Frugal Friday: How Young Is Too Young For A Credit Card?

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Happy Friday everyone! It has been a bit of an odd week here in the Frugal Rules home as we had family visit us during the middle of the week. I always enjoy having family come to visit us and it’s nice since we do not have to ask anyone for time off, though it does mean that we have to balance work and having them visit which can make for a bit of chaos at times. Oh well, it was fun to see them and will likely spend part of this weekend trying to catch up from the lost time.

Mrs. Frugal Rules had an experience this past weekend that I wanted to share. I find it funny what kicks off my inner PF blogger and this one was a doozy! I will say beforehand that I am not really trying to be judgmental with this, just wanting to understand the thinking behind this situation. Anyway, Mrs. Frugal Rules went in to the bank branch in our local grocery store last Saturday.

As we get paid mainly by check from our local clients we’re in there several times a week depositing the checks and have gotten to know the tellers and personal bankers quite well and usually strike up some sort of conversation. We generally chit chat about what’s going on in the world or how business is going – completely harmless banter. This conversation though showed me, yet again, the need for financial literacy and how even those you’d assume would have it (being as they work in a bank) may really not. Mrs. Frugal Rules’ experience also reminded me how important it is to teach children about money wisely from an early age.

The conversation went something like this…the teller explained to my wife that he and his five year-old daughter were at the gas station and he gave her his credit card to go into the gas station on her own (yes, you read that right) to buy something and told her to tell the cashier to “put it on credit.” I’ll leave the easy part of the wisdom of allowing a five year-old to go into a store on her own alone, as I know there is NO WAY in hell I’d allow our five year-old to go into a store on her own (I’m sorry, there are just too many crazy people out there) and deal with the issue of him giving his five year-old a credit card and asking her to use it.

The act in and of itself may seem harmless but what kind of precedent does it establish? Well…he went further. Fast forward several days and he tells Mrs. Frugal Rules that he and his daughter are at the grocery store. His daughter, as ANY five year old will do, started to ask for something and he told her that he did not have the money for it. For us, that usually translates into a want vs. need discussion and is fairly harmless. He, however, did not have the same experience. He went on to say that she started to get upset, put her hands in his pockets and started looking for money. When he told her that there was no money she asked him to give her his wallet, saying “you might not have money but you do have a credit card.”

According to Mrs. Frugal Rules, this is where the story gets interesting. She started asking the teller some questions trying to unearth his thought process in this and trying to communicate that he’s playing with fire and his response was that he’s concerned for his daughter’s future husband and that she may spend him out of house and home.

Really?! I wonder why he may thinking that?

Mrs. Frugal Rules then asked him, point blank, if he was concerned that his daughter may get an incorrect view on credit cards, becoming too comfortable with them without understanding what they really are. His response, according to Mrs. Frugal Rules, was that of a blank stare followed by a shift of the conversation back to the supposed future husband. I, however, see the bigger issue as the beginnings of teaching such a young child to be comfortable with credit and handing over a credit card to actively use before she understands that it’s not free money.

I understand as they get older, that there is a time and place to introduce young people to credit (even getting a student card if appropriate) and begin to teach them about the responsible use of credit as a holistic approach to the beginnings of managing money wisely. But sadly, this was not that. Ok, that’s enough from me – I’ll turn it over to you in the comments below.

Although I was out of the loop for most of the week, I was able to catch some good blog posts. If you have the time this weekend, check some of them out.


What are your thoughts on the situation? How young, in your opinion, is too young to give a child a credit card? What fun do you have planned for this weekend?



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I'm the founder of Frugal Rules, a Dad, husband and veteran of the financial services industry. I'm passionate about helping people learn from my mistakes so that they can enjoy the freedom that comes from living frugally. I'm also a freelance writer, and regularly contribute to GoBankingRates, Investopedia, Lending Tree and more.


