Odds are, your little ones have no idea what a Visa, Discover or MasterCard credit card is, much less know how to use it, right?
Well, if your little one is Suri Cruise, she not only knows how to use a credit card, but she has her very own card with her very own name. At least, that’s what’s being reported today.
Rumors have swirled since that sweet baby was born about her parents’ lifestyle, their choice of religion and even the thought process that went into dressing the mini-celeb each day. Now, though, parent advocate websites are geared up for the latest and greatest from the Tom-Cruise-Katie-Holmes-Scientology-Suri-Cruise-Cupcakes-at-one-a.m. brouhaha. It’s always something, yes? So here’s what’s being reported and keep reading as we delve into how the credit card companies handle requests from parents wishing to supply their first graders with credit cards.
Naturally, Suri Cruise is too young to get a credit card account in her own name or even a joint credit card account with Mom or Dad as the primary card holder. To do that, she has to wait until she’s 18. But – some credit card companies allow an authorized user to be added, complete with a card with that user’s name. Any authorized users are just that: authorized to use the credit card. They are not financially responsible for the debt associated with that card. It falls squarely on the primary card owner.
The question is – how responsible is it for a parent to place that burden on a child? (And yes – we call it a burden). What could any parent hope to achieve by providing a child her own credit card at that age? Can you imagine the nannies who take little Suri shopping and then watch her whip out her platinum card, knowing that kid has a higher available limit than they have on all their credit cards combined? Besides, wouldn’t this make the little girl more of a target than she already is? Even if it’s just some rogue member of the paparazzi hoping to get their hands on the little girl’s credit card to snap a photo that will surely be worth millions? There’s no decent explanation for any of it – not even remotely.
So what do the credit card companies say? Most do allow authorized users to be added to any account with no consideration of that user’s age (in fact, some don’t even ask for a date of birth). American Express does have a minimum age requirement of 15. Even better, for teens, the card company goes a step further. “The additional card has the teen or young adult’s name on it,” says Am Ex spokeswoman Leah Gerstner, “as well as a distinct account number which helps protect the parents’ account if the card is ever lost or stolen.”
We have always supported the idea of parents being the ones to teach financial responsibility to their teens and young adults; however, it pushes the envelope on many levels when that kind of freedom is given to a six year old. Granted, she has no concept of money or its value and certainly has no concept of how interest rates, late payments, fees, minimum payments – all of those legalities associated with credit cards – actually work. In fact, until a person is old enough to understand those dynamics of money and credit, they simply should have no access to that kind of financial power. What will this teach her as she grows and matures? Worse – will it teach her nothing at all other than “what’s yours is mine and what’s mine is mine”?
Fifteen or sixteen is typically a good age to begin teaching the more intricate aspects of money management. Kids are usually working part time jobs or are looking for ways to earn their own spending money (or college money) and parents use that as an opening into the discussion. In fact, many parents will go to the bank and help their teens open their first savings account. Then, by the time they’re ready to go to college or graduate high school, parents can then take the next natural step – the discussion over whether or not the teens will be added to their parents’ credit cards as authorized users. It’s the American way, right?
Common sense says that surely this little girl isn’t allowed to carry her credit card in her little pocketbook “like Mommy does”, right? If, however, her Mommy doesn’t have the same kind of sense the rest of us have, I can’t wait to read the story about how little Suri used her credit card at her next playdate as a toy, lost it and then another child’s mother finding it and holding it for ransom. Because you know that’s coming, right?
So what do you think? Have you introduced your kids to credit card responsibilities?
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