Dave Says: Don’t Pay Off Your Daughter’s College Credit Card

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Posted: Jan 30, 2019 1:17 PM
Dave Says: Don’t Pay Off Your Daughter’s College Credit Card

Dear Dave,

My daughter is in college, and I’ve always warned her to stay away from credit cards. Recently, I learned she got a department store credit card despite my advice. She has stayed within her credit limit, but she has never made any of the payments. At this point, she owes about $3,500. She’s a good student, and I want to look at this as a young person’s mistake. Should I pay it off for her this one time?

Joseph

Dear Joseph,

You’re right, this is a typical young person’s mistake. Like a lot of mistakes our kids make, it’s one that’s bad and wonderful at the same time. It’s bad because, if she had just listened to dear old dad, she would’ve avoided a mess. It’s wonderful, though, because it gives you the opportunity to provide her with a real world, teachable moment. 

I understand you wanting to help her out “this one time.” It means you have a good heart, and that you care about your daughter and love her. There’s a reality here, though, I hope you won’t overlook. It’s her debt, not yours. She knew what she was doing when she signed up for that credit card. She knew what it meant, what was expected, and she is the one who should have to make good on the repayment. The entire deal is legal and fair. 

At this point, my advice is to put your arm around her, talk to her, and lovingly explain where she went wrong and why it was a bad idea. You can even help her find a part-time job if she doesn’t have one right now, so she can pay off her debt and get out of this mess. But leave the payments to her. My guess is by the time she finishes working her tail off to pay this debt she will have learned a lesson she’ll remember for the rest of her life!

—Dave