Credit Card Education Tips for Parents (Part 2)

Written by Curtis Arnold
Posted On: October 22, 2008

Editor's Note: This article is the second in a four-part series containing consumer tips for parents of children and young adults.

While there’s no benefit to going into a lot of numbers with a toddler (unless you happen to have a math prodigy), children just a little older will understand the basics. Grade schoolers hear about credit cards all the time and can understand the concept of paying for the privilege of borrowing money, aka interest. It’s very important that they grasp how that interest can double, triple, or even quadruple the amount owed – leaving two, three, or four times less for other things.

As they age, your children will be exposed to yet more opportunities to spend and unfortunately, cards are targeting pre-teens now. So it’s important that young children know about credit and debt at an even younger age than you’d like. Hopefully, you are carefully budgeting your money, paying off your debts, and avoiding any of the “triggers” that get you to over-spend. But even if you haven’t set the best example, go over a few credit card bills with your pre-teen.

debtonbackpicThen, I suggest that you sit down at the computer together, and surf on over to the online calculator section of CardRatings.com, the card comparison site that I founded. Plug in the numbers for one of your credit card bills and take a look at how much it would cost to pay off what you owe if you only send in the minimums. Discuss what else you might do with that money. If your kid’s anything like my own, he or she will have lots of ideas!

It is also a good idea to pull out your credit report, and find this card on it. (If you don’t have a current copy, go to AnnualCreditReport.com to order your free reports.) As you two look it over, discuss how a report card is like a credit report and why it’s important to get homework in on time. “The better your report card, the better your chances of getting into a great college and/or earning a good salary.”

Credit basics are the same – one way to get great credit reports and scores is to always pay bills on time and never spend more than you can afford. “The better your credit report and the higher your credit score, the better your chances are of getting a great deal – on such things as credit cards, car loans, and mortgages. Landlords, employees, and insurance companies also base decisions on credit reports."

Discuss the tempting credit card offers you get in the mail or see online. Remember: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is! (Visit CardRatings.com and see my new book, How YOU Can Profit from Credit Cards: Using Credit to Improve Your Financial Life and Bottom Line (FT Press, 2008) for advice on figuring out which cards are best for you.) You can also visit our student credit cards section to research the best student cards!

About the author:
Curtis Arnold
Curtis Arnold, a nationally recognized consumer educator and advocate, has been educating consumers about credit cards since 1998. New! Curtis is the author of "How You Can Profit from Credit Cards: Using Credit to Improve Your Financial Life and Bottom Line" (FT Press, 2008). He is also the co-author of the upcoming Complete Idiot's Guide to Person-to-Person Lending (Alpha Books/Pengiun Group USA, April 2009), a contribitor to The Ultimate Allowance (InnerWealth Publishing, 2008) and is extensively featured in 42 RulesTM for Driving Success With Books (Super Star Press, January 2009).
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