Credit cards for kids

by Finn

I can see the light in the tunnel that is the approaching train of DS graduating from HS and heading for college. Some time before that, I should get him a credit card so he has a chance to learn how to use it before he leaves for college.

When do you plan to get your kids their first credit cards? What kind of card will it be? Will it be just his or her name, or will it be connected to your account? Do, or will, you let your kids use your card before they get their own?

DS has used my card a couple of times, on a trip. We sent him across the street from the hotel to get some breakfast for us, and there was no problem with him using my card.

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152 thoughts on “Credit cards for kids

  1. DD is 15. We just got her a debit card that is linked to her savings account. I initiated this mainly for my convenience. Clothes shopping at the mall is one of my least favorite activities. Now if she needs new clothes, I can drop her off at the mall with her debit card and she can buy what she needs. Later we can transfer $ from our account to her savings account to reimburse her (we set up a budget ahead of time and agree to reimburse her to that amount – if she wants to spend more, it comes out of her own money).

    Like Finn, we’ll probably get DD a credit card sometime before she leaves for college in a couple years.

  2. DS has a separate card linked to our account. This is not ideal, due to the really high credit limit our account has. The card is for emergencies, when DS is travelling without us. I’m sure there’s a better solution, and I’m looking forward to hearing it.

  3. As a kid, my first credit card was on my parents account and it was given to me when I obtained my driver’s license. The intent was if something happened to the car, I could have to towing or repair fixed and charge it to the card. Granted, this was in the day where the “car phones” were still the size of a brick and super expensive, which meant I could be on my own for several hours before someone came home to answer the phone to get any parental assistance. As I went to college, the card became one I could use for more things, but by then my parents had moved overseas and I was paying my bills and some of theirs. Once in college, I was able to apply and get credit on my own.

    My DD#1 is going to Europe with a group next week. I have ordered a credit card on my account with her name on it. It is to be used if (1) it is clearly an emergency – heath care issue comes up, etc. or (2) if she lacks euros/us currency and the debit card won’t work. The debit card is new to her as well, but the credit union would not issue until she turned 15. She doesn’t like to use it, so we have started sending her allowance to her checking account so she has to interact with the credit union on a more regular basis.

    In general, I think getting your kids a savings account, checking account, debit and credit card in their teens before they leave home so you can give them some guidance is a good thing.

  4. For debit cards, I strongly suggest you remove the automatic draft protection, which used to be the default on most accounts. It can be easy for a young person to inadvertently rack up huge charges by mistake.

    My kids had separate cards linked to our account starting at about age 15. It was convenient, and it carried better protection than a debit card. Amex doesn’t work everywhere, so MC or VISA seemed like a better idea. It worked fine for us, although it didn’t seem to automatically qualify our oldest for a credit card when he graduated college.

  5. Wow, I never even thought about this. I didn’t get a credit card until I was in grad school. My DH didn’t have his first credit card until after he graduated and had a job. Right now, the only time my 15 year old needs money is when he does things like goes to the teen pool party and buys some pizza.

  6. My AMEX card years ago allowed for family cards. The two younger ones at college had them for emergencies only – and since AMEX was not always accepted back then, it really was for travel emergencies. I think they all had atm cards (no debit feature in those days) in high school. Nowadays for a UMC family, using one large bank such as Citi or BofA allows for middle of the night transfers for cash emergencies, and the dining hall and college bookstore cards can be filled up remotely. I think the limited use debit card in high school is a good idea as trial, and a linked family card for travel emergencies when they go off either to a high school summer program or college, but I also would get them a non linked low limit personal card before they leave home – not leaving them to the mercies of the registration tables at school. They will want to be able to spend a little money without having mom and dad scrutinize the line items.

  7. When they went to college we got each of our kids an Amex card in their name attached to our account. They used it for buying books, emergencies or as a way to be treated by us for a special occasion (take your friends out for lunch on your birthday). We paid the bill. I believe this has led to a good credit score for them.

    They use their ATM cards as a debit card for everyday purchases, and that account contained the lump sum we would give them each semester to cover expenses plus their summer earnings.

  8. I had an ATM card in college, which was tied to my very first ever bank account. My work study and summer job earnings went in there. I had very little money to spend back then – I couldn’t really afford things like pizza or beer (and I was underage all my college years anyway) – so the cash mainly went for xeroxing, pens, and ring dings from the dorm snack bar. I used to stock up on shampoo when I went home at Christmas.

  9. Sometime, maybe in 8th grade, my Dad gave me a duplicate of one of his credit cards. It had his name on it, and I’m not a Junior, and was through the Alumni Association of his grad school, but I almost never had a problem using it. I would use it for things like back-to-school clothes shopping.

    When I started driving, I used it for gas and to run errands for my parents. I often made the decision whether something I wanted to purchase should come from my money or theirs, and I don’t remember it ever being questioned. I didn’t spend very much.

    I kept the credit card through college, still using it for gas and the same sorts of purchases. At some point in college, I got my own card through Capital One. The night of my college graduation, I gave my Dad his card back and that was that.

    I don’t know what we’ll do with our kids. It’s one of those parenting things that I don’t think really matters that much in the end.

  10. We got my daughter a debit card on an account linked to ours when she first started making her own money. We started putting regular bi-weekly deposits in when she got a drivers license, and upped it some when she went to college. We covered gas and certain expenses through that, and she could budget as she saw fit, and a portion of her own earnings went in there, with the rest going to a linked savings account. This works well for us because she runs a lot of errands for me like grocery shopping or taking her brother for a haircut or picking up take-out when I’m busy with work, so it is easy for me to go in and transfer the money back to her account to reimburse her.

