As students head back to school or move on to college, it may seem like the ideal time for them to have their own starter credit card. Better Business Bureau recommends parents help their teenagers and college students understand money management, as well as the impact of using their first debit and credit cards before they open one. Keep in mind that if they are not prepared and responsible, it can seriously affect their credit history for years to come.
Young people quickly gravitate away from cash and towards debit cards, credit cards and mobile payment methods for entertainment, purchasing supplies and other online purchases. Here are some steps you can take to prepare your teen for their own financial health.
Decide what’s best
Figure out what best suits your family or child. Does your child need a credit card? Do they already have a debit card? What purchases will your child need to make on their own while away at college? Are there alternatives to them opening their own account?
• By the time teenagers hit 18 years old, they should begin building a credit history. Credit cards are often one of the first ways someone can start building a healthy credit score. This may be important for student loan applications or other accounts down the road. An option is to add a card to your existing credit account to help monitor their spending or prevent them from having to open a card on their own.
• If your child already has a debit card this is a great way for them to learn money management. A debit card only allows customers to spend the amount in their bank account. This would be a great first step to help them learn and pay any bills they may have.
• Online banking apps are becoming increasingly popular and some may even offer their own type of money card. If you feel your child may need a bit more monitoring this may be a good option. You could begin by sending your child a set amount of money per month and see how well they are able to control their spending. This may also be a good option if your child doesn’t have many expenses.
Discuss with your teen
Don’t overspend: The key to responsible use of a credit card is paying off balances to demonstrate the ability to manage your finances, indicating you are a suitable credit risk. Credit card interest charges accumulate when a balance is carried over from one month to the next. Monitor your spending and avoid surpassing your credit limit. Overspending with a debit card carries its own expense in the form of overdraft fees which adds to the debt load.
Monitor credit: Credit scores follow you throughout life and determine whether you will be able to obtain credit, the amount of credit and interest rates. In order to keep a healthy credit history it’s crucial to avoid fees for late or missed payments and bank account overdrafts. Checking your credit report is also a great way to monitor for fraud as well as seeing the effects of your financial behaviors.
Shop safe online: Fraudulent sites and ads are two popular ways that consumer’s credit cards are hacked. Always check the URL and security of the site – https – before you make a purchase and enter any card information. It’s always better to use a credit card or service like PayPal when making online purchases instead of a debit card. See BBB’s tips for shopping safe online.
Secure personal information: Always question why anyone needs your personal information. Now that your child has more information to keep secure, educate them who is and isn’t safe to share that information with. Discuss phone, employment and email scams, as well as other instances where sharing credit card information is inappropriate.
Review statements: Keep a close watch on receipts and statements. This is the easiest and quickest way to determine if an unusual charge is a mistake, unauthorized or the result of fraud. This is especially important for online transactions. Keep the bank’s and card issuer’s customer service numbers handy to let them know promptly about any suspect charges or if a card is lost or stolen.
You can visit AnnualCreditReport.com to check your credit report. The service is free and not conditional upon purchasing any other services.