IF YOU READ articles about adding your children to your credit cards as authorized users, there will often be experts quoted, offering all kinds of dire warnings. They’ll say you need to make sure your child is responsible and won’t go on some crazy shopping spree.
We had no reason to think our son would do that—but we also didn’t see any reason to take the risk and put temptation in his wallet.
As I mentioned in my previous article, we added him as an authorized user to three of our credit cards. Two of the cards went into hiding, and the third went into my wallet. We weren’t about to give a credit card to a 15-year-old. For him, in becoming an authorized user, the benefit was building a solid credit history.
Interestingly, our son never objected. Carrying a credit card wasn’t important to him. We explained why we were doing this and he accepted it.
If I had to guess, I would say several factors created his relative disinterest in the cards. He didn’t have a car. He didn’t enjoy going to the mall. He was busy at school and with various after-school activities. He mostly dealt in cash. And on the rare occasions he asked to use one of the cards, we told him he had to pay us any money he spent before the credit-card payment was due.
Nevertheless, there were opportunities for financial lessons—and to have a little fun. When he was with us—at grocery stores, gas stations, department stores—I would give him his credit card for the purchase, just so his part of the account would show him as an active user. It didn’t matter if the item was for him or not. It was just the act of charging an expense with a credit card that was in his name. In the end, his parents were still paying the bill. He was able to sign for the purchase and start to learn the mechanics of using a credit card, including all the different swiping devices.
The opportunity for fun came at restaurants. It was amusing to get a bill and pass it to a 15-year-old, especially if it was an expensive restaurant. We got some interesting looks. There were also other valuable lessons: Before signing the slip, we’d have him check the bill for accuracy and calculate an appropriate tip.
Alan Cronk retired after spending 32 years in the newspaper industry as a marketer, editor and writer at the Winston-Salem Journal. This is the fifth in a series of blogs about his and his wife’s experience educating their child about money. Alan’s previous articles include Baby Steps, No Laughing Matter, Generating Interest and Getting Carded.