    Her first name is similar to mine, so she is able to use my credit card with no issues (and is always happy to do so!!) That is mostly for doctor visits or things I don’t expect her to pay for, car expenses, etc. She gets a lot of credit card solicitations since she is in college, many of which come with 17% interest rates. They go straight in the trash. The best thing about starting her on the debit card and transferring money in there for clothes and personal items for her to budget herself is that she instantly became more price conscious. There are things that she wanted if I was paying, but if it was coming out of her own account she found she’d rather save her money.

    I will get my son a debit card when he starts driving. Like Mooshi, he rarely has the need for money, so he hasn’t had a lot of experience with budgeting. He is insanely practical, so I can’t imagine it will be a problem for him.

  11. I didn’t get my first ATM card until college because they weren’t as common until the early 80s and more common after the courts ruled ATMs were not a “branch” of that bank. Also, some places were not happy about taking checks on out of city or out of state banks, which made credit cards more important. ATM cards were really only to withdraw cash and were not used at point of purchase.

    I know people who have, but very rarely use, a credit card relying on the debit card used at the point of purchase (they used to be called check cards, but that term has fallen off too.).

  12. I got an ATM card and checking account when I was 14. I didn’t get my first credit card until I got my first post college job. My concern with the credit cards is that at least half the people I know who got a credit card in college got into low 5 figures worth of trouble with them. So, on the one hand I’d like to avoid that. On the other hand, certain lessons can’t be taught they can only be learned so maybe it’s best for them to get into trouble when they are young enough to recover.

  13. ” I couldn’t really afford things like pizza or beer …”

    Oh, Moosh. This is tragic! I remember in law school that a six-pack of 16 ounce bottles of Schmidt’s beer cost $1.69 at the A&P. About once a month it was on sale for $1.29.

  14. We opened bank accounts for each of our boys for saving money and I assumed they’d eventually get debit/ATM cards for those. In the meantime, I’ve thought about a prepaid Mastercard with gift money from a grandparent for on-line purchases of Pokemon cards, special Lego pieces, etc.

    I suppose it will depend on if my kids are responsible with money or have spendthrift tendencies. I definitely like the idea of oldest DS1 having a credit card to buy gas, etc. In our family, I’ll expect DS1 to drive when he’s old enough and to transport his younger siblings so I’ll pay for gas and insurance. I can imagine the boys sharing a car if they go to community college and high school simultaneously.

  15. Some very bad attack is in progress in the cyber sphere. United Airlines, the WSJ, now the NYSE.

  16. My kids all got/will get a debit card when they turn 13. Their allowance goes in there, and they can choose where the money they make goes, either to the account linked to the debit card or to their savings account. The debit account is linked to mine, and I get texts when they spend on it. Oldest DD is very thrifty, younger DD has had issues figuring out how to use the card. I am betting she will figure it out before college. It is incredibly convenient to tell the older one to pick up milk or whatever. Last spring, I put some money in both their accounts and told them to go clothes shopping. They did, and picked up some milk on the way home. Major parenting victory.

    Older DD has some surprising gaps in her knowledge. We have a business, we have business accounts. Turns out, she didn’t realize that she didn’t need a credit card to pick up parts at a parts supply business. How did that slip by her?

  17. an attempt to divert attention from the crashing Chinese stock exchange?

  18. I just emailed my DH, who of course knew it was down, but he says he doesn’t know anything more at this point.

  19. UAL is back. My friend who used to work with all their scheduling algorithms says she is very glad she is no longer there.

  20. CoC – Delete the previous post if necessary. The gif doesn’t seem to stop of its own accord

  21. Very funny, Meme. I’ll delete it shortly. Twitter is full of funny stuff. Anyone else feel an urge to visit the nearest ATM machine?

  22. I had a copy of my parents’ card starting when I got my driver’s license- for gas, emergencies, and if mom needed me to make a grocery run or something like that. Because it wasn’t in my name, it didn’t build any credit. Then when I applied for my first card after college, I was only able to get a junky card with a $500 limit and no rewards. Which would have been fine at first, except that my job immediately expected me to be able to charge 4-figure business trips on the card for later reimbursement. It was kind of embarrassing explaining that my limit was too low. Fortunately after about 6 months I was able to qualify for a better card with a reasonable limit. But I harped on my siblings to get their own cards in college. They are responsible enough to pay it off every month and to keep utilization low.

  23. Both my kids at this point will gladly spend parental money on paid apps and craft supplies. If it were their own money it would be untouched. We just set up bank accounts for them and I am assuming in their teens they will be able to get a debit card and pre college get a credit card.
    I got a credit card when I came as a grad student. At campus there were several credit card companies signing students up. I took an application, filled it up and wrote “student” in big letters.
    I don’t know if that made a difference but my friend who applied and had the exact same background (new to the country, no credit history, campus job, new bank account) did not get the credit card.

  24. I couldn’t complete an online transaction a few minutes ago. Paypal. I think everybody is hunkering down just in case – not a bad idea.

  25. Rio,

    If I remember correctly, I think I had to have a letter from my first job saying I would be traveling etc. and Amex was more than happy to give me a card. I can only assume they still have that program. I mention it just in case someone has a kid who ends up in a similar situation.

    Also, if you’re a new college graduate and have an offer letter, most automakers will finance a car at great rates and give you +$500 in extra incentives.

    http://www.hondafinancialservices.com/finance/college-grad-program

  26. I didn’t get my first credit card until college. My parents always treated the cards with great reverence. They would keep it in the little envelope thing it came in and withdraw it with some level of fanfare when making a large purchase. They were very proud of their Sears card which was hard to get back then. I did learn to be very careful with credit from them and when I got my own card, I knew I had no back up from them either which made me very careful. I remember waking up in the middle of the night trying to remember if I had paid my credit card bill. Kids are still young. They have savings accounts but don’t get an allowance, partially because they have a lot of cash from grandma but also because they don’t really ask for or need anything right now. I think when DS starts HS this fall that may change. I think we would start by getting him his own credit card on our account. He’s a pretty thrifty and responsible kid. (I know, famous last words)

  27. New reader here. :) Although I didn’t have one that was tied to a rewards program, I had a credit card in college. I’m now in graduate school (so not too far out of college). I’m thankful to my parents who co-signed a secure card for me through my local credit union t was for 1,000. This helped me establish a history early on, probably even before I truly understood what it was (as a senior in high school) My financial literacy in credit has only recently started to get better, but I am thankful that my parents got me an early start. I actually ended up using cash mostly, probably as a result of my naivete, but this probably comforted my parents, too. I was more comfortable with cash than the card.

