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7 Pieces of Wisdom to Talk with Kids About Credit

talk with kids about credit

Roughly half of parents have let their kids under the age of 18 use their credit card at some point -- and 48 percent regret that they did it, according to a new survey from

Whether they spent way too much on in-app purchases or went all out on Amazon, parents were left with surprises, such as a credit card bill that may have added up to far more than they could afford to immediately pay off.

Here’s the problem: Many kids lack any formal education in personal finance. Only a third of states require students to have taken at least one personal finance class to graduate, according to the Council for Economic Education’s 2018 Survey of the States.

That means it falls almost entirely on parents to talk with kids about credit and explain how it works before they start signing up for their own credit cards -- and their spending gets out of hand.

With most kids, you’ll need to start with the basics.

7 Pieces of Wisdom to Talk with Kids About Credit

It’s not your money -- or mom’s cash.

Nope, and this is a key point for kids to understand. The credit card company is letting you borrow their money at a cost, and you pay for the privilege if you don’t cover the bill entirely each month or pay on time.

It’s not free money.

If you’re unable to pay back your bill monthly, you’ll begin to rack up hefty interest charges and, if you’re late paying the bill, late payment fees too.

That means that the skirt you got for a “great deal” at the mall is suddenly marked up 17 percent -- or whatever the card’s interest rate happens to be -- and quickly no longer becomes a steal as those charges grows.

Always keep your budget in mind.

It’s all too easy to get caught up in the moment during a shopping spree, but remind your kids that the more you buy with a credit card, the more you’ll owe down the road.

Let them know that it’s critical to always remember how much they can actually afford to buy before they head out for a fun day at the mall or make decisions about in-app purchase that might pop-up during a gaming session. To remain financially healthy, remind them that on some days, they’ll have to stick with window shopping.

Credit cards have limits.

And you shouldn’t attempt to come even close to the limit. When you buy so much with your credit card that you’ve reached the limit, it’s very difficult to quickly pay off the bill without accumulating expensive interest charges.

What’s more, it could do damage to your credit score, which is the number lenders use to determine whether to loan you more money, landlords look for to decide whether to rent you that apartment and employers examine when considering you for a job.

Credit can really come in handy.

And that’s another reason why you don’t want to come close to the limit. When used responsibly, credit is an important tool for life. With it, you can pay for emergency expenses that you otherwise couldn’t afford immediately -- the co-pay for a medical procedure, for instance, or a repair on your car.

Debit cards and credits cards are different.

The cards might look the same, but credit isn’t the same as debit. You’re using the credit card company’s money when you charge a purchase. You’re pulling money from your own bank account when you swipe the debit card instead.

Mistakes are costly.

And it can take a long time to extricate yourself from the mess that is high credit card debt. When you talk with kids about credit, remind them early and often that smart spending is required when using a credit card.

Need more resources? The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Money as You Grow page offers personal finance tips for young children to young adults. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation also has resources for students and their parents. It’s important to talk with kids about credit -- and having resources to help you makes it easier.

Consumer Education Services, Inc. (CESI) is a non-profit committed to empowering and inspiring consumers nationwide to make wise financial decisions and live debt free. Speak with a certified counselor for a free debt analysis today


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