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Teen credit concerns

More cards going to young people

NEW YORK -- The credit-card generation is getting younger.

A recent poll of teenagers who participate in the Junior Achievement program found that more than 11 percent are carrying credit cards, and some of them are as young as 13 or 14. In addition, three out of 10 teenagers have checking accounts, and many are likely linked to automated teller machines with debit cards.

''We were a little surprised at the numbers," said Darrell Luzzo, senior vice president for education at JA Worldwide of Colorado Springs. ''Having a credit card is not necessarily a terrible thing, so long as they're being educated about the appropriate financial principles."

But while 82 percent of the teen credit card users said they paid their bills in full every month, 18 percent said they carried balances -- a practice that has gotten some parents in trouble.

''That isn't great," Luzzo said. ''After a little more education, we'd hope that 82 percent would rise."

Financial experts are concerned about the issue of teen credit, although cards generally must be cosigned by parents if a child is younger than 18.

The key is parents in teaching children how to use both credit and debit cards -- and in monitoring their children's use of plastic, said Laura Levine, executive director of the JumpStart Coalition for Personal Finance Literacy, a nonprofit educational group.

Levine suggests parents who do get cards for their children sit down and go over their monthly statements, talking about things like interest rates, the importance of paying on time and spending habits.

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