The Law Actually Works…When You Know How to
A Practical Guide to D.C. Law for Teens and Young Adults
Work and Money
A part-time job is a great way to earn money, make friends, or learn a new skill. Depending on your age, there are certain rules to follow:
Teens and $$$
I have a job…why can’t I buy a car/motorcycle, or get credit cards on my own?
Buying expensive items that require monthly payments or getting a typical credit card requires that you sign a “contract.” Before you turn 18 you cannot enter contracts without your parents “co-signing” for you (this means your parents are also responsible under the contract). Most sellers won’t enter contracts with minors because by law, you can get out of such contracts or agreements before you turn 18. The creditor (a person lending money, services or goods to you that has a right to be paid for them) could risk losing a lot of money. This is why your parents have to co-sign any agreements (making them liable for the payments if you fail to pay or say you’ve “changed your mind” about the purchase).
You can, however, enter certain limited contracts before you turn 18, namely for “necessities” (usually food, clothing, shelter, etc.). In D.C. minors over the age of 15 can also enter contracts for life insurance. See D.C. Code Ann. § 31-4330 (2001), on the contractual rights of minors.
So, where does this leave you? How can you purchase items with your own money (especially these days when you buy things online and need plastic) without your parents’ help?
Credit Cards for Teens
Teen credit cards include the M2Card, Visa Buxx, and Cobaltcard. You can get these cards (with parental permission) as young as age 13 and up to the age of 22 (for students in college). Cobaltcard (American Express owned) allows teens 16 and over to get a card without parental consent.9 A lot of people feel that these cards are bad for teens because they get kids hooked on credit and tempt kids into debt at a young age. Others feel these cards are a good way to teach teens how to act responsibly with their money.
Parents can check how you are spending your money with online websites that track your usage of your card and purchases.10 Some cards will not allow you to purchase pornography, alcohol or tobacco products online. Others will highlight “questionable” purchases for your parents to see.
For tips on handling credit cards and learning about debt, read How to Teach Your Children About Credit Cards—Before It’s Too Late by Libby Wells, Bankrate.com, available at www.bankrate.com/brm/news/cc/20000508a.asp.