Credit cards for minors under 18

Can a minor get secured credit card

Emancipated minors may get freedom, but don't count on credit

By Melody Warnick | Published: March 18, 2013

What curfew-bound, rule-burdened teenager hasn't fantasized about cutting the apron strings and striking out on his own, sans parental supervision? In a handful of situations, a minor might be able to do just that through emancipation, a legal proceeding that grants adult status to a teen and frees her to make her own medical decisions, sign contracts and otherwise manage her life -- and finances -- independently.

Drew Barrymore did it. So did actresses Michelle Williams, Laura Dern and Alicia Silverstone. Credit cards for minors under 18A teenager who's essentially asking to divorce her parents must prove she has a good reason for it, such as a dysfunctional family, a need to work adult hours or her own marriage and children to support. "There are instances when there's a child actor or someone like an Olympic athlete, and the parents are managing their assets, and there's a concern that they're not acting in their best interest," explains John McManus, an attorney and owner of McManus Legal, based in New York City. "The child also has to show that, despite their chronological age, 'I am deemed to be independent and ready to make decisions on my own.'"

Of course, emancipation isn't limited to child stars with hoards of money, but it helps. That's because teens who file for emancipation must prove they have the financial stability to go it alone, in the form of an income that meets expenses, and the money savvy for grown-up responsibilities such as paying bills and filing taxes.

And there's the rub. While emancipated minors can legally enter into contracts for themselves -- for instance, sign a lease or open a cellphone account -- they lack the credit history that makes companies and landlords want to do business with them.

In a survey of several major card issuers, including Chase, Capital One and American Express, found no card issuer will allow an emancipated minor under 18 to open his or her own credit card. As Sukhi Sahni, a Capital One spokeswoman, explains, "Capital One only lends to consumers who are 18 and older -- no exceptions." (See accompanying table.)

Even turning 18 doesn't make it easy to snag a credit card. The Cradit CARD Act of 2009 eliminated the days when credit card applications were tossed like Frisbees around college campuses. Now applicants younger than 21 who desire to be primary cardholders must have a co-signers or prove that they have their own steady sources of income.

Financial stability for emancipated minors

How emancipated minors manage their financial lives is hazy, since the situation is so rare. "Emancipation is very, very unusual," says McManus. "[The bar] has very little experience in the mechanics of it, because it's just a very infrequent thing to see." In some states, there aren't even set procedures for allowing minors to petition for independence, let alone sufficient case history to establish guidelines for independence.

But there are things that minors, emancipated or not, can do to build credit and establish a solid financial footing for themselves.

Emancipated or not, the whole purpose of learning to use credit cards is learning that a credit card is a loan .

Financial coach for teens

1. Become an authorized user. For minors who still have a decent relationship with parents -- such as actress Jaime Pressly, who was emancipated at age 15 so she could model in Japan without traveling with a guardian -- being added as an authorized user to a parent's credit card account can build financial responsibility and a credit history before true adulthood. "Emancipated or not, the whole purpose of learning to use credit cards is learning that a credit card is a loan, and you have to live within your means or below your means, not use a credit card to live beyond your means," says Gigi Collins, a New Jersey-based financial coach for teens. "A credit card is not a chance to go out and overspend or buy things you can't afford." Starting with a prepaid card can provide some of the benefits while limiting the potential damage of mistakes.

2. Sign a contract. The linchpin of legal adulthood is the ability to sign contracts. While credit card companies don't make that easy for teens, renting an apartment or paying a utility bill on time will help build a solid credit history, too. If you're under 18, you may have to shop around for companies willing to work with you, but once you find them, ask that your (successful) payment history be reported to the credit bureaus. Even if you don't have an official guardian, you may consider asking a trusted adult to co-sign contracts for you, to make it easier logistically.


3. Get a debit card. Swiping a card can offer a measure of convenience, and for some purchases it's necessary. An emancipated minor can have the credit card convenience by using a debit card associated with a checking account. Shop around to find a bank that's unfazed by your youth.

4. Talk to your financial aid adviser. "A student loan is a really good credit record," says Collins. "Credit card companies and employers will see you have a student loan and you started paying on it. That means you're a good risk." While it's unusual for students under 21 to be considered independent, "a financial aid administrator can consider special circumstances for students who are unable to get information from their parents," says Patricia Christel, a spokeswoman for Sallie Mae, the giant student lender. By providing emancipation documents, a minor college students can negotiate the exclusion of parental information from their Federal Student Aid application (FAFSA), so that the expected parental contribution will be $0.

