Home > Credit Cards > Can I Open a Credit Card for My Kid?

Comments 0 Comments
Advertiser Disclosure


When your children are young, it can be impossible to imagine entrusting them with a credit card. Yet eventually, they’ll reach the age where they will need to make their own purchases without you. It could be a movie ticket, lunch with friends, or a few items on your grocery list, but the time will come when you will want your child to have his or her own credit card.

Strictly speaking, parents cannot open a credit card account for their minor children. Only a person age 18 and over can enter into a legally binding contract, which includes applying for a credit card as the primary account holder. Plus, thanks to the CARD Act, borrowers under 21 need to demonstrate an ability to repay or have a willing co-signer. 

Nevertheless, most credit card issuers allow minors to be added as authorized users to an adult’s credit card account. American Express, for instance, allows parents to add children 15 years and older as authorized users to an existing account, a spokesperson confirmed. You can call your specific issuer to ask about their requirements. 

What’s an Authorized User?

As an authorized user, you child will receive a credit card with his or her name embossed on it. They will be able to use the card to make charges to your account, but they generally won’t have any other privileges that primary account holder has, such as adding other cardholders, closing the account, or redeeming rewards.

Furthermore, authorized cardholders are not responsible for repayment of debts. The primary account holder is always responsible for the payment of all purchases, interest charges and fees. However, you account will likely appear on your child’s credit report, which can help them to establish good credit at a very young age. (Again, ask your issuer if they report their authorized users to the credit bureaus, particularly if your aim is to help your child build credit.) 

Before Adding Your Child to an Account

When you add your child as an authorized cardholder on your account, you are granting him or her significant purchasing power as well as serious responsibility. On one hand, your child will be able to make charges to your account, just as you can. This can offer parents peace of mind as their child can always pay for a meal or a taxi in case of an emergency.

But before handing your child a credit card, you need to be assured that it won’t be used for purchases that you did not, or would not approve of. An expensive surprise is the last thing that parents want to see in their credit card’s monthly statement. Plus, high credit card balances can damage your credit score. (You can see where your credit currently stands by viewing two of your credit scores, updated every 30 days, for free on Credit.com.)

Teaching your Child to Use Credit Responsibly

Given the benefits and risks of credit card use, it’s not a good idea to just hand your child a credit card without teaching him or her how to use it responsibly. Instead, it’s important to take the time to slowly introduce your children to the concept of credit card use long before the receive one.

For example, you can start teaching your children from a very young age the basics of how credit cards work. Kids watch their parents use credit cards to make purchases, which can seem almost like magic. But children must also be taught that each charge must eventually be paid for using the money earned at work. Just as children watch their parents make purchases, it’s important to show them how you pay your credit card bills.

Later parents may wish to give their children a prepaid debit card or a gift card to use for specific purchases. You can load the card with money from your child’s allowance or savings, and give him or her some choice of how to spend it. (This can be a good plastic primer, but, be aware, prepaid debit cards and gift cards don’t build credit.)

Eventually, parents may want to order an additional credit card from their account for their child’s occasional use. For example, you can give your child the card to make a specific purchase, and ask for it back afterwards. You can even enter into an agreement that they can make charges of their own, so long as they notify you in advance, and pay you back from their savings or allowance.

The Bottomline: You can’t open a credit card account for your kid, but you can allow them to use a card that’s attached to your’s. By slowly introducing your children to the benefits and risks of credit card use, you can give them the purchasing power they need while teaching them valuable lessons at the same time.

At publishing time, American Express products are offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com is compensated if our users apply and ultimately sign up for these cards. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment.

Note: It’s important to remember that interest rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products cited in these articles may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees and terms with credit card issuers, banks or other financial institutions directly.

Image: monkeybusinessimages

Comments on articles and responses to those comments are not provided or commissioned by a bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by a bank advertiser. It is not a bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

Please note that our comments are moderated, so it may take a little time before you see them on the page. Thanks for your patience.

Credit.com receives compensation for the financial products and services advertised on this site if our users apply for and sign up for any of them.

Hello, Reader!

Thanks for checking out Credit.com. We hope you find the site and the journalism we produce useful. We wanted to take some time to tell you a bit about ourselves.

Our People

The Credit.com editorial team is staffed by a team of editors and reporters, each with many years of financial reporting experience. We’ve worked for places like the New York Times, American Banker, Frontline, TheStreet.com, Business Insider, ABC News, NBC News, CNBC and many others. We also employ a few freelancers and more than 50 contributors (these are typically subject matter experts from the worlds of finance, academia, politics, business and elsewhere).

Our Reporting

We take great pains to ensure that the articles, video and graphics you see on Credit.com are thoroughly reported and fact-checked. Each story is read by two separate editors, and we adhere to the highest editorial standards. We’re not perfect, however, and if you see something that you think is wrong, please email us at editorial team [at] credit [dot] com,

The Credit.com editorial team is committed to providing our readers and viewers with sound, well-reported and understandable information designed to inform and empower. We won’t tell you what to do. We will, however, do our best to explain the consequences of various actions, thereby arming you with the information you need to make decisions that are in your best interests. We also write about things relating to money and finance we think are interesting and want to share.

In addition to appearing on Credit.com, our articles are syndicated to dozens of other news sites. We have more than 100 partners, including MSN, ABC News, CBS News, Yahoo, Marketwatch, Scripps, Money Magazine and many others. This network operates similarly to the Associated Press or Reuters, except we focus almost exclusively on issues relating to personal finance. These are not advertorial or paid placements, rather we provide these articles to our partners in most cases for free. These relationships create more awareness of Credit.com in general and they result in more traffic to us as well.

Our Business Model

Credit.com’s journalism is largely supported by an e-commerce business model. Rather than rely on revenue from display ad impressions, Credit.com maintains a financial marketplace separate from its editorial pages. When someone navigates to those pages, and applies for a credit card, for example, Credit.com will get paid what is essentially a finder’s fee if that person ends up getting the card. That doesn’t mean, however, that our editorial decisions are informed by the products available in our marketplace. The editorial team chooses what to write about and how to write about it independently of the decisions and priorities of the business side of the company. In fact, we maintain a strict and important firewall between the editorial and business departments. Our mission as journalists is to serve the reader, not the advertiser. In that sense, we are no different from any other news organization that is supported by ad revenue.

Visitors to Credit.com are also able to register for a free Credit.com account, which gives them access to a tool called The Credit Report Card. This tool provides users with two free credit scores and a breakdown of the information in their Experian credit report, updated twice monthly. Again, this tool is entirely free, and we mention that frequently in our articles, because we think that it’s a good thing for users to have access to data like this. Separate from its educational value, there is also a business angle to the Credit Report Card. Registered users can be matched with products and services for which they are most likely to qualify. In other words, if you register and you find that your credit is less than stellar, Credit.com won’t recommend a high-end platinum credit card that requires an excellent credit score You’d likely get rejected, and that’s no good for you or Credit.com. You’d be no closer to getting a product you need, there’d be a wasted inquiry on your credit report, and Credit.com wouldn’t get paid. These are essentially what are commonly referred to as "targeted ads" in the world of the Internet. Despite all of this, however, even if you never apply for any product, the Credit Report Card will remain free, and none of this will impact how the editorial team reports on credit and credit scores.

Your Stories

Lastly, much of what we do is informed by our own experiences as well as the experiences of our readers. We want to tell your stories if you’re interested in sharing them. Please email us at story ideas [at] credit [dot] com with ideas or visit us on Facebook or Twitter.

Thanks for stopping by.

- The Credit.com Editorial Team