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credit & debt

Prepaid Cards & Teen Checking

Some solid options to make sure your traveling teen isn't penniless.

My 13-year-old son is flying alone to go to summer camp in Colorado. I’d like him to have access to extra money in an emergency, but I think he’s too young for a credit card. What do you suggest? --H.T., Lynchburg, Va.

You could get him a prepaid credit card, such as the American Express Bluebird card, which will let him charge up to the amount you load on it. You generally need to be 18 to apply for the card, but Amex lets an adult add up to four family members age 13 or older and charges no activation or monthly fees.

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Or you could open a checking account for him. Wells Fargo’s account for teens 13 to 17 requires an adult co-owner but gives the teen a Visa debit card and makes it easy for parents to transfer money from other accounts and for teens to make deposits. There’s no monthly fee if you sign up for online-only statements. Alliant Credit Union, which was Kiplinger’s runner-up for Best Banks for Students, offers free teen checking with no activation or minimum balance fees.

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