5. Get help. Anyone familiar with adolescents might scoff at the prospect of cutting them loose to be independent. "My [teenage] son can't even remember simple things that impact his life," laments Collins. "I can't imagine if he were saying, 'I forgot to pay the electric bill, they cut off my electricity.'" For that reason, perhaps the best advice for the Drew Barrymores of the world is: Get help. A professional financial adviser can help you navigate even the minutia of financial independence, so that when you're old enough for a credit card, your financial history will be squeaky clean.

See related: At almost 17, emancipated minor looks to build credit, Emancipated 17-year-old rejected for credit

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After Julia Corso set up her own eBay business two years ago — selling off her discarded OtterBox cellphone cases, old DVDs and Angry Birds stuffed animals — she secured a debit card with help from her mom.

So when it came time to treat herself to a pair of Tory Burch flats — at a cool $250 — all she did was swipe her Visa.

A rather cool move for an 11-year-old.

“I love having the card. It makes things really easy because I can lose cash,” says Julia from her bubblegum-pink bedroom in Westchester County. “The freedom is nice — and also the responsibility. I first got the card in fourth grade and I’m getting better and better at responsibility.”

Her mom, Cherie, who founded an online organic health company, loads $150 — a combination of her daughter’s money and her own — onto Julia’s card each month (held under an account in Mom’s name).

So is there a lot of tongue-wagging among the sixth-graders about Julia’s financial freedom?

Credit cards for minors under 18Cherie Corso with her credit-card-enabled daughter Julia at home. “I know everything that’s going on with her spending,” says Cherie.Angel Chevrestt

“My friends think it’s really cool — they’re probably asking their parents for one.”

Julia is just one of many pipsqueaks these days whipping out the plastic — or at least hounding their parents for a card all their own.

Cards range from debit cards (usually of the prepaid, reloadable variety) to actual credit cards (almost always linked to their parents’ bank accounts).

And that’s causing a fierce debate among parents about what kind of values this signals to kids.

“[They say,] ‘You’re giving your daughter too much control — these kids expect too much,’ ” says Cherie, who was surprised at the furor she sparked after blogging about her daughter’s financial independence on her website earlier this year.

But she maintains there’s nothing irresponsible about teaching her daughter fiscal responsibility.

“I know everything that’s going on with her spending,” Cherie says.

Credit cards for kids are big business these days.

While credit card companies don’t keep track of all the minors who are the cards’ secondary users, they still court very young consumers.

“They understand, the younger you can get into their wallet, the more loyal they’ll be over time,” says John Ulzheimer, president of consumer education at Credit Sesame, an online personal finance tool.

And while the Credit CARD Act of 2009 tried to slow marketing to already-debt-ridden college students, innovations like Visa Buxx, the ubiquitous prepaid spending card, specifically target teens. (“Upload your own photo to create a unique card that shows off your personal style,” reads the “Teens” section of

Visual appeal is certainly important to 15-year-old Jacob Rosenfeld of Teaneck, NJ.

[Critics say,] “You’re giving your daughter too much control — these kids expect too much.”

- Mom Cherie Corso, on her kid’s credit line

“All the cards have a different look and feel,” explains Jacob, who scored his own swiping privileges about a year ago with a Chase Sapphire card. (While his parents foot the bill, he says he seeks prior approval for purchases of more than $25.)

“I don’t know if you have a Chase Sapphire card,” he continues. “But they are made of metal and feel very cool.”

Not surprisingly, some parents are put off by such marketing tactics.

“I can understand why credit card companies go after kids — because the kids are spending the money,” says parenting expert Erika Katz, herself an Upper East Side mother of two, whose 14-year-old son has started hounding her for a credit card of his own.

So far, she hasn’t caved.

“The problem when you give them a credit card and you pay the bill is that they don’t feel the pain,” says Katz, author of “Bonding Over Beauty.”

She also thinks kids packing plastic can be easy targets, who may be preyed upon by the wrong kind of friends to pick up the tab.

