Are you wanting to help your teenager establish a good credit score? Teenagers & Credit Scores is a great topic to be concerned about. Raising money-smart teens is more than just teaching our kids to work and earn and save and spend carefully. We need to teach teens the ins and outs of borrowing money and being smart about credit.
Question about Teenagers & Credit Scores
I was wondering if you don’t use any credit cards, how did you establish your credit history? My son is 17 years old and I would like to tell him to only get an American Express (which he has to pay off each month) when he becomes an adult so he can establish a credit history. Then, when he decides to purchase a house, he can do so with a lower interest loan that comes with good credit (now they are stipulating a FICO score of over 700 or 720). However, if there is a way for him to avoid getting a credit or charge cards altogether and he would still be able to get a mortgage, I would obviously prefer this method. Could you please advise?
You pose an excellent question.
We never had a credit card and had no problem borrowing money for a home. We put 15% down and borrowed much less than the bank would have let us borrow. Later when we went to refinance, it still was no issue. You don’t need a long credit history to borrow responsibly.
That was good enough for us, but we’ve decided to do something a little different for our kids.
Helping our own teenagers establish credit scores
We’ve helped them establish credit by getting a student credit card (we don’t like the idea, but we know how the credit score system works).
You need to know the rules and play by the system, but you don’t need to get totally sucked into the debt-laden lifestyle. Most banks offer a free credit card (no annual fee).
Daughter Becky only used it for her gas purchases and has it automatically paid out of her checking account each month.
Other Things You Can Do to Help Your Teen Establish a Good Credit Score
- Encourage your teen to get a job. They will be more interested in making and managing money if they work for it. It also teaches them responsibility and punctuality. Read this article and great summer jobs for teens.
- Open a Bank Account. Teaching them the ins and outs of balancing a checking account, using a debit card, and writing checks all contribute toward financial maturity.
- Consider Letting Your Teen Pay a Household Bill. This is a wild idea, but having a cell phone bill or cable bill in your teen’s name can build a payment history for them. Recurring bills, paid on time reflect well on a credit score.
- Add Your Teen As an Authorized User on Your Credit Card. This should only be done if your teen is financially responsible. But adding them to your account will also help build their credit score.
- Get Your Teen A Secured Credit Card. These types of cards can be put in your teen’s name. They make an initial deposit, say $500. This becomes their credit limit. The $500 is held as collateral. Then he or she uses the card to demonstrate expenses can be handled and payments made on time.
What Are the Components of A Credit Score
Remember that some of the components that make up your credit score are:
- Length of Credit History: How long you’ve had the line of credit
- Payment history – do you always pay on time
- Amount of Debt: available credit you are using (never use more than 50%)
- New Credit applications
- The Mix of types of credit
The results of this credit-building strategy for our kids
Because our daughter Becky has had a credit card for several years, always paid on time, and has never used more than about 5 percent of her available credit, her credit score is around 800.
Becky hasn’t applied for a home loan yet, but her goal is to have enough cash to put down that her credit score will be of little consequence.
If you help your kids learn to manage money at a young age and help your teenagers understand the credit game, they can establish a great credit score without paying any interest.
We wrote about this and many other teen money issues, including how to save money on college expenses in our award-winning book, “The MoneySmart Family System, Teaching Financial Independence to Children of Every Age.” You can learn more about the book, and watch some interviews with our kids and us on this page.