When Should You Give Kids a Credit Card?

A mother and daughter sit at a kitchen table and review kid-friendly credit card options on a laptop.

When it comes to financial basics, understanding how to use a credit card—and the responsibility that comes with it—is one of the most important things we can teach our kids. Without an understanding of how credit cards work, kids can get themselves into trouble running up charges that they cannot afford, which could, in turn, impact their overall credit. To help avoid having that happen to your own child, consider this your guide for when your child should get a credit card.

What Age Should Kids Get Credit Cards?

As far as credit card use goes, it’s important to ensure your child has a solid understanding of how they work before they sign up for one, and you’ll want to make sure you’ve discussed credit with them before they sign up for one on their own. Exactly when you think your child is responsible enough for a credit card will be up to you, but since most card companies allow customers to submit an application for a card without a co-signer at 21 (some even allow applications at 18, although there are often restrictions at that age) before they head off to college is traditionally a good time to start talking about it.

What are the Best First-Time Credit Cards?

There are a number of credit card options out there these days, but for kids who are just learning ropes, you might want to stick with something that’s a bit more restrictive before giving them full reign. Some good first-time credit card options for kids include:

Authorized User Cards

Rather than having your kid sign up for their own card right away, you might consider just adding your child to your own card as an authorized user. This allows your kid to start using the card while under your watchful (and helpful) eye. If you do this, just be sure that your child understands that your name is attached to that card as well, and any financial decisions they make with it will impact you, as well.

Secured Credit Cards

Secured credit cards are backed by a cash deposit that you make in order to open the card, so they are an easy way to establish a set credit limit for your child and eliminate the possibility of overuse.

Student Credit Cards with Cash Rewards

If your child is going to start using a credit card, they might as well reap the rewards, as well. Plenty of credit cards offer cashback options, and some even offer cards specifically geared towards students. These cards often have additional incentives available for student-specific things, like good grades.

No-Fee Credit Cards

There will be plenty of time for your child to sign up for cards with all the bells and whistles down the road. A first credit card should be about getting their feet wet, building good credit and learning to budget. As such, try finding a card that avoids any annual fees, so your kid can focus on what’s important when it comes to credit building.

When properly handled, your child’s first credit card can open the door to many opportunities. As parents, you want what’s best for your kids, and helping them understand how to be financial stable is very important. With a little discussion—and the right card at the right age—your child can start to become financially savvy all on their own.

The views expressed by the author are not necessarily those of Fifth Third Bank, National Association, and are solely the opinions of the author. This article is for informational purposes only. It does not constitute the rendering of legal, accounting, or other professional services by Fifth Third Bank, National Association or any of their subsidiaries or affiliates, and are provided without any warranty whatsoever. Deposit and credit products provided by Fifth Third Bank, National Association, Member FDIC.