    I wish I would have known more about rewards credit cards as a college student. I think they can be financially instructive, especially when paired with planned, responsible spending. I actually am working on starting a blog, too. I have a draft of a post I am playing with about things I probably could have used CC reward points for during college, as part of spending that I was already doing to get through my degree program.

    I’m looking forward to reading more from your blog!
    Dylan

  28. When I was 15/16 I went on a school trip overseas. My parents gave me a credit card with my name on it attached to their account. It was a calling card, an emergency card, or a card to use if I didn’t think I’d have enough cash (happened once at then end of the trip). I kept that card through college. I was told it had a $500 limit, but my parents could have been lying to me. In college I had a check card, and applied for my own credit card. Thanks to the credit I built up with that first card, I got a nice limit and low interest rate. I used the card infrequently and paid it off in full. That card enabled me to get a store credit card as my second credit card.

    The first parental credit card was great. It built my credit rating, and I attribute it to my ability to get credit now when I want it. I still have my first credit card that I applied for and the store card. I look fondly at the “member since” date on that first card.

    DH didn’t have a credit card until after college. Even then, with a solid job, it was tough for him to get a nice limit. His limits are still less than mine. Not that he cares, as his credit rating is doing quite well.

    I’ll definitely let my kids have a credit card when they show responsibility for it. Hopefully it will be a situation like mine, where I can get a small limit, monitor their spending, and give them a leg up on credit ratings. Debit cards, while great for budgeting and learning that way, don’t have that impact on the credit report.

  29. Completely unrelated, but who’s in the Chicago area? I find that I might be headed out that way in the near future.

  30. My college roommate got a card freshman year when she turned 18, and promptly racked up enough charges to hit the limit – $5k, I think, back in the 90s.

    She didn’t want to tell her parents, and spent the next three years paying it off.

    The vicarious experience was instructive :).

    I shared an emergency card with my dad as a teen, and learned the hard way to make very sure that your name gets taken off later: his business was struggling and he made a few late payments, which hurt my credit rating. (I don’t think it was supposed to, and luckily I didn’t need to borrow then.)

    My kids are small, but I’m working on DD by explaining profit margin, sales tax, and budgets at every opportunity while she is still young enough to listen….

  31. WCE, that sounds like my vacation: “Mom of three watches children at different zoo, remarkably like the local zoo.”

    It’s all the same work I do at home, with no convenient laundry.

  32. Rhode – I am!

    OT – I haven’t thought about this much yet as my kid is still so young, but I do think that helping teens navigate this is a good life skill.

  33. @WCE – the camp one is good too…both my kids have some experienced a milder version of these…

    •If you are worried about paddling out on the lake, just know that the teenage counselors who huffed whippets behind the pottery studio last night will be there in case of emergency.
    and
    •Keep in mind that camp is a great place to build confidence by trying new things and then immediately shatter it by failing.

  34. We ended our camping trip at my MIL’s, where I did six loads before going home. My FIL was a hunter and she was delighted when we arrived, after spending days in dusty eastern Oregon, unshowered and unwashed. This is the same woman who bought me 8 bottles of my favorite (now discontinued) stain remover. She had three sons of her own and she gets my life.

  35. No one in my family wants to camp with me this summer. I don’t want to go alone. Getting a 3 person tent up by oneself is a PITA.

  36. Older DD has some surprising gaps in her knowledge. We have a business, we have business accounts. Turns out, she didn’t realize that she didn’t need a credit card to pick up parts at a parts supply business. How did that slip by her?

    Why would you expect her to instinctively know that?

  37. So, I’ll throw this out there as a theory:

    1. It’s a cyber attack.
    2. Some vendor pushed out a patch that broke everything. It looks like it may be an issue with routers so I’m going with CISCO.

  38. No one in my family wants to camp with me this summer.

    Smart people. Deep sea fishing and camping rank among the worst experiences of my life.

  39. Here’s a sort of related question for Android/Google users. Is there an easier way to put money on kids’ Google play accounts than going to the store and buying gift cards?

    With their amazon accounts, they can give me any amount of money, I can go on to Amazon and buy an e-mailed gift certificate for that exact amount, and they get it within minutes and apply the code to their accounts.

    With google, you can’t buy gift cards online aside from some sites that charge a fee for them, and you are limited to only a few specific dollar amounts with the cards. I looked into setting up Google Wallet accounts so I could transfer money that way, but the hoops you have to jump through to set up the accounts are absurd. It would be really nice if they could set up these accounts so you can just make a payment from a credit card into the accounts.

  40. Since 2010 it has become much more difficult for people under 21 to get credit cards – which is likely not a bad thing. New college students shouldn’t be confronted with free t-shirts and credit card applications. Part of the slow progression to making 21 the age of majority, I think.

    I had a problem a few months ago – someone here suggested creating a card on our account for our Au Pair’s mom so they could check into their hotel in Vegas (AP is under 21, mom doesn’t have plastic). That was simple and worked out well – thanks. When the mom left the country, the Au Pair has kept the card and has been using it for gas and occasional small purchases. It makes me a little nervous because it is a high-limit card (and they wouldn’t allow us to put a separate limit on a single user’s account), but we check the charges frequently, and we know her well – this AP has been with us for more than a year. Interestingly, it doesn’t matter to anyone that it is not her name on the card.

