Plenty of parents make their kids authorized users on their credit cards, and for good reason. Credit cards provide a way to build credit, giving teenagers an early financial leg up (provided the card is managed responsibly) by establishing a credit history before they’re old enough to get a credit card on their own.
It can also be a great chance for parents to supervise how their children are spending and help them learn financial lessons, like making payments on time or reading a credit card statement. Even checking credit scores and reports through free credit score tools (such as those on Credit.com) and free annual credit reports at AnnualCreditReport.com can help them reach their financial goals.
But at some point, there comes a time when all parents cut the cord (and the card), kids must make it on their own in the world of credit. What now?
If that recently happened to you, there are two starting points where you’ll likely find yourself: having a good credit score or having a not-so-good credit score.
If Your Credit Scores Are Good
If your parents have been making timely payments on the card you also carry, you likely have a credit score that is good enough to get your own credit card. If that’s the case, you can consider some of these credit cards for good credit. If you’re still in school, you might want to consider a credit card specifically designed for students.
Remember, if you’re under 21, you’ll need to demonstrate an ability to repay or have a willing co-signer to qualify — federal law prohibits issuers from extending credit cards to you otherwise. You should also check your credit before applying so you know where your score stands, because the inquiry will temporarily ding it.
If your parents are only just now starting to talk about removing you as an authorized user from their card, it might be a good idea to ask them to wait until you apply for a new card in your own name. This will ensure that your credit score remains high — closing credit card accounts can have a negative impact on your credit scores — while you go through the application process.
Better yet, you can ask your parents to take your card but keep you as an authorized user on their account. As long as they are making payments on time and not carrying high balances, this will help you even further in establishing a good credit history. That’s because roughly 15% of major credit scores is based upon the length of your credit history. So the longer you’ve had credit, the more points you’ll earn toward your total credit score.
If Your Credit Scores Aren’t So Hot
If your parent or parents are having financial difficulties and haven’t been making timely payments on the credit card or have run up a high balance — credit utilization is a big factor in credit scores — you might not have very good established credit.
The good news is, you have options, and getting disconnected from your parents’ credit could be a very good thing for your scores. Authorized users are not considered responsible for making payments, so if negative information is appearing on your credit reports because of the account, you can contact your lender and asked to be removed from it. After that, the account should stop appearing on your credit reports. If it doesn’t, you can file a dispute with the credit bureaus.
Next, you can start on your own financial road by first checking your credit scores to see exactly where you stand. You might also want to check your credit reports to make sure everything on them is accurate (see the free credit scores and reports links in the second paragraph). If afterward you’re certain you have “thin” or “bad” credit, there are some credit cards — both secured and unsecured — that you can consider applying for to help you establish or rebuild credit.
If you find out through checking your credit scores that the situation is actually not all that bad, you can try applying for a credit card for fair credit.
Credit cards can be a simple way to establish and build credit, but they’re not your only option. You can also consider credit-builder loans to get you started.
Whatever your decision, remember that your credit is an important for everything, from getting a car loan to renting an apartment, opening utilities and sometimes even landing a job. So taking care of it should be a top priority. You can build good credit in the long-term by making all loan payments on time, keeping debt levels low, limiting new credit inquiries and only adding a mix of credit accounts as your wallet and score can afford them.
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