Rebecca Reich, 14, has been enjoying her Visa Chase card for a year. The Midtown ninth-grader often swipes her card twice a day in taxis to and from school, where she routinely adds a 20 percent tip.

And she and her friends often split the bill — each throwing in her respective card — when they do dinner at restaurants such as Serafina and Nobu.

Credit cards for minors under 18Rebecca Reich, 14, swipes her Visa card to get to school. Her parents, who foot the bill, say they track her spending.Christian Johnston

Her mom, Barbara, says she’s careful to set parameters for Rebecca and her twin brother — giving them both a budget, though she declines to say just how much.

“You have two choices,” she says. “You can send them with cash, or you can send them with a credit card. By the time they reach high school, most kids have one.”

Similarly, Jacob Rosenfeld’s mom, Aviva, says that just because her kids carry plastic, it doesn’t mean carte blanche shopping binges.

“I trust my kids,” says Aviva of Jacob and his 13-year-old sister, Sarah, who has a Chase Sapphire card of her own. “If they violate what they spend, I’ll take it away. I told them, ‘You abuse it, you lose it.’ ”

Nevertheless, Jacob admits he’s much more cautious when he’s shopping with his own money, which he makes doing odd jobs in the neighborhood: “The cash is my own money, and I’m a little bit more conscious spending my own money.”

If they violate what they spend, I’ll take it away. I told them, “You abuse it, you lose it.”

- Aviva Rosenfeld, whose son and daughter both carry plastic

Parents who fail to set boundaries for children, however, are in for problems.

“I know of parents who hand over the Black AmEx to kids of all ages and there are no rules or limits imposed,” says East Side mom Tracey Jackson, who took her 15-year-old daughter to India several years ago to instill values she wasn’t getting in NYC’s gold-plated corridors of consumerism.

“In New York, it’s not unusual to find a 14-year-old picking up the $2,000 tab for a dinner for 10 of their friends,” says Jackson, whose pleas from her 14-year old daughter, Lucy, for her own credit card have gone unanswered.

Lucy does, however, have her monthly allowance loaded onto a debit card. “When it’s spent, it’s spent,” says Jackson, who declines to give exact figures.

But experts argue that, if handled correctly, credit cards can teach kids the importance of budgeting.

“If a 12- or 13-year-old child is responsible, you can feel good about giving them a credit card and educating them about it,” says Kevin Yuann, an analyst at NerdWallet, a personal-finance website.

Credit cards for minors under 18Mom Tracey Jackson refuses to give her 14-year-old daughter, Lucy, a credit card, citing reckless spending by fellow teens.Zandy Mangold

Besides, he adds, some parents angle early to get their kids a good credit score.

Amanda Greenberg and her husband, Jeff, are particularly eager about giving their son a leg up on his counterparts.

Just as soon as he’s born.

“My husband plans on getting our newborn a credit card to build his credit — once he gets his Social Security number,” says Amanda, who is 38 weeks pregnant.

And while they haven’t yet settled on a name, they do know which company they’ll go with: Their baby will have a MasterCard, just like Daddy.

“If we’re starting to plan for our child’s future at birth, why not include building a credit score early?” Jeff reasons.

Then again, some of the best benefits of kiddie consumerism don’t benefit the kid at all.

As Rebecca Reich’s mom puts it, there’s one clear-cut advantage to all her daughter’s taxi rides going on the plastic: “They spend, and I get all the miles.”

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  1. Credit Cards
  2. Credit Card News
  3. Minors seeking a credit card will need a helping hand from mom and dad
  4. - Editorial Policy

Minors seeking a credit card will need a helping hand from parents

By Erica Sandberg | Published: November 11, 2009

Credit cards for minors under 18

'Opening Credits' stories

Credit cards for minors under 18

Dear Opening Credits,

I'm 16 and want a credit card. How can I get one? How else could I build my credit at my age? -- Kristina

Credit cards for minors under 18

Sigh. You're a girl after my own heart, Kristina. Though I didn't really become fascinated by personal finance until my college years -- living on pennies inspires imaginative budgeting -- I think it's fantastic that you're thinking about these issues at such an early age.