  41. When my kids started traveling alone or driving, I added them to my Visa card so they would have a way to pay for repairs or transport to someplace in case of delay, etc. The older two, both in college, were approved for credit cards in their own name as 18 or 19 yos. Very low limits. But this way they can buy e.g. concert tickets while at college and pay the bills themselves. A(nother) move toward independence. It has worked well so far.

  42. Older DD has some surprising gaps in her knowledge. We have a business, we have business accounts. Turns out, she didn’t realize that she didn’t need a credit card to pick up parts at a parts supply business. How did that slip by her?

    Why would you expect her to instinctively know that?

    Because she has been drug along on parts runs her entire life. She has seen the process since she was a month or so old. It makes me wonder what else just kind of slipped by her. Turns out she doesn’t know how to make rice either.

  43. Because she has been drug along on parts runs her entire life. She has seen the process since she was a month or so old. It makes me wonder what else just kind of slipped by her. Turns out she doesn’t know how to make rice either.

    That doesn’t mean she’s been paying attention.

  44. I think there’s a difference when you have to do it yourself. I sometimes zone out when DH is driving, and don’t know the directions to the destination. Or I know generally how to get somewhere, but not the name of the street to turn on. The way I really learn directions is to drive there myself.

  45. “Why would you expect her to instinctively know that?”

    I don’t think you can make travel reservations without a credit card, so it’s not that crazy of an idea that you couldn’t buy business supplies without one.

    When I was in college, they issued us government travel credit cards in case we needed to make last-minute reservations during our summer assignments. Of course, 99.9% of everyone filed it in their wallets and most never had to use it. But in a class of about 1,000 people, there was at least one who somehow came to the conclusion that he could take it on a spending spree at Best Buy.

  46. Murphy – I had to look up how to boil an egg when I was an adult. I mean I knew you had to boil it but whether to put it in when the water was cold or boiling and for how long – no clue! I am now a fully functioning adult – although I just spent 5 minutes using the broom to sweep things in front of the roomba because it wasn’t doing just what I wanted so I’m obviously not the sharpest tack!

  47. Moxie – I don’t boil eggs very often and have to look it up every time to remember how long it takes!

    I got a checking account tied to my credit union savings account in high school and added a debit card (still a fairly new concept at the time) when I went to college. I got my first credit card right after college and still have the same account today. I have found that I never carry cash anymore, so I expect that DD will get a card of some sort much sooner. In fact, her dad just got her an iPhone (supposedly they didn’t have anything in stock more suitable for an 8-yr-old, who only needs it to communicate with one parent when she is at the other’s home. . .but don’t get me started) and I’m guessing she’ll be able to use it rather than a physical card by then.

  48. SWVA – I feel you on the iphone. But at least she will be very accessible to you once she masters it. You can text and facetime etc… which might make your separations easier for you both!

  49. I got into trouble in the low three digits with my first credit card, freshman year of college. Charged my books and some other things at the bookstore, then pissed away the money in my checking account on pizza and ice cream runs, then didn’t have enough left to pay it all off when the bill came and was stuck making monthly minimum payments until I confessed to my parents and they bailed me out.

    My daughter has a kid savings account and my younger son has what was supposed to be a kid savings account but somehow got opened as a UTMA with my husband as trustee. I don’t think either of them is old enough for a checking account or debit card yet. I should push my older son to get one in a year or two, though.

    WCE, your article is the reason we sprang for hotel rooms all through the trip.

  50. “NYSE halts trading, expects to re-open before close.” (Yahoo Finance)

    Don’t know why, but that sentence just strikes me as funny. And I know precisely what they are trying to say. Of course you have to (re)open…otherwise you can’t close!

  51. Speaking of not knowing how to do things, I recently found out my kids had no idea how to address an envelope. Apparently they don’t teach that in school anymore.

  52. I was playing tourist today in NYC with some friends that are visiting from CA and I missed all of the news about the system problems. I have two friends with the same first name, and the live in different parts of the country. I finally looked at my phone before i started to go home, and it was filled with texts from both of them about the stock exchange. They don’t know each other, but their messages were almost identical. they are freaking about how much money they are losing, and potential cyber attacks. It feels like everyone is on edge because of the markets and now these possibly unrelated system events.

    I managed to use my credit cards all day, but I remember that my first card was from Bloomingdales. We had very little money, but my mother had a credit card from Bloomies and she got me a card when i was 16. I don’t think I really used it, but I liked the idea of having the store card. The first card that I actually used was from MBNA. They were a small issuer back in the 80s, and they marketed their cards to college kids at freshman orientation. They even had pictures of the college on the card, and there were definitely some freebies. I think it had a very low limit (maybe $500?), so I was able to manage the debt because I was working so many hours during college.

    I’m still a few years removed from this, but my friends with HS kids use a “high school” credit card. They got it for their kids because they went on trips with school, or camp and they wanted them to have a card when they are traveling.

  53. Speaking of not knowing how to do things, I recently found out my kids had no idea how to address an envelope. Apparently they don’t teach that in school anymore.

    How odd! Business correspondence still exists.

  54. Business correspondence still exists.

    What do you mean? Like a cease and desist letter?

  55. DD learned how to write letters and address envelopes last year in 2nd grade. The teacher had them write a letter to parents and mail it home. Then she wrote a letter to her favorite author and sent it along with a self-addressed stamped envelope (as recommended by the author’s website) and got a sweet reply.

  56. Just a quick check-in from vacation – Meme, all my best wishes to your DH for his recovery/stabilization.

    Kids are driving us crazy – maybe will bring babysitting on all future vacations. :)

  57. Our school has the kids set up blogs in third grade, but no teaching of writing letters. They don’t learn cursive either, so the kids can’t actually read the letters they get from their grandmother.