  • Well he is worrying because he is causing the problem himself. And who lets there kid walk into a store by themself and what clerk will allow the kid to pay for something with a credit card in the first place? She would either have to sign or punch in the pin number. Not on my watch!!! I don’t really have an age since everyone matures at a different pace. Heck some adults shouldn’t have credit cards. If you are still in high school and don’t understand the value of money you should be using a credit card in my opinion.

  • I think sixteen should be the youngest someone has a credit card. That’s when I got mine, and it was only to be used for gas for our car (we went to high school 17 miles from home), and my Dad paid the bill. It helped with my credit score and I stuck to the plan. Let’s just say one of my siblings saw it as free money and got hers taken away 😉

    Hope you have a great weekend!

  • Alexa says:

    WOW! With two daughters around that age it blows my mind that someone would send their five year old child in a store a lone with a credit card. The whole situation to me is concerning. First of all, who sends a five year old in a store by themselves? I don’t let my girls out of my sight at any point when we are in a public place. Really….five years old?!!

    And then to send the poor girl in with a credit card. That’s just stupid. Aside from the obvious financial view point how irresponsible is to send a five year old into pay for something with a credit card, not even knowing how it works. The whole situation really bothers me.

  • Ok, on all fronts: WTH????? This guy is in serious need of some wisdom, all across the board. I suppose someday we will educate the kids on proper credit card use, but for now our mantra to them is “Buy it with cash, or don’t buy it at all.” Sure does make them a whole lot more careful with their money.

  • My thought would be that my future child could have a credit card once he or she has a part time job, making their own income and saving it responsibly. At that point I think a credit card would be an appropriate next step in their financial education.

  • Thanks so much for the mention! I wouldn’t let my almost 5 year old go in the store by herself in a million years! I also try to explain what credit cards are….but she really can’t comprehend it yet.

  • I think one of the keys to successful financial literacy education is that it is age appropriate. Trying to teach a concept that is too complex to someone who is too young can lead to confusion and perceptions that can be counterproductive (and even damaging). Bad habits and misconceptions can be very hard to ‘unteach’ once they have been learned.

    In general terms, I feel that a five year old should develop a solid understanding that people have to work for money and that you pay for things with money. Using a credit card at this age can really act to undermine the crucial conceptual understanding that cash can be exchanged for things.

  • Alicia @ Financial Diffraction says:

    Wow, that is quite the story. I definitely wouldn’t send a 5 y/o into a service station on their own. Those places can be busy and sometimes a little sketchy.

    From another standpoint, My concern would be violating the terms of the card. I mean, hopefully it was pay pass and didn’t require a PIN or signature, but still could pose potential problems if theft ever occurred on that card. A little girl is memorable compared to another adult.

  • Cash out your 401k to buy a house, are you crazy! Nothing is worth the 35-50% tax hit you will take on taking money out of your 401k.

  • That whole story is scary! I can understand letting small children “help” with things, like handing money to a cashier if they like doing things on their own, but at least walk with them to and from the store! And as far as the whole credit card business.. I can only say from my own experience that my parents never introduced me to anything but cash until I was a teenager. I think they wanted to ensure that I understood the value of a dollar first, and that when whatever cash I had was gone, that was it, no more! I think that helped cement the idea in my head that a credit card wasn’t somehow free money – you had to have cash somewhere to pay for that swipe. I didn’t even have my own debit card until I was 17, and then I got a credit card to help me build credit (I used it to pay for gas only at first) when I was 18.

  • Matt Becker says:

    Yep, definitely sounds like trouble to me. The biggest worry (besides letting the 5-year-old off on her own) is not that he let her use the card, but that he had a blank expression when your wife asked about potentially teaching her the wrong lesson. To me, that screams that he himself doesn’t really understand how credit cards work or how to use them appropriately.

    Thanks for the share! Hope you guys have a fun and relaxing weekend.

    • John says:

      I agree Matt. I wanted to go in and shake him silly. He works in a bank, for the love of Pete, and doesn’t get it. That is just further proof that financial literacy is needed by many.

