NDSU Extension Service - Ramsey County


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Families and Credit Cards

Families and Credit Cards


          Many parents believe that giving children a credit card is like giving them training wheels to a lifetime of good credit management. However, bad credit decisions can haunt you for years.  Early discussions about how to use credit wisely can help kids steer clear of trouble when they become adults, and show them how to get the most out of credit.

          Most U.S. credit card companies do not provide individual credit card accounts to minors as children are not able to enter in to legal contracts. Parents who want their minor children to have a credit card can obtain a card for them that is linked to the parent’s card account.  The minor holding the card may be called an additional cardholder, authorized user or secondary accountholder.

          Only the primary account holders are legally responsible for making payments. If the primary account holders fail to make payments, their credit history will be damaged. 

          Credit card policies for secondary accounts vary widely depending on the issuer:

          Minimum age – Some card issuers have a minimum age for secondary cardholders, while others have no age limit.

          Account numbers – Depending on the issuer, secondary cardholders might be issued a card with the same account number as the primary cardholder or one with a different number. A separate number can be a benefit if the card is lost or stolen.

          Billing statements – depending on the issuer, charge may or may not be grouped by user on the billing statement. When transactions are listed in separate sections on the statement, it is easier to keep track of spending by each card user.

          Credit reporting –Most companies report the primary cardholder’s payment history on the secondary user’s credit report. A few companies do not report this information for additional cardholders under 18.

          Responsibility - Most card companies do not inquire about additional cardholders’ credit histories or income levels. The primary cardholder agrees to be responsible for all purchases and cash withdrawals made by the secondary cardholder.

          Debt collection – If the primary cardholder defaults on the credit card, debt collectors may contact the secondary cardholder but cannot hold the secondary cardholder liable for payment on the account. Negative information about the primary cardholder may be reported to credit bureaus under the secondary cardholders’ name. Some companies do not report credit data on minors. 


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