoid carrying cash, but short-term purchases such as food and clothing must be backed by cash in the bank to pay the bill immediately.

Credit should not be used for on the spot immediate and unrestricted spending. Rather, the lesson is that credit is best used for longer-term investment and unanticipated costs.

As you may be aware, a new federal law in 2009 made it much more difficult for kids aged 18-20 to get credit cards in their own name unless a parent or legal guardian agrees to co-sign for the card.

Without your strong guidance, allowing a child to have his or her own credit card could be a miscalculation. There have been many stories of kids racking up huge credit card bills even before college. You will have to bear the ultimate responsibility.