Editorial Policy

Handing over cards to teen for shopping is risky

Erica Sandberg

December 15, 2015

QHi Erica,
What do you think about letting my 14-year-old daughter shop with my credit cards? Not in the stores, but on the computer? I’m so overwhelmed this year with personal problems that it would be a big help to give her a list. Anyway, she likes shopping (I don’t), and I can get the points on my cards. I don’t have the time, and everyone is coming to town. Thank you, Erica! — Mavis

ADear Mavis,

Will you have the time to clean up any mistakes she might make? That’s the question, because you’re opening yourself up to quite a mess.

Now, I’m not against allowing a trusted individual to assist with the time-consuming task of gift-gathering. In fact, such help sounds all kinds of wonderful. Your daughter would act as your personal shopper, leaving you to concentrate on more pressing matters.Ask Erica

However, willingly handing over your credit card numbers also means that you would be giving your daughter express permission to borrow money from your personal account. If she runs amok, you would be liable for the damages. This is a far cry from her stealing your card and going on an unauthorized spending spree, in which case you could be removed from legal and financial responsibility.

For this reason, I do not recommend allowing access to your credit card to your minor child — or anyone else for that matter. Instead, I have a few other ideas that can make the process simple and safe.

1. Find out if your credit card issuer offers concierge service. Some cards, especially the premium products, provide shopping assistance to cardholders. If yours does, a professional can help you identify and locate presents for everyone on your list — or at least the most vexing.

2. Let your daughter “like” items. One of the best aspects of online shopping is the ability to tag items with a “heart” or similar icon or add them to a virtual cart — and you don’t need to have a credit card ready to go. Choose a retailer where your daughter can do most, if not all, of the shopping, and let her fly! You will have final say, and can then charge what you want without her getting near your plastic. If she has done a particularly good job, you may even want to reward her with something special.

3. Consider a prepaid card. Another option is to load cash onto what looks like a credit card, but is really a prepaid card. There’s no borrowing involved and it’s not linked to money in a savings or checking account, so your credit and cash are protected. If you trust her to make savvy purchasing decisions, set some ground rules and let her shop: “Buy gifts for your cousins because you know what they like better than I do, but keep each gift to less than $25.” Most of these cards can be used just like a credit card — online or in stores — and if she loses it (or it’s stolen) the value remaining on the card may be replaced. The main downside is the fee structure, so shop carefully to keep costs down.

Or you can skip the myriad gifts altogether, and instead go for one big blowout, such as hosting a dinner at a restaurant or a party in your home. So many people place a ridiculous amount of pressure on themselves during the holiday season, and so much of it is unnecessary. Decide the amount you’re happy to spend, use the card with the best rewards to pay for it and make a plan to delete the balance quickly. Your loved ones will remember the event forever — unlike a random scarf which may just be tossed in a drawer and forgotten.

SEE ALSO: 5 ground rules for your teen authorized user

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