How to help teens establish credit

August 27, 2008 6:16:15 PM PDT
Most of us know the importance of a good credit rating. The problem for young people is how to establish one when you're just starting out.

The solution is called piggybacking -- kids and even spouses can piggyback on a loved one's good credit. For a while it looked like piggybacking would be prohibited. But now that's changed.

Monica Alleje of Union City is a senior at Sacramento state. The 22-year-old coed knows she'll need good credit when she gets out in the real world.

"Anytime I want later on in the distant future to purchase a home, buy a car, hopefully good credit would help me with that," said Alleje.

Wanda is Monica's mother. She's done her best to teach her children financial savviness.

"This is the best time to establish their credit," said Wanda Alleje.

Wanda has listed Monica on her credit card as an authorized user. That means Monica can use her mom's credit card. That also means Wanda is tied to her mother's credit rating.

"If the account holder misses a payment or maxes out the credit card that the authorized user is on, it actually can hurt the authorized user quite a bit," said Joe Ridout from Consumer Action.

But as long as mom's credit rating is good, so is Monica's.

Fair Isaac is the company that developed the widely used credit score, FICO. It announced a year ago it would no longer allow piggybacking.

"There are credit repair organizations out there where they can in essence act as a broker for a large fee to allow to a person to purchase their assess to someone's authorized user information," said Fair Isaac Vice President Tom Quinn.

But Fair Isaac has since developed a system to detect abuses and is still allowing piggybacking. That's good news for those who say piggybacking beats trying to get credit on their own.

"I know a lot of people that starting off early with credit cards and stuff like that, they generally don't know how to manage it well so they end up in a hole, and I don't want to do that," said Monica Alleje.

You should know piggybacking does come with risks. Parents are responsible for paying any charges their kids ring up. Monica's mom says parents need to be prepared to take that credit card away if the authorized user abuses the privilege.

Related Links:
Consumer Action: Families and credit cards.


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