How Early is Too Early to Get a Credit Card?

Like many major life decisions, there is no perfect answer when asking the question, “When should I get my child a credit card?” The most common time is after high school graduation. Whether your child is going to a four-year university, a community college, or straight into the work world, your child’s life is progressing and therefore an opportune time to add some real-world responsibility.

Here are some of the advantages and disadvantages of getting a credit card:

Opening a new credit card allows for increased financial freedom and financial responsibility. Until High School graduation, life is relatively stress free. There are very few bills and any money earned from part-time jobs is spent for leisure or put into savings. Once the real-world hits, learning the value of money becomes paramount. Opening a credit card account will teach the importance of paying your bills on-time and creating a monthly budget.

Additionally, a credit card is a great thing to have in a pinch. In case of emergencies such as hospital visits, car trouble, or home repair, having a credit card can help make the situation easier to handle.

There are also multiple financial benefits to opening a credit card account. The most notable is starting to build up your credit score. Building up a good credit score takes time and commitment. Starting early allows you to start small and build your credit score gradually. Proving your ability to pay your card off every month will lead to higher credit limits and increased lendability.

Additional benefits of using credit cards are the added incentives. Unlike cash or debit, credit cards often reward their users by offering cash back or airline miles for paying with the card. If the card is paid off in full monthly, these benefits can be quite favorable.


Credit cards can lead to long-term debt. According to the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics, 41% of college students who graduated in 2016 had credit card debt, averaging $3,000. Adding credit card debt to an already mounting level of student loans could undoubtedly put a new graduate in the hole when trying to start their professional careers.

If paid off regularly, credit cards can help build credit and improve lendability. If not, however, users will see a drop in their credit score and a build-up of interest.

Finally, having access to a credit card can lead to ill-advised purchases and poor money management. With the ability to spend money you don’t necessarily have, running up the credit card bill can be a reality for many new users.

If you still believe opening a credit card is the right move, here are a couple final tips:
1. Set a low credit limit to start. This will protect the user from being able to spend too much at one time.
2. Educate the user so they understand the dangers of interest rates, late fees, credit scores, and monthly payments.
3. Ensure monthly payments are being paid on time! It helps to set a calendar reminder.

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