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Living with credit

Forget clothes: Teens using credit for gas

Emily Crone

Think teenagers spend all their money on food and fun? Not anymore. According to a ninth annual poll about teens and personal finance conducted by Junior Achievement and The Allstate Foundation, gasoline is now teenagers’ No. 1 credit card expense — surpassing clothing, which led in previous polls.

The poll found that 68.6 percent of teens currently use credit cards to buy gas. Last year, that figure was at 51.9 percent, and the year before, at 45.9 percent.

Additionally, more parents are helping teens pay their credit card bills — 13 percent this year, up from 11 percent in 2007. According to Junior Achievement, this may be “indicating that many teens are not learning for themselves the importance of paying bills on time, and other sound financial practices.”

I understand that in tough times, it’s easier to turn to credit. I also understand why more parents are currently footing the gas bill — teens are in school full-time, and if they are in honors classes and multiple extra-curriculars like I was, holding a job anytime besides summer is impossible. In high school, I was an authorized user on my mom’s credit card so I could buy gas, and that’s before a gallon went much, if any, above $2. While I was very responsible with the card, I realize I didn’t truly didn’t understand how credit worked at the time — I just thought of it as “Mom’s money.” Fortunately for her, I didn’t go wild with it, though I’m sure with many teens, that’s more of a risk.

Do you think parents should be handing over their credit cards to help out their teenagers in these tough times?

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  • No, I don’t think parents should be helping their kids get credit cards or develop poor spending habits. Cash-only systems are best in college. If you don’t have the money, you can’t spend it.