Kids With Credit Cards

Here’s a by-product of the often recited ‘buy everything with a rewards credit card’ advice  – the effect on our children.

My three year old daughter has never known a time without POS terminals at every retailer. We rarely pay for anything with cash. I’m sure if we didn’t teach her otherwise, she’d think you can walk out of a store with anything you want if you just put your little plastic card in the machine.

One of my daughter’s earliest toys was a little cash register with a place where you could slide a fake credit card. We’d play grocery store and when she’d tell me to pay, I’d hand over the card. “Crrredit,” she’d say as she slid the card through the ‘reader.’

She’s since grown up to using the real ones. When we check out at Target, she always puts the card in for me. What’s most disturbing, perhaps, is that she knows exactly which buttons to push on the screen and then ’signs’ for me. I’m sure this is exactly what warms the shrunken hearts of credit card executives everywhere.

Before you think this is a ‘evil credit card company’ story, I’ll be the first to admit I’m completely in charge here. (Ok, as in-charge as the father of a cute little girl can be.) I could pay in cash. I could make sure I conduct the entire transaction myself. But this is the world we live in.

I guess this is why there are so many blog posts out there about teaching kids about money and articles about teaching smart credit card use or why a 1% return can be a good thing. Without a conscious effort on her parents’ part, this little girl could have a seriously warped image of money. More important, she could have a seriously warped image of money’s true worth.