Keeping teens safe while holding them accountable isn't always an easy task. Even though you want to teach them to be responsible and to manage their money wisely, sometimes they can get stuck and need additional cash through no fault of their own. Providing them with a credit card, with an agreement that it is only to be used in emergencies, gives them a safety net should the unthinkable happen and they face an emergency alone.
One of the most common emergencies teenagers face where a credit card can seem like a lifesaver is when car troubles strike. Even the most conscientious teen has little control over the unexpected expense of being towed to safety or paying for emergency car repairs. Without a credit card, your teen may be at the mercy of strangers as he struggles with car problems while away from home. This may extend to the purchase of gas when your child finds himself stranded further from home than he intended.
If you teen travels by bus or plane, a credit card ensures that he will not get stranded in a strange place without a safe place to stay. A missed flight or bus may require an unexpected overnight stay in a hotel. Without a credit card, your child may not be able to secure a room. Having an emergency credit card can put your fears to rest in case an unavoidable delay arises. It also ensures that she has food and other necessities while away from home.
In Your Absence
If you travel and leave your teen at home, leaving an emergency credit card ensures that he can take care of any emergencies that may arise. Problems with plumbing, heating or other household appliances can happen at any time. Knowing he has the resources to keep the home safe and prevent damage from malfunctions, or even take the family pet to the vet, gives you peace of mind and gives your teen the resources he needs to be independent while you are away.
Away at College
Older teens who have gone away to college often run into unexpected expenses that cannot be avoided. Having an emergency credit card for important things, such as buying that parking permit the university forgot to tell you about or ordering that expensive book the professor now requires, reduces the stress on your teen and avoids delays in taking care of necessary business.
Several options for teen credit cards exist. While you can add your teen as an authorized user to your account, that is not the only option. Consider a prepaid credit card or secured credit card if you are unsure if your teen is ready for the responsibility of managing a credit card. These options insure that your teen does not go over the spending limit. However, keep in mind that some purchases, such as renting a hotel room in an emergency, may also include a deposit that is placed on hold on the card. If your teen's balance is low, she may not have enough money to make the necessary purchase.
When giving your teen an emergency credit card, it is important to discuss what types of situations the card can be used for. While some parents require the teen to call home to get the purchase approved, some set a spending limit that can be used without prior permission. Letting your child know exactly what you expect, and the consequences of violating those expectations, goes a long way toward keeping your teen safe, while holding him accountable for his actions and spending.