Should a 3 Year Old have a Credit Card?

I don’t generally pay much attention to credit card offers I receive at home. I’ve opted out of most of them, but when a few squeak by, I usually shred them, envelope and all.

But one that came last night grabbed my attention.

No, it wasn’t a clever or unique marketing ploy. Or a chance to win a dream house or trip around the world.

What caught my eye was who the bank mailed the offer to. My three year old daughter! Three. Years. Old.

It didn’t take long to figure out how she ended up on their mailing list, but in 2011, I would expect a simple computer program would have “weeded” her out. After all, they have her birth date, so ruling her out should have been easy.

I suspect her name was pulled from an insurance beneficiary form, and since we share a last name, the company figured they’d offer us something “available to family members.” Wow, what a benefit!

So what’s wrong with this picture, other than the absurd nature of mailing a three year old a credit card application?

Identity Theft

Receiving any application in the mail for your child should raise a red flag. Especially young children, who should not have a credit file already active in their name.

But there in lies the problem. Many of the credit monitoring tools available for adults, probably shouldn’t be used for children. If your child doesn’t have a credit file, it will be difficult to obtain credit. If you use a monitoring service, or, you will have created a credit file and history for them.

However, ID theft of minors is a growing issue. Because of this, here are five steps you should take for your family to do what you can to lessen your risk and exposure.


  1. Opt Out – Receiving applications in your child’s name isn’t the end of the world, if you receive them, shred them, and contact the company to add your address and phone number to their do not call lists. Being on the national do not call list is fine, but if you have accounts with an institution, they can send you offers unless you also opt out through them. A preventative step would also be to remove yourself, and children from lists generated by the 3 credit bureaus. You can do this here:

  2. Watch your junk mail – Even though you’ve opted out, and added yourself to do not call registries, you still should keep an eye on what you receive. Further, if you are going on vacation, have a family member or trusted friend check on your house and pick up your mail and newspapers. Stop them only as a last resort, as unfortunately, stopping them for a week indicates to someone you don’t know that you’ll be gone.

  3. Keep social security numbers confidential – seems easy, right? Although most insurance companies have moved away from using the numbers as your ID, other places haven’t. Schools, and sports teams, often request the information along with birth certificates for proof of age. Ask if the information is absolutely necessary, and if so, how will it be stored and kept confidential. Only use their numbers when absolutely necessary!

  4. Be careful online – Connecting with friends and family online is a big part of our days it seems, but there are ways to do it that lessen your risk. Here are a few tips: Keep your connections to friends and people you know. That guy you “knew of” in high school but aren’t close with, probably shouldn’t be accepted. Limit location based information (your address, places you go, etc) to a minimum number of trusted friends. Pleaserobme.comsays it all.

  5. Teach them to be careful online – As your children get older, it is likely that they will access blogs, chat rooms, and social media sites. All of this is fine, but it is important for them to know what is appropriate to do online, and what isn’t. Children tend to be trusting, and are vulnerable to giving out sensitive information such as addresses, phone numbers, and yes, even social security numbers online.