  58. And I’m so pissed at Toyota right now. The power hatch on the Highlander broke last week. I took it in today to get fixed and they said it’s not covered under the extended warranty, even though it’s exactly the type of thing they told me was covered. Apparently it’s not covered because it’s a known issue where the root cause is the hinges, and hinges are specifically excluded on the extended warranty. I called Toyota corporate and the rep confirmed with the warranty people that it’s not covered, but she is going to look into it and see if they can do something to partially cover the cost.

  59. I’m sort of sad I missed out on getting a hand written boarding pass today:

  60. Rhett, I think you may be right. I couldn’t think offhand of a common software vendor to all three without a more widespread issue, but I didn’t consider a firmware or hardware related software patch.

  61. My kids struggle with addressing letters and also grandparent cursive. They also don’t know how to write a proper letter either.

  62. I once had to walk my college son through the process of addressing and mailing a letter. Pathetic, right? Now in his twenties, he has never written a check.

  63. Does not knowing how to address an envelope also mean that the child has never written and mailed a thank you note?

  64. So it just happened that today was both the day my post was posted, and I also was heavily scheduled all morning and only had a few brief windows to read the posts before now. But there are some good thoughts here that I will need to incorporate.

    I called our bank and found out they don’t issue any sort of card, whether ATM, debit, or credit, to anyone under 18, whether on their own or connected to one of my or DW’s accounts, nor will they open a checking account for anyone under 18.

    I guess I’ll call some of our other CC providers to see if any of them have anything available to someone under 18. Does anyone know of any national provider that will issue any sort of card to someone under 18?

  65. Discover Card rep says we can request a card for a kid under 18 on our account.

    One problem with that is the one Houston brought up, that our credit limit is pretty high. Nearly all of our CC accounts have high credit limits, even though we never requested limit increases; the issuing companies just kept on raising them. I guess that helps our credit rating by reducing our %age of credit used.

    I’m thinking of opening another account under my name, or DW’s, with a low credit limit, and getting a card for DS on that account. Anyone know of a card (preferably a rewards card) that tracks spending by card for an account with multiple cards? Amex does that for our Costco Amex; our statements (and the website) separate charges by me from charges by DW.

    Perhaps I’ll call Fidelity. They keep sending me applications for a 2% cash back Amex.

  66. I just read somewhere that most Amex cards will allow you to set a separate limit for cards on the same account. However, Amex is not so universally accepted.

  67. I have the Fidelity Amex card to which Finn refers. It rocks. However, this is the card that DS has that’s linked to our account. No other option was available to us.

  68. Houston, yes, that sounds like the same card. The one they keep sending applications for says that the rewards are directly deposited into a Fidelity account. If your DS is able to get a card on it, it sounds even more like a likely candidate, especially given what Ada just posted about separate limits for cards on the same account.

  69. I just realized that Ds has a school-related trip coming up this fall, in which he and a group of students will travel internationally to another school. They will be chaperoned, but neither DW nor I will be on the trip, so it would make sense to get a card for him before the trip.

    Among other things, it would reduce the amount of cash he needs to carry, and the exchange rate and exchange fees are typically less using a CC than for cash.

    So I need to also look for a card with no foreign transaction fees.

  70. Finn & Houston,

    Just a note about cash back cards. If you spend $100k with 2% cash back that’s $2k. If you spend $100k on your Anerican Airlines card that’s business class round trip from Honolulu to Paris which might cost $8k. Or, it’s 2.5 round trip tickets off peak Honolulu to Paris. You’re going to get a lot more bang for you buck of you go with a miles card vs a cash back card.

  71. Rhett: You might be right. I’ve heard that the Starwood card is the bomb. Never heard anyone singing the praises of an airline card though. I don’t travel much now-a-days, so I’m not very savvy about miles/points/cash cards.

  72. Just ran the numbers.

    100k AA miles converts to:

    2.5 coach tickets HNL to PAR (off peak) value $4028
    1 Business Class ticket $7763

  73. Houston,

    Yes, SPG (Starwoods Prefered Guests) points convert 1:1 into any number of airline points. including Qatar airways. Imagine Houston Doha, Doha Dehli in this:

  74. Rhett: We did Newark-Delhi on United last year. Never again. Seriously. Avoid like the plague.

  75. Rhett, which miles card would you suggest?

    While we’re currently discussing cards for kids (I think it will take many, many years before DS spends a cumulative $100k on a card), I’m also interested in suggestions for me.

  76. In support of Rhett’s assertion, 2% cashback cards are pretty rare these days. Anyone know of any besides the Fidelity Amex?

    I used to have a Schwab Visa that gave 2% cash back, but Schwab sold that, and now it’s a BoA card that gives 1% on most things.

  77. It looks like Emirates just launched A380 service Houston Doha. SPG points convert 1:1 to Emirates points as well.

    It also has showers and a bar.

  78. “Sigh”. Unfortunately, that’s not how we roll. We’re not big travelers anymore.

  79. The Amazon one gives 3% on Amazon purchases so depending on how much of your shopping you do there (we do a LOT) it can be a strong choice.

  80. “Unfortunately, that’s not how we roll.”

    Mixed metaphor? I’m thinking rolling would refer to travel modes like car or bus, not airplane.

    Reminds me of the quote from a baseball player using too many clichés: “At the end of the day, the sun comes up .”

    BTW, are there seatbelts in that bed? Is there anything to prevent you from becoming a projectile if you hit turbulence?

  81. HM, I think a lot of people here shop at Amazon a lot, because of the really free shipping.

  82. BTW, are there seatbelts in that bed

    Yes. But ,it’s interesting all the Emirates promotional photos have them hidden.

