As a parent, would you allow your high school student to have and to use a credit or debit card to learn financial responsibility? Why or why not? What other types of payment options might you...

As a parent, would you allow your high school student to have and to use a credit or debit card to learn financial responsibility? Why or why not? What other types of payment options might you allow your child to use--PayPal, Google Wallet, etc.?

Expert Answers
durbanville eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I believe that teenagers should be allowed to operate debit and credit cards because they can learn valuable skills in the process. Children who leave home as responsible, financial-savvy adults, able to make sound decisions represent an ideal for all parents.

Debit cards are perhaps the best way to introduce teens to this form of transacting and spending as the money needs to be available first and thus the teens have to display good planning skills in checking that the funds are available and that they have the amount they need. This in itself makes them aware of how much they are potentially spending. There is also the element of responsibility in ensuring that the debit card is secure and does not get damaged or mislaid.  Memorizing the pin is also something to start with early as there are so many "pins" to remember for access to any number of things these days.

There also seems to be something empowering, from my observations, when a teen has funds on a card. They do reconsider purchases as they rather like having the equivalent of say $50 available and so become more aware of the true value of their purchases. If they reconsider and walk away without making the purchase, then this is potentially the start of a principle of saving money. Who would have thought that spending money could be character-building? 

Credit cards are a little different due to the potential for misuse in the wrong hands. Therefore they place even more responsibility on the teen to take care of the card and not abuse the privilege. If the teen has to contribute towards paying the bill (sigh, if only!), then he or she learns to budget. Furthermore, if a teen is a little reckless, the parents can step in and provide guidance and give their child another chance, without disastrous consequences such as can be seen in some adults' lack of control when it comes to managing credit cards. Safeguards such as instant messaging to mobile phones is a good idea from a security standpoint but I would hesitate to use it as a measure of control as children must learn to make decisions and they must recognize the consequences of those decisions so tracking a child's use, for me, reveals a lack of trust and parents must trust their children. Otherwise, these children are not ready for a credit card.

Operating on a strictly cash basis brings its own disadvantages. Inflation does not wait around and saving for a purchase can mean an endless delay and sometimes a desire for something unattainable. Obsessions could even result. Paypal is a very useful system and I also have to admit that the term "Google wallet" is beyond my scope at this stage. Cards and online banking are definitely the way to go. As adults, we need to stop blaming the banks for our own lack of self-control and say no. Those skills we are trying to instill in our children may need some work from our own perspective.  

Lori Steinbach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Debit and credit are important terms in economics, but they are not likely to have any real meaning to young people until they see and experience them in action with something that matters to them--and money usually matters to them A LOT.

A debit card is almost a must for young people nowadays. The card has replaced a checkbook, and it is important for young people to learn how to manage their own money (presumably earned from their jobs). Online banking makes it easy for them to keep track of their accounts IF they are taught to do so, which puts the initial responsibility on the parents. 

Credit cards are different, it seems to me. Students who travel overseas with me often get credit cards with limits which are set by the bank and the parents; they are often connected to their parents' accounts and can be monitored online. This is a compromise between free reign and total control.

It does make a lot of sense to teach young people about credit (how it works, what it costs, when it is appropriate to use) before they go to college or are on their own and are inundated by tempting credit card offers. That may be done by their having credit cards, but it can also done without their having an actual credit card. 

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think it is important for children to learn how to use financial tools responsibly while they are young.  Yes, I would give my teenager a credit or debit card or possibly a pre-paid card while in high school.  The main reason I would do this is because it is much easier to monitor the child and the use of the card while the child is still in the house with you.  If you wait until the child leaves for college, there are more temptations and it is much easier for him or her to get into trouble.

There are so many tools now that can help parents track their teen’s use of credit.  I would make sure to install a smartphone app that sends me push notifications when the card is used.  I would also make sure my teen has a job or a source of income to at least contribute to paying the bill.  This is a really good time to reach the child about the cost of credit, the importance of paying bills on time, and how to manage accounts.  The reality is that most kids will get a credit card with or without their parents the minute they are out the door, so you might as well teach them to use it responsibly while you still have some influence over them!

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I would certainly allow my high school-age children to have credit cards and debit cards.  I might let them use PayPal as well.  I don’t really know what Google Wallet is.  My parents let me have credit cards when I was in high school and I plan to do the same for my children when they reach high school in a couple of years.