  • Pauline says:

    With a $50 or so limit, I’d say 12, it is young enough to implement good management habits, but you have to know your kid well to make sure they are able to handle it properly.

  • Wow, that blows my mind! I was 18 when I got a credit card and even that was far too young – I definitely didn’t use it very responsibly. Though, I do think that credit cards are seen as evil when they aren’t; if he has explained to her that you use it and then you pay it off right away otherwise you have to pay more, that would be good.

  • Wow, what a story…what parent in their right mind would allow a 5 year old to go into the store with a credit card? Crazy. Personally I think 18 is right for credit. 16 is perfect for checking only with guidance. With the debit card, parents can teach their kids about spending on plastic and, will be ready for credit by 18 in most cases. At least, that’s my thoughts on it. Anyway, I’ll see ya around John.

    P.S. Just made some big changes to CNA, would you mind stopping by and letting me know what you think?

  • When I read the title of this post I assumed it was going to be about how 16 is too young for a credit card and I had my argument all ready to counteract that opinion but FIVE?!?!?!?!? WOW just WOW it is absurd to think someone would give a 5 year old a CC.

    I like DC @ Young Adult Money got my first CC when I was 16 and was to only use it for gas and pay it off every month no matter what. This is the only reason at 22 I had enough credit to purchase my first home. I am a huge advocate of getting your teenager a CC for this reason but before you do that you must teach them how to manage their finances. Start at a very early age having your children balance their savings account after Christmas and birthday.

    • John says:

      Ha ha, sorry to shoot down your argument. 😉

      I got my first one when I was 17. I think it can be good, depending on the child and done at a level they’ll understand.

  • Wow, that’s too young to me! I think its important for kids to use money (cash) and understand the value of money at a young age. But credit cards can be a disaster for kids and college kids.

  • That is wrong on so many fronts that I’ll just say have a good weekend. We have something very interesting planned that I will hopefully share next week, good or bad. I almost feel like and investigative reporter sometimes because anything can become a blog post, but we’ll see.

  • Yeah I think that’s crazy!!! I think most of my opinion about it comes from the danger that child might have been in. What if some crazy person saw she had a cc and took it from her, or worse took her and the credit card!! But all in all, bad idea!

  • Mike says:

    I think that credit cards should be handled like car keys. You would teach your child how to operate a car safely. However, if they demonstrate inappropriate behavior you take the keys away, make them go without for a while, and then start their training all over again until they follow the rules and behave maturely. Do the same with a credit card.

    • John says:

      That’s a great analogy Mike. I think there is some great wisdom in that as both need to be handled with care as you’re learning and well beyond.

  • anna says:

    Besides the point that he gave her a credit card, is he out of his mind to let his 5 year old wander into a store by herself?!? That is ridiculous, and what his teaching her about credit cards is equally so. I have a friend who has a 7 year old – we were at a bbq at his place, and when he told her to eat her dinner (steak), she pushed the plate away from her and stated, “I only like porterhouse.” It’s disheartening when kids feel entitled at such a young age, and more so that parents are oblivious that they’re teaching them to be so. The guy needs to stop worrying so much about the future husband, and focus more on her.

  • No Waste says:

    Many thanks for that shout out.

    Enjoy the weekend!

    Also, the 5 YO with a credit card story made me cringe….a lot.

  • Wow, that is such a depressing story and the worst part is knowing that it happens all the time. It’s a bit mind boggling to think he’d be more worried about her future husband, rather than his daughter and the poor habits she’s picking up and how that will impact her life. My girls are still young enough where I haven’t gone deeply into the ins and outs of them but they do know when Mom or Dad slide a plastic card – we still pay for the purchases because I told them and reminded them every time we used our credit cards. “Who pays for all these things when Mommy uses this plastic card?” They’d say “You do.” Followed by “How do we pay for the things we just bought?” They answer “You work real hard!” I got a lot of crazy looks from cashiers and other parents, but kids have never believed an ATM just spits out free cash or things bought with a credit card are free.