  83. Finn,

    It looks like it’s a thing. The promotional photos don’t show the seat (bed?) belts. But they are there – JAL for example:

  84. Rhett – even the plain old business class flat beds make so much of a difference. I slept almost eight hours and only woke up in time to deplane.

  85. lousie,

    SPG miles convert to Singapore Airlines Krisflyer Miles at a rate of 1:1. Singapore airlines business class:

  86. “even the plain old business class flat beds make so much of a difference. I slept almost eight hours and only woke up in time to deplane.”

    For me, being able to extend my legs made a huge difference. Like you, I slept pretty much straight through some 8 hour flights in business.

    I think being able to extend your legs also greatly reduces the chances of deep vein thrombosis.

  87. I think the $65 annual fee for the SPG card makes it impractical as a card primarily for DS. You need to use it quite a bit for the value of the Starpoints to exceed that cost, which is not to mention the benefits a no-annual fee card would accrue.

  88. I agree with Rhett on the value of some these airline tickets. I once had an agent at Continental tell me that I made the most efficient use of my miles because I was able to get two first class tickets to Sydney using miles and credit card points.

    We have the Delta Amex card and the United Chase card. We chose Delta because they now link with Virgin, and that is usually our first choice for flying to the UK. This wasn’t always the case because Continental used to have code shares with Virgin, so you sort of have to analyze your own flying patterns and primary airports. We hate American and will try to avoid them like the plague, so we don’t have that card. We get free upgrades all of the time on Delta – especially my DH because he is gold on Delta.

    I rarely fly for business now, and I never fly overseas so it is less of an issue for me. I still do a lot of domestic travel and I find that the United card does save money because of no baggage fees, and there are some perks such as upgrades and early boarding. I was a long time Continental frequent flyer, so I still have a lot of miles on United.

    We use the Amex platinum card for other airline and hotel upgrades and freebies. I know it has a hefty annual fee, but we think the $200 airline credits, hotel upgrades, global entry fees etc – make the card a great deal if you travel frequently or to certain hotels. We link our Amex corporate and those work points can go into the same bucket as the platinum card.

    Once we max out our miles on Amex Delta and united Chase for the year – we start charging everything on platinum because we can dump the platinum miles into different airlines for free tickets.

    I prefer to charge everything that I buy to maximize my points. I know there is a loss of privacy, and a risk of compromised credit cards…but the extra points add up quickly.

  89. Check with local banks too (as opposed to the larger, national ones). We happened onto a family credit card offering that lets us set limits on each individual card and all are linked to one account. It’s in our names, and while we parents don’t use it much since we have others with better cash back, it is what we have done for our kids. We have a standard monthly limit they can use for gas and misc. We raised that monthly ‘allowance’ when oldest child went to college.

    However, what makes it awesome is that we can go online and change the limit on any of their cards on a moment’s notice – so for school trips, etc. we simply raise the limit. We also tend to raise the card limits during family travel to provide more flexibility for everyone.

    College son also manages his own account using a debit card and online banking now.

  90. I’m flying with my kids (alone) on a 10:40 PM departure out of O’Hare returning from a funeral next week and the kids appear to be in different rows of a plane on United. Will/can the gate agents fix that? Or does some lucky stranger get to sit next to each of my tired children on a 4 hour transcontinental flight?

  91. @WCE – they will fix that for you, probably once you have boarded the plane. The lucky passengers will swap seats (unless they have paid extra to be in a certain seat). The rare times we have been split up, we were always able to get our kids to sit with us. Since with you, it is three kids/one parent, your oldest may be deemed old enough to sit close but not right next to the rest of you. (If he can use the plane toilet and get back to his seat by himself), I would say that’s old enough.

  92. We took the kids to “Inside Out” last night, and while they really liked it, I think DW and I enjoyed it more. Many of the references and jokes sail right past kids’ heads. I couldn’t believe how sad it was at times, especially the final scene with Imaginary Friend. Between this and the Toy Story trilogy, PIXAR has really obsessed over childhood sentimentality. Maybe they have some very sentimental writers, or maybe that’s a calculated business strategy targeted at parents’ emotions.

  93. WCE,

    I don’t fly United but I assume it works the same way. You can checkin online and print your boarding pass 24 hours before departure. You will have the option of switching seats at that point. If that doesn’t work, ask again at the airport and ask people to switch on the plane.

    Also, you can switch your seats anytime within that 24 hours (even after you’ve printed your boarding pass) so keep checking back if you don’t see seats together.

  94. We went to Inside Out with our high schooler, and we all loved it but agreed afterwards that it really isn’t a “kids movie”.
    And Milo, you forgot Pixar’s Up for your list of movies that target the parents’ emotions rather than the kids. I cannot watch the opening sequence without tearing up.

  95. Oh, I haven’t seen “Up.” I’ll put that on Netflix.

    WCE – Our National Geographic road atlas arrived yesterday.

  96. Sad kids’ movies have a long history. Remember Bambi? I personally hate tear-jerkers so I won’t see any of these, and it’s too bad, because I like good animation.

  97. Rocky – Incredibly, my kids seem entirely unaffected by a lot of movie sentimentality. They were mostly nonplussed about the death of Bambi’s mother. (I know that’s a word with contrasting, but equally valid meanings.)

    When Old Yeller had to be put down, they said “yeah, looks like he’s got rabies. They have to shoot him.”

  98. Finn,
    if not too late…I simply went to the “add card user” online at Bank of America. No issues. Discover will issue cards with a low ~$1k limit to college kids. I think you can add a user to an Amex also. B of A issued a card to my 15yo linked to his savings.

  99. I saw Inside Out yesterday with my kids too. It reminded me of those educational films they make you watch in middle school. “Hi! I’m Joy and this is my sidekick Sadness and today we are going to learn about how emotions work. Come on boys and girls, let’s get started!”.