The reason for this is that it is convenient and it will help them to learn how to spend responsibly.  It will be convenient when, for example, my daughter is out with friends and needs to put gas in the car.  It will be convenient if she is out somewhere and she needs to buy food.  This will make it so that she does not have to ask for money for everything little thing that she wants to buy.  It will help my kids be more responsible because it will teach them not to buy everything that they have the ability to buy.  I do not really see any down sides to doing this.  I believe that I have raised my kids to know better than to buy something for a huge amount of money without asking. 

Jamie Wheeler eNotes educator| Certified Educator

My son will be fourteen in two weeks. I will be getting him a preloaded debit card.  It's too easy for him to stick his hand out for money. I believe this will be an important step in learning to manage his financial obligations. 

He also has a smart phone. I was very nervous about it at first, but he has been quite responsible with it.  If he wants a new app, he will now have to use his debit card. Even a few dollars here and there adds up!

I am not sure about a credit card at this point. Maybe when he is 16 or 17, as he should learn about interest and penalties before he is offered them when he goes to college. 

I have not used Paypal enough to really know but as a parent, it might be an easier way to track exactly what your kid is spending money on. I've never heard of Google Wallet.

William Delaney eNotes educator| Certified Educator

It would seem to me that it would be easy for a boy or girl fourteen, fifteen or sixteen to manage his or her finances and stay out of debt. The people who get into trouble are typically young couples who have small children--and I feel sorry for them because this is, or should be, a wonderful time of life, a time when you feel that life has meaning and purpose, that you have something to live for and something to work for. All of a sudden these young marrieds want a home and furniture and appliances and a thousand other things. The adolescent boy or girl typically has food, clothing and shelter provided, and he or she has no dependents to worry about. Kids in high school don't even have to pay tuition. Even the books are provided for nothing. 

William Delaney eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I have been a parent, but thank God I have come through it relatively intact at the other end. I doubt if I would let my kids have debit or credit cards in the hope of teaching them financial responsibility. I don't think those cards were ever intended to teach anybody financial responsibility but more to teach financial irresponsibility, because people just naturally tend to spend more when they don't see the cash flowing through their fingers. Of course, it would depend upon whose name was on the card. If the bank wants to issue a card in your son's or daughter's name, then that sounds okay--but I don't think creditors want to do that--for obvious reasons. 

mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I remember when my son told me he needed a credit card at college: after a few minutes, he asked me to please stop laughing. When money is not tangible, youths lose any perspective of how much things cost and how much they spend. My own mother (and I followed her example) made me save for some things I wanted just to teach me the value of money--a valuable lesson.

The only way that I would allow a teenager to have a credit card would be to obtain those that can be purchased with a set limit (something like a phone card with minutes) because the fear of loss of the card is prohibitive for me.Let's face it: "Control" is not in many teens' vocabularies.

alexb2 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think it's important for kids to understand how money works, where it comes from, and how to save or spend appropriately. If a youngster has chores or a part-time job, they should be able to deposit that money in a checking account and use a debit card to access it. A credit card for those under 18 is probably not the best idea if you want to teach responsible spending habits. 

user396107 | Student

I think learning how to be financially smart and knowledgeable is fundamentally important when growing up. However, high school to me seems a bit to early as teenagers have yet to fully mature and have yet to learn about the full responsibilities. I believe after they leave high school is a good time. 

arrellbelle | Student

I'm currently a college student and back when I was in high school, I didn't necessarily have a credit card due to personal reasons. When I think of it now, I think it was good that I didn't have one because I was a bit young, immature, and rash about my decisions. Therefore, I probably would've bought a lot of unnecessary things. However, as a grown up, I felt that it would've been incredibly helpful because when I needed to use a credit card, I didn't have the practice or experience that came a long with it. High school doesn't teach you about balancing a check book or how to use a credit card, so I feel that as long as the child has parental supervision, it should be alright.

thewanderlust878 | Student

Even though I am not a parent myself, I believe that it is important for teens to learn how to operate their finances responsibly. I received my first checking account/debit card when I was 15 years old. Looking back, I am very grateful to have been given the opportunity to learn how to balance my checkbook, write a check, and use my debit card responsibly. I know that if I hadn't learned these skills at an early age I would be in a much worse place financially than what I am in now. 

sid-sarfraz | Student

As a parent, would you allow your high school student to have and to use a credit or debit card to learn financial responsibility? Why or why not? What other types of payment options might you allow your child to use--PayPal, Google Wallet, etc.?

