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7 facts to consider before talking to kids about credit

What your child learns about credit today could affect the decisions she makes when she has her own credit cards and loans in a few years. But it can be tough to explain how credit works. Here are seven key facts to consider before you start the conversation. 


Teens may not understand how credit cards work

Chances are, even older kids don’t realize credit card companies charge interest and additional fees that can really add up. Explaining interest rates to kids can help set them on the right track when they start managing their own credit cards.


And they may not realize that all debt is not alike

It’s easy to see why tweens and teens may think that everything from a car loan to a college loan to a payday loan has the same consequences, since they seem to function by the same basic rules. Parents can explain that the terms of the debt and how the debt is used determine its effect on personal finances.


Credit score matters—a lot

The average American’s credit score is 700. Higher scores typically qualify you for lower interest rates.

30-year mortgage



APR: 4.17%



APR: 5.76%

Source: myFICO, October 2018


Your child’s early credit choices could determine her financial future

Mortgage lenders, credit card issuers, banks and auto lenders use your credit score to help gauge their risk in lending you money. With a good credit score, you may qualify for lower interest rates because you’re perceived as a desirable customer and a low risk. Young adults may not know that, in some cases, credit reports are also used to assess how responsible you are by insurance companies, landlords and potential employers.


Credit report dings can haunt a young person for a long time

The impact of negative activity diminishes over time but generally doesn’t disappear for years. Even if you pay off overdue debt quickly, it can take seven to 10 years from the delinquency date for negative marks to be removed from your report.


Adding a teen’s name to your credit card can help them—but the risk is on you

As an authorized user on a parent’s credit card account, the account appears both on your credit
and the child’s. The child can use the card to make purchases but isn’t responsible for repayment. Instead, parents are responsible for anything the teen buys.


The right message about credit can stay with kids forever

When it comes to the value of a good credit history, the lessons parents impart today can help kids establish positive habits later. If they’re too credit-averse and use cash or debit cards for everything, they will not establish a credit history and could have a hard time qualifying for a mortgage or car loan. But if they overuse credit, they can easily fall into too much debt. That’s why it’s important to understand how to use credit without abusing it.

Close Disclaimer

The material provided on this website is for informational use only and is not intended for financial, tax or investment advice. Bank of America and/or its affiliates, and Khan Academy, assume no liability for any loss or damage resulting from one’s reliance on the material provided. Please also note that such material is not updated regularly and that some of the information may not therefore be current. Consult with your own financial professional and tax advisor when making decisions regarding your financial situation.

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