Be aware that there are two basic reasons to get a credit card. The first is to have a safe, convenient way to purchase the items you want and need to buy. The second is what you mentioned -- to create a credit history. A long, positive record of using credit paves the way for all sorts of fabulous things, from obtaining inexpensive loans for cars and homes to being appealing to landlords and employers to gaining access to premium plastic equipped with very cool perks.

I'm sorry to say that getting a credit card on your own may not be so easy. In general, minors cannot enter into legally binding contracts -- which is what credit accounts are -- so an individually held card is probably not an option for you right now.

There may be another way, though, to build a credit history before you turn 18. It's by "piggybacking9quot; on someone else's credit card account as an authorized user. This means you'd have a credit card with your name on it and enjoy charging privileges, but because the account wasn't granted to you based on your financial information and credit history, the ultimate payment responsibility would fall on the actual account holder's shoulders.

Now, I only recommend these types of joint accounts with extreme caution as they carry considerable risk to all concerned. The payment activity and account balance history appears on each cardholder's credit report, so if any of you mess up (pay late, charge over the credit limit, etc.), everybody's reputation suffers. However, as long as all parties use the account responsibly, it can work.

Your parents are the obvious choice to approach about being added as an authorized user. However, before you do, become perfectly clear about how to use a credit card well. The directions are actually quite easy -- a lot of adults just overcomplicate it. All you need to do is charge the amount you will (not can, will) repay when you get the bill. If, for some reason, you would be handling the account management side, pay on time and read every statement for account changes, errors and identity theft issues. If you spot or anticipate problems, address them with your credit issuer immediately.

Believe you can handle that? Then have a formal talk with your parents and explain what you want and why you want it. Let them know that you recognize how to use credit correctly, and ask that they add you to one of their accounts. The discussion should include:

  • What you'd like to use the card for.
  • Whether you need permission before charging certain or all items.
  • What the consequences for misuse are.

If each of you agrees to the terms, follow it up with a written and signed contract. Then your parents would need to contact their credit card company and request you be added as an authorized user. A card sporting your name will soon be mailed to them.

In the event that your parents do not consent to the deal, I wouldn't blame them and neither should you. Credit is serious business, and it's sensible for them to be highly protective of their finances and credit report.

So what can you do? Well, thank them for their time, say you understand why they denied your request, and tell them that you'd like to review the deal again a year from now. During that time, take initiative and prove your trustworthiness: get a part-time job, save your earnings, borrow a little from them here and there and pay them back on time -- or even better, early. While these actions won't do a thing for your consumer credit file, your rating as a dependable and money-smart daughter will surely rise.

See related: Piggybacking, meant to jump-start credit, can backfire, Authorized users don't have to pay for cardholder missteps

Meet's reader Q&A experts

  • Sally Herigstad, "To Her Credit"
  • Todd Ossenfort, "The Credit Guy"
  • Tony Mecia, "Cashing In"
  • Barry Paperno, "Speaking of Credit"
  • Elaine Pofeldt, "Your Business Credit"
  • Erica Sandberg, "Opening Credits"

ADVERTISEMENT ADVERTISEMENT Join the discussion We encourage an active and insightful conversation among our users. Please help us keep our community civil and respectful. For your safety, do not disclose confidential or personal information such as bank account numbers or social security numbers. Anything you post may be disclosed, published, transmitted or reused.

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Accommodation for minors under 18 years old

According to Article 82 of Brazilian Children & Adolescent Statute (ECA), minors under 18 years old can only be accepted for accommodation if authorized or accompanied by parents or guardians. When accompanied, they must present an ID document.

• If one of the parents is absent, it is necessary to present authorization from this parent authenticated in a registrar’s office.

• If the child is staying with a guardian, it is necessary to resent authorization from both parents authenticated in a registrar’s office. Make a copy of this authorization and attach it to the child’s National Guest Registration Form.

• In the event of a parent being separated or divorced, an authenticated copy of the legal decision granting custody of the minor must be presented. In the absence of such a decision, the documents of both parents will be necessary, and both will have to sign the aforementioned document.

• When the child or adolescent is traveling unaccompanied by either parents or guardians, in order to stay at a hotel, motel, boarding house or similar establishment, it is necessary to present express authorization from the parents through a public or private document, with authenticated signatures attained from a registrar’s office or similar (article 82, of Law 8,069//90).

• When dealing with foreigners: the identity document must be a passport, and the other documents must be requested normally.

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