6 million parents have a child with a credit card

Published: Mar. 25, 2019 at 10:30 PM CDT
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Eight percent of US parents with kids under 18 say at least one of those children has a credit card, according to a new report. That equates to 6 million parents. Comparatively, it is more popular for at least one child to have their own cell phone (53%) than credit card.

Children in higher income households are more likely to have their own credit cards. In fact, kids whose families earn $50,000 or more per year are more than twice as likely as those who make less than that (12% vs. 5%).

There are regional differences, as well. Thirteen percent of parents in the Northeast report at least one of their children has a credit card, ahead of those in the South and West (both 8%) and the Midwest (5%).

“There are several reasons to give a child a credit card before age 18,” said industry analyst Ted Rossman. “You can boost a child’s credit if you add him or her to one of your cards as an authorized user. Your positive track record will help your child establish good credit, as long as you pay your bills on time and keep your debts low. You don’t even need to give your child the physical card in order for him or her to reap the credit score benefits.”

Parents looking to establish a credit score for their child(ren) should shop around for credit card issuers ( and pay attention to the minimum ages that some issuers set for authorized users. Among those with a minimum age, the most common is 13, which still gives children five years to build credit before turning 18 and nine years before the typical college graduation age.

Parents should establish strict ground rules, however, since they are the ones ultimately on the hook for any purchases. Rossman adds: “Keep a close eye on your child’s spending and consider limiting purchases to relatively small items (gas, food, movie tickets, etc.) and emergency spending.”

Unfortunately, millions of parents have learned the hard way that children having access to a credit card can often turn out unfavorably. Among parents who have credit cards, more than 1 in 5 (21%) said their kids have used their credit cards without permission. This includes 13% who said it has happened multiple times.