Q&A: Adding a child as a credit card user

Dear Liz: I’ve read that adding a child as an authorized user on your credit card could help build his or her credit history. But I was specifically told that this was not the case, as the child’s Social Security number was not primary.

Answer: Whoever told you may not have understood how authorized user activity typically is reported, or may have been talking about a specific issuer’s policy.

Adding someone as an authorized user to a credit card typically results in the history for that card being added to the authorized user’s credit report. That in turn can help the authorized user build credit history and improve his or her credit scores.

Some smaller issuers, such as credit unions or regional banks, may not report authorized user activity to the three credit bureaus, but all of the major credit card companies do. Some of these big issuers, however, don’t report the information if the authorized user is younger than a certain age or if the information is negative. The age cutoff varies by issuer. For American Express and Wells Fargo, for example, it’s 18; for Barclays, it’s 16 and for Discover, it’s 15. Other major issuers don’t have an age cutoff. American Express and U.S. Bank also won’t report to the authorized user’s credit file if the account is delinquent.

The credit bureaus, in turn, have their own policies. TransUnion includes whatever the issuers report. Equifax adds the information to the credit report if the authorized user is at least 16. Experian adds the information supplied by the issuers, regardless of age, but will remove it if the original account becomes “derogatory” — which typically means payments are skipped or the account is charged off.

If you want to help a child build credit by adding the child as an authorized user, you’ll want to make sure you’re adding him or her to a card that will actually do some good. A quick call to the issuer can help you find out its policy on reporting authorized user activity.

Q&A: This son’s failure to launch is hurting his parent’s finances

Dear Liz: I have a 24-year-old son who has been trying to get through college for nearly seven years. I have helped him with direct gifts and by co-signing loans, but I am pretty tapped out. He tells me he has one year left but has no way to pay for it. He is disorganized and not particularly motivated, although he does talk about things he’s learning and I think is at least somewhat committed to school (he maintains about a B to C average at the state school he attends). He has moved back home to save money and is working full time but had gone many months without a job in the last year. He accumulated credit card debt and generally is a financial disaster.

Do I take out a second mortgage or co-sign another loan, which would be a stretch for me, or do I watch him drop out of school, which seems a really harsh life lesson? I know he might be able to take a year off and then go back, but let’s be honest — if he takes a break, it becomes less likely that he’ll ever return.

Answer: You sound like you’re more than tapped out. You already may be overextended because those private education loans you co-signed are just as much your responsibility as his — and he doesn’t sound like a terrific credit risk, at least at this point. Doubling down by borrowing more money doesn’t seem like the wisest choice for either of you.

Taking a break from school could increase the chances he won’t get his degree, but it also could give him time to get his financial life in better shape and perhaps tackle some of the issues impeding his progress. His disorganization and slow pace through school could point to an underlying problem such as a learning disability or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). His college may have a counseling center that could connect him with resources to help, or you could ask your family physician for a referral.

Monday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: How to decipher your college aid. Also in the news: What to do when your income peaks before you’re ready, 9 tips for 2019 college grads anticipating their first paychecks, and how your child’s sports could be sabotaging your financial health.

Accepted! How to Decipher Your College Aid
Making sense of the fine print.

Your Income Can Peak Before You’re Ready
Taking stalled wages into account.

9 Money Tips for 2019 College Grads Anticipating Their First Paychecks
How to spend, save, invest, and pay down.

Your child’s sports could be sabotaging your financial health
The high cost of youth sports.

Tuesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: How Free Money bank promotions can boost your savings. Also in the news: Apple’s new credit card is generous if you use Apple Pay, how to reclaim tax breaks you may have missed in recent years, and matching your kid’s IRA contributions to incentivize savings.

How ‘Free Money’ Bank Promotions Can Boost Your Savings
A good way to build your emergency fund.

New Apple Card Is Generous, but Only Through Apple Pay
Regular rewards are on the skimpy side.

Reclaim Tax Breaks You May Have Missed in Recent Years
The clock is ticking.

Match Your Kid’s IRA Contributions to Incentivize Savings
Encouraging savings early.

Monday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Electric scooter haters could be missing a chance to save money. Also in the news: Picking the wrong money goals, how and when your student loan interest rate may change, and 4 essential tips when teaching young kids about finance.

Are Electric Scooter Haters Missing a Chance to Save Money?
Better for the environment and your wallet?

Are You Picking the Wrong Money Goals?
What you should be focusing on.

Know How and When Your Student Loan Interest Rate May Change
Don’t be caught by surprise.

4 Essential Tips When Teaching Young Kids About Finance
Lifelong lessons.

Thursday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: 4 ways to get a sales price when there isn’t a sale. Also in the news: What to buy and skip in September, why your kid’s after-school job may mean tax homework for you, and why your credit card debt is worse than your mortgage debt.

4 Ways to Get a Sale Price When There Isn’t a Sale
It can be as simple as just asking for one.

What to Buy (and Skip) in September
Skip the televisions.

Your Kid’s After-School Job May Mean Tax Homework for You
When to file a return.

Your Credit Card Debt Is Worse Than Your Mortgage Debt
The difference between good and bad debt.

Thursday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Why your kid should help pay for college. Also in the news: 5 reasons for flyers to love the middle seat, tips for Labor Day sales, and why you should prioritize building up your cash reserves.

Why Your Kid Should Help Pay for College
It’s their education, after all.

5 Reasons for Flyers to Love the Middle Seat
No, really.

Work Less, Save More at Labor Day Sales With These Tips
Bargain hunting.

Prioritize Building Up Your Cash Reserves
Creating a cushion.

Thursday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Intern with a 401(k)? Here’s how to make it pay. Also in the news: 6 big ways credit can affect your life, helping your kid start a business, and a new game show pays off winner’s student loans.

Intern With a 401(k)? Here’s How to Make It Pay
Make long-term gains from short-term work.

6 Big Ways Your Credit Can Affect Your Life
Where you live, work, and play.

Can You Afford to Help Your Kid Start a Business?
Beyond the lemonade stand.

New game show ‘Paid Off’ offers chance to eliminate student loan debt
Welcome to 2018.

Thursday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Bucking tradition at your wedding can help you save money. Also in the news: How schools can teach kids to be smart consumers, what to buy (and skip) in April, and how to save for retirement without a 401(k).

Engaged? Bucking Tradition Can Help You Save Big
Thinking outside the box.

How Schools Can Teach Kids To Be Smart Consumers
Learning lifelong skills.

What to Buy (and Skip) in April
Be careful with that refund.

How to save for retirement without a 401(k)
Options for the self-employed.

Tuesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: How your money story can help you break free. Also in the news: Why you should freeze your child’s credit, 4 things that could make you a target for a tax audit, and what happens if you don’t pay a debt.

How Your Money Story Can Help You Break Free
Going way back to the beginning.

Why You Should Freeze Your Child’s Credit
Even children can be victim’s of identity theft.

4 Things That Could Make You a Target for a Tax Audit
Don’t leave yourself vulnerable.

What Happens if You Don’t Pay a Debt?
Nothing good.