If you’ve stumbled across this article while Googling “kid credit card free”, you’re in the right place. This article outlines what you can do to help your child start building a credit history for free and get them used to managing money using credit cards and prepaid debit cards.
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Young people in the U.S. aged 18-20 can apply for a credit card as long as they have a verifiable steady income. Failing that, they must have a parent or guardian as a co-signer. So technically, you can’t arrange for a child younger than 18 to have their own credit card account. What you can do is add a child as an authorized user on your credit card account to allow them to start building credit even while they’re at school.
Perhaps the best age to add your child to your account is when they’re a teenager. It only takes a few years to build a credit history, and this is a good age for helping them understand what credit is all about – and the fact that debts must be repaid.
A benefit of your kid being an authorized credit card user is that they’ll have access to plastic should they end up stranded without cash. Of course, there are considerations too. Your child might decide to go on a shopping spree, and you could end up severely out of pocket! Make sure to set up spending limits for them, just in case.
Most major credit card issuers will allow you to add a minor to your account as an authorized user free of charge. There are a few that won’t allow minors as authorized users or have age restrictions – and some may impose a fee.
If you feel more comfortable with the concept of a prepaid debit card, as opposed to a credit card, there are plenty of options to explore – although they’re not free. Some of the main ones to look at as a starting point include:
Greenlight – a prepaid debit card with flexible parental controls, accessible through a mobile app. As a parent, you’ll divide funds into those that can be spent anywhere and those that should only be spent at specific stores. It costs $4.99 per month.
FamZoo – this is a virtual family bank, complete with debit cards for all the family. Kids get the chance to learn about earning money (through an allowance, for example) as well as spending and saving money. It costs $5.99 per month, but you can get FamZoo for cheaper if you’re happy to pay an upfront fee for a fixed number of months.
BusyKid – kids get rewarded by doing chores. When they receive their allowance, they can choose to spend it (via a prepaid debit card), or invest it! BusyKid costs $14.65 per year, per family, after a free trial. The debit card costs $5 per year.
A prepaid travel debit card can offer extra security and convenience if your teen is planning to travel abroad. One that’s suitable for young people under the age of 18 is the AAA Visa TravelMoney® Card.
This is a reloadable chip and pin protected debit card that works wherever there is a Visa debit sign. It can be used for online and phone purchases, as well as to withdraw cash in different currencies from Visa-branded ATMs. The minimum age limit for purchasing one of these cards is 16 years old. However, parents can buy them on behalf of younger children.
Load limits apply with $100 being the minimum and $5,000 being the maximum in a 24-hour period. The card balance can’t exceed $9,999 at any time. Reloads are free by direct deposit, or via the AAA club where it was purchased, however, it’s $10 if you reload online by debit or credit card, and phone reloads aren’t allowed.
A downside to prepaid travel cards is that they can be costly. The AAA Visa TravelMoney card, for example, can cost up to $9.95 to purchase and then there’s a 3% transaction fee on top when it’s used outside of the U.S.
As a parent, you’ll no doubt want to teach your kid(s) the rights and wrongs of money management as they grow. Setting them up with a prepaid card that focuses on a chores-based earnings approach will help them learn some valuable money lessons, including an idea of the effort it takes to accumulate money in the first place.
Then there’s the matter of building a credit history. A non-existent credit history can affect your chances of applying for credit when you need to, for example, when you buy a car or a home.
By adding your child as an authorized user on your credit card account, you’ll be doing them a big favor for when they’re ready to fly the nest. But do be prepared for the risks that go with this, such as the possibility of you incurring extra debt as a result.
*We hope you find this information helpful – please note that it shouldn’t be construed as professional financial advice.