  100. I just checked with my friends. The high school kids have linked cards through Chase and Wells Fargo.

  101. Mooshi, remember those marvelous old 1950s Bell Labs educational movies that were directed by Frank Capra? Hemo the Magnificent and Our Mr. Sun and some others? Those were GREAT.

  102. Now that my kids are older, I am getting more nostalgic. I wasn’t soppy when they were younger. Now, it seems the years are flying past very quickly.

  103. WCE, we’ve been split up many times recently. It isn’t so bad for us because only DD really needs to sit with a parent, but the kids don’t like it because they like to talk to us when flying. I find that by the time you get to the 24 hour boarding pass window, it is too late to choose different seats because they are usually all taken. Also, you often have to pay extra if you need to get three together because the aisle seats often cost more. And that gets down to one of the big issues – people don’t like to switch because they have often paid an extra fee for their seat.

  104. On airplane seats – DH paid extra for me to sit at the emergency exit on a long haul flight. I got extra legroom but even my handbag had to go in the overhead bin. The flight attendants were very vigilant and would even offer to put store it in the bin for me.

  105. Yes, you can definitely change your seat assignment at any time on most carriers (though some don’t allow you to choose seat assignments at any time – I avoid those like the plague). The problem, though, is often there aren’t any seats together, or there might be seats together if you pay an extra fee for one of them. I usually select seats when I book, and select seats then. In the past couple of years, it has gotten harder and harder to get seats together.

  106. I have also heard that some carriers now only let you choose seats if you pay an extra fee, but I haven’t actually run into that yet.

  107. WCE, I recently flew solo with a toddler. ( I flew United and will never fly them again if possible). With kids your age and number, You might want to nail down seating way ahead even if it means paying extra. Paying extra will also give you priority if you have any kind of delay and have to take another flight.

  108. On another flight I took, all window and aisle seats were extra money, so all you could get for ticket price was middle seat.

  109. We have collected a ton of points on our Amex gold .we really wanted to use them for international flights, but those flights, expecially Europe ones, are not worth while on point because of taxes. Looks like we have a ton of domestic and south american travel in our future. Maybe we should look for SPG Amex card now.

  110. “On another flight I took, all window and aisle seats were extra money, so all you could get for ticket price was middle seat.”

    I almost always have to pay extra for aisle seats. It’s a bit annoying because it’s not apparent that the flight will be an extra $xxx (usually ranges from about $59 to $100 each way) until I’m ready to pick a seat. I’ve had no unusual problems with United, not that I’ve flown them that often.

  111. “Ah for the days when aviation was a gentleman’s pursuit. Back before every Joe Sweatsock could wedge himself behind a lunch-tray and jet himself off to Raleigh-Darhwa!”

  112. Southwest is our airline of choice and the Southwest Visa our credit card of choice. DH always pays the extra fee for priority boarding; I rarely do if travelling alone. I always wind up sitting next to the guy who man spreads, so why pay extra for the experience?
    Never fly United. DH flies United a fair amount for business so we get a lot of points, but every flight we’ve been on has been a miserable experience even with his super special diamond studded platinum elite status.

  113. Taxes and also fuel surcharges maybe (don’t remember anymore). The ticket I looked for had taxes from $400 to 700 for flights to Heathrow.

  114. @WCE: My 2 cents: try what Rhett suggested about changing seats online. If that doesn’t work, just call them (at some time when you can afford to sit through an hour on hold). Sometimes an agent can do stuff the computer won’t let you. Of course, sometimes they can’t, and you’re back to trying at the airport and when you get on the plane, but it’s another crack at it.

    OT: Like many others, my first credit card was being put on my mom’s account when I went off to college. It was a “purely in the case of emergency” card, since I was going to school halfway across the country, and my stepdad got an overseas sabbatical at the same time, so there was no backup at home and no guarantee I could reach them quickly in an emergency. I basically never used it. It was always the math that got me — I was broke, so I thought, well, if I don’t have $XX now to buy Gadget A, then why do I think I would suddenly have $XX plus interest next month? That money is just magically going to appear out of the air? I think when I graduated I transitioned into my own credit card — I think we just applied to the same company, and they were happy to spin me off onto a separate card given the history. I don’t think it’s so easy any more — being an authorized user doesn’t get you as much as it used to, as it’s been abused by too many “credit repair” services.

    DD got her own bank account with bat mitzvah money at 13, but she does not yet have an ATM or debit card. I have been persuaded by the studies that show that you spend more when you put something on a card than when you hand over actual cash (and have fallen for that myself at Dave & Busters and the former ESPNZone). So for now, the savings account is to help the chronically-broke Impulse Queen learning the “money goes in but doesn’t come out” principle. :-) But all her friends trade gift cards for birthdays, so she has her extra stash of “fun shopping” money when she wants to go to the mall. And the idea of “shopping by card” is way more engrained in her generation.

    We’ll probably get her the ATM/debit card that come with that account in the next year or so, just depending on the maturity level we are seeing (with NO overdraft protection). I have access to that account online (I am technically a co-owner, and we linked it to mine to get the better deal by relying on my minimum balance), so I can track her spending if/when I want. At least that way, if she loses her mind, the loss is limited to her money, and she can learn from watching several years of gifts and savings wiped out for things she doesn’t care about 3 months later. Although like everyone else’s kids, she is far happier to blow my money on stuff than her own. :-) So who knows, maybe she’ll manage it well.

