New collegian needs a credit card

DEAR HARRY: We have a son who is 17 and will be going away to college in the fall of '14. He will need some type of credit card. We'd also like to have him build up a favorable credit file so he can start out on the right foot when he graduates. A neighbor has suggested that I make him an authorized user on my card. I'm not too happy with this idea because I have a very high limit on the card, and I want to protect myself in case he manages poorly. Can you suggest something to accomplish my dual purposes?

WHAT HARRY SAYS: The easiest way is to get a new card with a lower credit limit, and make him an authorized user. The major credit-reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian, TransUnion) will start a file on him at 18 or before. When his data becomes available, a credit score will be calculated for him. From there on, he's on his way. Be sure to keep track of the action on the card, especially the payments. A bad history at the beginning of the game can take a long time to overcome.


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