Should You Make Your Child an Authorized User on Your Credit Card?

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The financial transition from childhood to adulthood can be rough. In addition to gaining responsibilities that you’ve never held and making good decisions, you face a world without much confidence in your financial prowess.

One of those areas involves credit. When you start to gain financial independence, you likely don’t have any credit history. It can be difficult to establish a good credit score in order to get good rates on a mortgage, auto loan or even to get a good job in some cases.

Some parents add their child as an authorized user on their credit card in order to build that child’s credit history. Is that a good idea?

That’s what a listener of the Clark Howard Podcast recently asked.

Is It Wise To Make My Child an Authorized User on My Credit Card?

Should I make my minor child an authorized user on my credit card? That’s what a listener wanted to know on the March 9 podcast episode.

Asked Teresa in North Carolina: “Should a parent add a minor child as an authorized user on their credit card? Some banks do not have age limits for the authorized user so what age to add? [Are there] pros [and] cons?”

Adding a minor to a financial account depends on the rules. Banks and credit unions all differ. But many of them allow a minimum age of 13 years old.

Your decision regarding your credit card involves a judgment call on your child’s decision-making and responsibility level.

“You’ve got to know the child, Teresa, to know how your child will handle that. The maturity level they have,” Clark says. “If they’re going to spend willy-nilly. Because if they decide to be the big shot and buy stuff for their friends, you’re stuck with that.”

If you have a responsible, conscientious kid, perhaps you trust them to follow pre-set rules on when they’d be allowed to use the card (in emergencies, for example).

Can I Add My Child To My Credit Card While Maintaining Some Control?

Adding a child as an authorized user to your credit card doesn’t have to equal putting a high-limit credit card into their hands and hoping they don’t go on a wild online or in-person spending spree.

There are some potential safeguards. Some cards will allow you to get an alert or text notification every time someone makes a charge on the card. You could set up those alerts and let your son or daughter know that you’ll be able to see any and every transaction.


There’s another, more cautious option, as Clark points out.

“You can add a kid as an authorized user without giving them the card or letting them even know it exists as a way of helping a minor child establish a credit identity,” Clark says.

“And when they reach adulthood, you’ve helped them establish credit identity, a credit score, based on your good credit. And they’re able to then obtain credit on their own, which is very difficult when they have no credit record at all.”

Final Thoughts

Adding your child as an authorized user on your credit card can lay the foundation for their financial future.

It certainly should make it easier for them to build credit history and make it easier for them to get their own credit card as a young adult. It may also set the stage for them to have a better credit score early in life, which can be a major advantage.

You will have to make some judgment calls on how much responsibility you’re willing to give your son or daughter if you go this route. Because if they make legitimate charges to the card, it will ultimately fall on you to pay off those charges.

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