    • John says:

      I agree Shannon, it was quite sad to hear my wife relay it. I don’t know that I could’ve been as nice. Hey, crazy looks are good when you’re doing the right thing. 🙂

  • I don’t think there is a specific age at which a child should be introduced to the concept of credit cards. It all depends on when the child is developmentally ready to understand the concept. The onus falls to the parents to determine when that is, and to ensure that the child gets the right education regarding credit.

  • What a horrifying story! At least we’ll all get to enjoy reading her blog about climbing out of debt in 15 years…

  • Hmmm a 5 yr old in a store alone…too many weirdos out there…I think maybe 16 to have a credit card to use for gas and use for expenses when they are out in their first car and you do not want to go out. …ask them to pick you up something on the way home…I cannot see any reason lower than that they would need a card…

    Oh and hey thanks for the shout out glad you enjoyed the article.

  • Wow that story is NOT a good example of building responsible behaviors. Growing up my parents tried to have me actively involved in my own money. Meaning I had my own savings account for christmas money as a young kid. But I never had use of my parent’s credit card. After having a part-time job, I got my first student credit card at 16. It was only for gas and the bill was paid with my earnings and a bit of help from my parents. It came with lots of long talks on responsibility and being an adult.

  • I got a debit card when I was 13, with a low spending limit, and then a credit card at 18. This worked really good for me, and I´ve never had problems using either of things. I´m working with 5-6 year olds now, and they have nooo idea about how money works, so giving a 5 year old a credit card is like the most stupid thing I´ve ever heard of. AND irresponsible!

    • John says:

      I agree NG. Our five year old is just starting to grasp money, and that’s because we’re teaching her about it. I fear that if we gave her a card we’d have a house full of princesses. 😉

  • What an idiot. This man has caused a serious problem that is probably only going to get worse. He has a lot of work on his hands to upright that sinking ship. I didn’t get a credit card until I was 19. I paid for my gas and other things with my debit card. I would say that it depends on the child.

    • John says:

      “What an idiot.” – Lol, I think those were my exact words to my wife Grayson. He does have a lot of work and I fear he’s already a long way down a crazy and terrible path.

  • Notwithstanding this unbelievable story, I can’t believe y’all can get credit cards while you are still teenagers. How does that work?

    I got my first CC when I was 19 and going overseas and it was really just a peace of mind thing for my parents to know that if I got into trouble I’d be able to fund my way home.

    • John says:

      I know Nell, it was a crazy story. Getting a CC as a teenager can vary. Many will get like a gas card as their first one which is generally pretty harmless. Other than that, some will get student cards that have like $500 limits.

  • Pretty crazy to have someone this young with a credit card. And yeah, it was probably the only thing that one could’ve learned from this “lesson”: that it’s OK not to have money as long as you have credit. The sad thing is that the poor little girl has no fault that her parents are ignorant when it comes to financtial education…

  • Troy says:

    5 years old is way to young. I thought you had to be at least 18 to have a credit card? Anyways that’s when I got mine.

  • ugh really, all he thinks about his daughter’s future is the fact that she’ll get married some day to a guy and be dependent on him? What if she turns out to be a lesbian? What if she decides to never get married like Oprah? What if she does get married but she’s the breadwinner? The credit card issue is horrifying, but I’m more bothered by the dad’s pre-determined life he has for his daughter that fits such a narrow stereotype. She’s only 5, no need to plan out her married life!

  • I can’t even count the number of red flags and warning signs that are going off with this story. The grocery store conversation was the perfect opportunity for such a great lesson, and he dropped the ball big time. My gut reaction to the question of at what age should someone get a credit card is that in a perfect world someone would NEVER get a credit card. I’d rather teach my kids how to successfully go through life NOT using a credit card at all.

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