    We will get her a credit card of some sort before college to get her used to remembering to pay the bills and learn all about being on the wrong side of compound interest. I will probably start with putting her on one of mine — that same card I started with almost 30 years ago! It has a lower credit limit (they’ve bumped it up a few times, but I mostly use it for online purchases, so I want it low to minimize the possible losses/hassle in the event of ID theft). Although I am tempted to give her a card now, just because it’s so convenient to send her down around the corner to pick up the pizza or whatever, and it’s hot and I’m lazy. :-)

  115. Houston is a United hub because it used to be a Continental hub pre-merger. I loved Continental, at least as compared to the misery of every other airline. United has ruined it. We still mostly fly United since we can get direct flights with them to most places, but it pains me and is typically miserable in one way or another.

  116. We are flying Southwest for the first time in a long time this weekend for our family vacation. We paid a little extra for early boarding, based on a tip from a friend. Southwest is typically more expensive here than United, so we usually fly United. I’m looking forward to something different.

  117. Barring any major changes in commercial travel over the next quarter century, I think that one of my goals in retirement is to never set foot on an aircraft again. I will travel by private auto, rail, or steamer, and be able to stretch out and enjoy the journey.

  118. We are now an American hub. I don’t know how long that will continue. So, far we have had crowded flights but no nightmarish experiences. The worst experience I’ve had was 20 or so years ago, sitting on a tarmac in a plane without electricity waiting to take off for 5 hours due to an airline strike. This was overseas. The passengers said that they just wanted the plane to leave and said they would refuse to deplane. We took off.

  119. “taxes from $400 to 700 for flights to Heathrow” Wow!

    I like Southwest, particularly because their pricing allows relative flexibility for changed plans. I believe they’re the last airline to offer free checked luggage for all. But my overall main criteria when choosing an airline is usually the ability to get a direct flight.

  120. Milo,

    This would be better than a private car:

    And it 25 years it could be self driving.

  121. June: what you said. I happened to make Continental Elite status one year before the merger. I had this awesome routine where they had like a 6 AM nonstop from BWI to IAH, and I’d get bumped up to first, so I’d whip through security with my super-special ticket, get on the plane, and they’d promptly serve me as much caffeine as I wanted and a lovely hot omelet. It literally got me an extra hour of sleep not having to worry about security lines or food.

    Then they merged. Since the merger, I got not one single upgrade — I’d be 24th on the upgrade list for the 8 available seats in First. And the flight attendants were just so clearly not happy and disconnected. And then they cut back on all the flight times I relied on. I was *so* happy to dump them for Southwest. Which, alas, has now upped *its* criteria for A-list, so now I have to buy Early Bird again like everyone else and have minimal chance of getting the exit rows or bulkheads, sigh. But it’s still better than United Hell.

  122. Rhett – That was included in my loose definition.

    Self driving, and electric. Because it seems to me that there’d be a far better ROI electrifying a vehicle that otherwise gets 9 or 10 mpg versus one that can get 40.

  123. $24K a WEEK? For that, I expect a private island, with invisible maid service, my own personal chef to whip up five-star meals, a cabana boy to keep the pillows and towels by the pool fresh and plumped, and one guy whose only job it is to bring me iced tea in my lounge chair whenever I want.

  124. Thanks for the flight advice. Baby WCE is teething, so everyone in the plane wants her in my lap. I’ll ask the gate agents on the flight out if they can do anything/put a note on the flight back about me and my kids. The computer put us into not-too-far-apart seats. Since the departure time is central time and our normal bedtime, the boys will likely entertain themselves or fall asleep awhile after departure. The main risk to strangers of sitting by them is a spilled drink, but even that risk is declining.

    I think this is why, unlike Rhett, I like camping better than flying.

  125. Houston, it seems everyone around here agrees that the quality has fallen off a cliff since the merger–not sure how they’ve managed to mess it up so badly. And LfB, I have heard so many stories like yours. It really is a shame.

  126. I would call United today and pepper the conversation liberally with the words “newborn”, “funeral”, “unruly boys” , “four children” and “by myself.”

    United is notorious for this – because they oh-so-hopefully reserve all the aisle and window seats for people willing to pay extra. I was traveling with just one three-year-old a few years ago and was able to change it over the phone a week in advance. There were some viral stories a few years ago about parents being separated (or threatened to be). It became a cause for a while – there was even a bill before Congress to make splitting families illegal.

    I really would not wait until the day of the flight. An agent should be able to fix this now for you and you should not be charged extra.

    Maybe if they won’t relent you can ask what the charge would be to upgrade just your seat to first class. Tell them that, “because we are relying on the kindness of strangers and flight attendants to supervise my children, I will ride where I am most comfortable.”

    http://www.foxnews.com/travel/2014/07/30/airlines-and-parents-play-chicken-in-unfriendly-skies/

  127. Yesterday wasn’t the best day to deal with United… I will be monitoring my credit card online because I had to submit some extra information to buy my tickets because the website security was abnormal. I suspect either the Saturday gate agent or people sitting in the back of the plane around us will accommodate me, and the boys are mature enough that I’m willing to play chicken- we are booked within site of each other and the late hour is not a bad choice, given the likelihood they’ll fall asleep. (If PTM is reading today, he is probably both moaning and smiling at my expectation that the world will accommodate my parenting decision.)

  128. I would do the totally opposite approach. I would make absolutely no arrangements or even requests to sit together. I would put the kids wherever they may be assigned, and make a casual comment to the flight attendant and any nearby passengers that “Looks like this is how the seating is. I guess we won’t be sitting together.”

    Assuming you even want to sit next to your kids, this is the easiest way to motivate others to resolve the situation for you.

  129. “I think that one of my goals in retirement is to never set foot on an aircraft again. I will travel by private auto, rail, or steamer, and be able to stretch out and enjoy the journey.”

    That would not work well for me.

  130. Fred, thanks.

    I will check with BoA; we already have a card from them, and they have a service I use to generate additional card numbers, each of which is good at a single vendor, for which I can set the duration and credit limit separately, so I’m hoping that indicates they may be able to issue a card for DS that has a lower credit limit.

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