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Kids’ credit cards: Getting started and options to explore

Credit cards for kids can help establish a credit history and teach healthy money management skills.

Kids can’t get a credit card on their own. But if you want to teach borrowing responsibility or help them build a credit history before they reach adulthood, you have options.

Can I get a credit card for my child?

Technically, no, your child can’t have their own credit card. To get a credit card, the account holder must be at least 18 years old, according to the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009 (or CARD Act). If you want your child to have their own credit card, you have two options: add them as an authorized user or open them a credit-building debit card.

Adding kids as an authorized user

An authorized user is someone who’s been added to an existing credit card account.

Some credit cards require kids to be a certain age to become an authorized user, usually starting at 13 years old.(1) But there are credit cards with no authorized user age requirements.

By adding a child as an authorized user, you don’t have to give them access to a physical card to take advantage of its credit-building benefits. While the parent or guardian uses the card and repays it on time, the authorized user also earns that positive credit history since they’re linked to the account and the payments are reported to the credit bureaus.

Getting kids a credit-building card

Credit-building debit cards are in the same vein as secured credit cards but have notable differences. Unlike a credit card, a credit-building debit card allows you to build a credit history without taking on debt.

Credit-building debit cards can work differently, but usually, you get the card and link an external bank account. When you use the debit card, your linked bank account automatically repays the balance. This way, you’re not taking on any debt and only using the funds you have available.

Although most credit-building cards, like the Step banking app and card, are available to kids under 13, they only report two years worth of past credit history once they turn 18. In other words, only past credit activities spanning from when they were 16 to 18 years old are reported to the credit bureaus.

Credit card options for kids under 13

There are five banks with no authorized user age requirements, making it a good option for younger kids.

Credit cardAge requirement for authorized user
Bank of AmericaNone
Capital OneNone
ChaseNone, but doesn’t report authorized user credit history of minors to the credit bureaus
CitiNone
Wells FargoNone

Are credit cards for kids a good idea?

It can be, but it depends on your child. The biggest potential con of giving a kid access to credit is the risk of overspending.

If the card’s balance can’t be repaid on time or you can’t make minimum payments each month, it can harm both credit scores. FICO, the credit reporting agency, states that credit card holders should keep their balances under 30% of their credit limit to avoid harming their credit score.(2)

But if your child has restricted access to the credit card or uses it responsibly, it can help them build a positive history provided the minimum payments are made on time and the balance is kept low.

It can be difficult for young adults to take on new credit, because many of them lack a credit history. But by getting your kid or teen a credit-building card, you can usher them into adulthood with borrowing experience and a positive credit history. This can help increase their chances of qualifying for a loan if they need one in the future.

Credit card vs. debit card for kids

Similar to credit cards, kids can’t get a debit card by themselves. An adult is required to open the account on their behalf. With credit cards, children can become authorized users, whereas, with a debit card, they become joint owners alongside an adult.

In terms of safety, debit cards are likely to be a safer choice — especially for younger kids. If your kid isn’t ready to handle the responsibility of a credit card, many kids’ bank accounts have spending restrictions, often by default or ones that parents can set themselves. With credit cards, there are usually no spending or withdrawal limits specifically for authorized users.

Kid banking alternatives

There are other ways to introduce financial literacy or credit-building options to your kid. Explore these popular kids’ cards and accounts.

  • Greenlight card. Offering a myriad of parental controls, chore and allowance tracking, cashback and savings rewards, Greenlight is a top kids’ banking app. Parents can set store-level spending limits, and kids can play a financial literacy game. But it isn’t free — its basic plan starts at $4.99 per month, and it won’t build any credit.
  • Chase First Banking. Ideal for parents who are already Chase account holders, Chase First Banking is a children’s bank account for ages six to 17. The adult opening the account must have an existing Chase checking account, but this one has no monthly fees and also offers chore and allowance tracking.
  • Freekick credit builder. Freekick offers a way to safely build credit for kids and young adults. Its credit-bulding plan requires a $3,000 opening deposit, which FreeKick uses to make payments on a 12-month credit-building loan. The deposit is placed in an FDIC-insured account, where it also earns 1.01% APY. Your child must be between 14 and 25 years old to be eligible, and once your child turns 18, the credit history from the loan is added to their credit reports. You can close the account at any time and get any earned interest plus your deposit back, but it must be closed before the child turns 18.

About 1 in 6 children have an authorized card

About 1 in 6 (17%) have an authorized card for a parents account, while roughly a third (31%) have a linked account.

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