Kids and Credit Cards: How Young Is Too Young?

When should you give your kids a credit card? Should you wait until they're 18 and off to college? Or is younger better? This can be an explosive topic for parents, many of whom have very strong ideas about what's best for their teens when it comes to credit.

A new ABC News poll found that 71 percent of parents are opposed to giving kids a credit card before the age of 18, even one that has a restricted balance and is linked to a parent's account. (CLICK HERE for more on the poll.)

VIDEO: Parents debate the appropriate age to give their children credit cards.
Kids and Credit Cards: How Young Is Too Young?

"GMA" assembled a roundtable of moms and dads with children between 8 and 17, who were passionately divided about the topic. Some said children need to have access to credit to learn how to use it safely, while others were adamantly opposed to the idea.

Most parents agree that kids should learn to save and budget and should earn their own money. But when adults are struggling with their own credit along with the increasing and complex material needs of children, it can be difficult to decide when to help them get plastic.

"GMA" financial contributor Mellody Hobson has advice on how to handle this emotionally charged and divisive issue with your children.

What's the Appropriate Age?

Give Your Child a Credit Card at 16
Hobson disagrees with the majority in the ABC News poll, and advises getting your child a credit card linked to your account at 16. She thinks 18 is too late because, at that point, you no longer have total control over your child's spending and credit habits. Parents should look at 16 as a milestone age, she says. We already equate turning 16 with getting a driver's license, 18 with the right to vote and 21 with the right to drink. Make 16 the age you start teaching your child about financial independence and responsibility.

Benefits of Giving Your Teen a Card

You Can Monitor and Control Activity
A credit card can give you some control over your child's spending and credit management skills, especially before they go off to college, Hobson says. You can discuss with them the proper way to use credit before they get a card of their own, kind of like credit with training wheels. You get to see all of your child's transactions in your monthly statement if they are an authorized user on your card, and you will be able to better recognize any impending issues and problems they might develop in the future.

Kids Won't Have to Carry a Lot of Cash
There's one other really big advantage to giving your 16-year-old a credit card, Hobson says. By giving your child a card, you're making sure they will not be carrying a ton of cash which can be very unsafe for them.

Teach Your Teens to Use a Credit Card Responsibly

Tell Kids Card Is a Privilege
The average college senior with one credit card has over $4,100 in credit card debt, and Hobson says you definitely do not want your child to end up like that. When you first get them a credit card, make sure you let them know that this is a privilege and you will be closely monitoring their use of the card.

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