As a parent i would never allow my children to use a credit or debit card to teach them financial responsibility. There are many other ways to make them learn this responsibility. Its natural but credit cards or debit cards can ruin the child's mind as they can easily get whatever they want without discussing with parents. Parents are said to know whatever's good for their children. Whereas children do make wrong choices due to their friends, different issues etc. Its the parent's priority to keep the child safe and one day when the child becomes a parent himself he will understand you and your decisions.

Financial responsibility can not be tought by giving classes. It simply can be understood by making you yourself as an example for your child. Show them how you handle money and how to use it without wasting it. Children follow parents first then in life sometimes they follows their friends etc and by giving them financial cards we are destroying their future.

atyourservice | Student

Yes I would, my friends and I all have a debit card. I think by giving me a debit card my mom is teaching me how to sharpen my financial abilities. But I rarely use it though, I think cash would be a better way to teach financial responsibility.

udonbutterfly | Student

In my high school years I have never held a debit card nor a credit card. And it was never because my mom thought was not ready for the responsibility but more that I knew that having something like that was not the right time. The occasional visas gift card here and there are great things to start on but to have a bank card I do not think a teen is ready for that responsibility. Learning financial responsibility should not have to be demonstrated with have a debit card but how they can save with money physically in their hands.

zumba96 | Student

To be honest when I become a parent I probably wouldn't let my kid have a debit or credit card because they really don't need it. If they do I can just give them money. I would trust them but I wouldn't see a point in giving them a credit or debit card

eli468 | Student

If I was a parent I would allow them to have a debit card, but not a credit card. I had a debit card in high school and it taught me to watch how much money I was actually spending on things. I feel like this answer is difficult to answer though because for me it wouldn't just be about letting them have the card and saying," Have fun!" I would teach them how to use the card, what can happen if it is abused, etc. The nice thing about them having a debit card is that they don't have to carry around money. If they lose the card it can immediately be cancelled and they can learn from that misfortune as well. It depends on each child and their personality as well. Those who are reckless and irresponsible, I would not give them a debit card as a teenager, but for those who won't abuse the privilege can learn more about money management. 

ik9744 | Student

If I was a parent I would most likely. It teaches the student responsibility and will help them in the near future.

Wiggin42 | Student

My mother helped me sign up for my first bank account and debit card when I was 14. I had just finished a summer science program that paid participants a small stipend ($200) and the check was made out in my name. My account was like a sub-account within my mother's. I never really used it but it was an interesting feeling to know there was money out there in my name.

Now, 3 years later, I got my first job and my paychecks go into that same account. The bank statements are very helpful in seeing how much I'm earning over time and how much I'm spending. I think a debit card is the way to go if you want to do something like this because there is no interest and you're spending your own money--not borrowed money.

CaitlynnReeves | Student

This really depends on the child's personality. I think highschool is too young for a credit card simply because having a bad credit score can have far reaching consequences and take a long time to fix.

I was 13 when I opened my first checking account and got a debit card. My parents sat me down with a banker and I had to hear about all the fines and fees, sign all the paper work myself, and learn to keep a ledger. It was a really good experience for me and it made me feel grown up. Having no consistent source of income made learning about financial responsibility difficult in some ways. I wasn't able to keep any regularly charging expense like a magazine subscripton or anything of that nature. On the other hand it was beneficial because I had to prioritize and budget for things far in advance and stretch pennies. 

I think highschool is a good age to introduce teens to the concept of financial responsibility through debit cards, especailly if it motivates them to get a job.

taangerine | Student

If I was a parent, I would allow my child to use a credit or debit card as it will teach them about financial responsibility. The amount or balance used should always be monitored and be advised. It is better to have child know and learn about the financial world before going out to college or finding a job because they will prepared to handle financial situations as they have learned to do so as an adolescent. It is better to have them learn and be prepared than be sheltered and not know a single thing when they go out to find a job or go to college.

In addition to a debit or credit card, I would also allow my child to learn about using a debit or credit card online on sites such as PayPal, GoogleWallet, etc. As technology is advancing and internet is becoming a dominant role in our daily lives, it is necessary for the high school student to learn more about the financial world not only in real life, but also virtually. 

Therefore, it is a definite yes. Although the adolescent might take advantage of the card, it is better for them to learn about money and 'owing money' now than later.