Kids and Money – Credit Cards for 2 Year Olds?

Do you want your 2 year old “learning” to swipe a credit card?

This Christmas Noah (our 2 year old) was given a Shop and Learn Cash Register.

At first I was excited.

The nerd in me eagerly opened it up and secretly drooled over the idea that Noah was going to start learning about money. It had buttons, sounds, lights, a working coin drawer, a scanner and groceries to ring up. Perfect fun right?

Then I noticed it also came with a credit card.

I’d rather it not have a card at all — debit or credit — but still I wasn’t bothered at first because I figured I could just refer to it as a debit card and explain things as needed or just throw the toy plastic away.

Then I heard the register give the option to “scan the credit card or insert coins.”

To some people this may come as no surprise and to others it may not even matter but I find it extremely inappropriate for a “learning company” to promote the use of credit cards in kids toys.

I don’t care what side of the credit card debate you find yourself on — my question is this — is it really necessary to plant things such as this in the mind of a child? Aren’t credit cards and the responsibility that comes with them something a little more appropriate for high school students? Regardless of how you personally feel about credit cards I think that kids toys — especially ones in the “learning and development” category — should be more age appropriate.

The box says “Play and Learn”. Yeah…learn how to swipe a stupid credit card.

Not in our house!

Why is it necessary to have a credit card with a kids cash register — especially for a 2 year old?

Why not just have a register that allows your toddler to learn about coins, counting, and paying for groceries?

If the card or the toy would have promoted Visa or any brand of credit card I would have thrown it right in the trash and thankfully it didn’t. Noah loved it and I certainly didn’t want to hurt the feelings of the gift giver who already felt bad when she realized the part about the credit card.

I doubt many people think twice about this kind of thing but I think they should. Americans now owe 798 billion dollars in credit card debt so it’s safe to say we have a problem with the concept. Kids don’t need to be bombarded by something adults can’t even handle responsibly.

Kids are young and impressionable. To know that companies out there feel the need to even try marketing the idea of credit to a 2 year old is disgusting!

I wonder how many little girls had a “Cool Shopping Barbie” — that came with a Visa credit card and said “credit approved” when the card was swiped — and grew up thinking it was cool to swipe a credit card. ($798 BILLION…HELLO!)

Credit companies know what they are doing. They are trying to put the idea of credit in kids minds to secure their crappy financial products (and profits) for years to come.

I’m sure some will say I’m overreacting and maybe even a tad paranoid but I know millions of dollars are spent on marketing to children.

They don’t spend that much because they hope it works. They spend that much because IT DOES WORK!

What are your thoughts about this? Do you think I’m being ridiculous or do I have a legitimate gripe? Should 2 year old kids be “taught” about credit cards? We protect them from other things we feel they shouldn’t be introduced to at such early stages of development. Why is this different?

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21 Responses to “Kids and Money – Credit Cards for 2 Year Olds?”

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  1. Having a credit card included in kids’ toys seems to be more and more common. I saw a commercial recently for the latest version of Monopoly that has a credit card too – seems to be conditioning our kids to be using them as they get older. I wish we could customize the game to say “DENIED!”

    • Brad Chaffee says:

      It just seems sleazy to me. As I said, why does a 2 year old need to even be subjected to what adults themselves cannot handle responsibility. I do realize that my opinion is probably not held by the majority but it’s hard to argue with the fact that millions are spent in marketing products and influencing future generations and it’s not because they want to help them. They want their money!

  2. Amanda says:

    My girls have a “Princess” cash register that’s I really like because the key pad actually adds and tells the total. When you get to the “how you are going to pay” part of the transaction, you are given the option to use cash or your debit card (that you swipe and then enter your PIN).
    When I first saw the toy I, like you, was not thrilled about the card, but was ok with it being a debit, versus a credit card.

    • Brad Chaffee says:

      Sounds fun Amanda! I think it’s fine to have a debit card especially if the term debit card is used. At least then they will associate putting in their pin number with debit as opposed to credit. For a two year old it may be hard to distinguish between debit and credit since they both look and are used exactly the same. I agree though that a debit card is not as big a deal. I’m also glad to know that it’s not only me that has a problem with “credit card toys”. ๐Ÿ™‚

      Thanks for weighing in! ๐Ÿ˜€

  3. Jeffrey says:

    I think you’re complaint is legit, but I’m not surprised that toys have credit cards. Good or bad financial advice aside, credit cards are (unfortunately) now a part of our culture. I’m not saying it’s okay for that to be included in toys, but I would guess that whoever decided to put a credit card into this toy set was considering that a lot of transactions at cash registers now involve credit cards. I tend to think that portraying the reality of shopping rather than trying to instill capitalism was more of the goal here, but I could be wrong.

    • Brad Chaffee says:

      It’s definitely a possibility that the creator of that toy was thinking along being realistic Jeffrey though it’s not capitalism I’m afraid my kids learn, it’s the idea that using a credit card to pay for things is okay because it’s a societal norm. I think when kids toys are made much more goes into the process than being realistic though. Companies spend millions if not billions of dollars every year marketing products to our children. Capitalism and debt aren’t one in the same.

    • Brad Chaffee says:

      What? The toy or my opinion about the toy? ๐Ÿ˜€

      • The toy — Sorry, I should have been more clear — it reminds me of the candy cigarettes they had when I was a kid… I always wanted them :p

        • Brad Chaffee says:

          You too! I used to beg for those things. LOL I guess I should also add I started smoking when I was 16. Coincidence? Haha! What a bad idea for candy huh?

          I just think the register is a bit over the top for a toy labeled appropriate for 2 year olds. As Jeffrey pointed out it is completely possible that the toy was made in an effort to be realistic to today’s shopping environment but I personally believe there is more to it than that. It’s got me interested to see just how many toys out there do this sort of thing.

          Thanks for clarifying Ryan. I wasn’t going to tackle you or anything (LOL), I was just curious. I would have been perfectly fine with you disagreeing with my opinion. ๐Ÿ˜€

          • I don’t know if it’s a conscious, organized effort or if it’s just marketing that works so it’s replicated… it’s the same thing with credit cards.. there is that “cool” accessory factor in it.. I remember when I got my first credit card and for some reason I felt a little pride in it.. like, “Wow, look at this… Citibank must really think I’m something special to give me this credit card”.. haha, it’s silly but they have succeeded in creating that image around credit cards.

  4. spiffi says:

    Reminds me of the “new” version of Monopoly where the “banker” has a battery operated machine, and instead of having cash money that each player has to manage and actually use some math to pay for property and expenses – now you just hand over your card to the banker, who types in the amount and swipes your card – boop!

    • Brad Chaffee says:

      I haven’t played that version yet but at least it sounds like it’s more of a debit system as opposed to credit. I would really love to one day create a board game that taught people how to get out of debt. LOL I think that would be so awesome! ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. 101 Centavos says:

    How many a parent has heard “you could just put on the credit card” from a child, and smiled?

    • Brad Chaffee says:

      Haha! It’s true. Kids say the darnedest things. LOL They absorb information like a sponge and there’s no shortage of credit card commercials on the tube either. Add to that toys like this and a country full of parents that use and rely on credit cards and a kid saying something like that comes as no surprise.

      Not related to credit cards but money: My 5 year old (when he was 3 or 4) overheard my wife and I talking about our monthly budget and the fact that we had no more money left to buy my wife some extra Nursing scrubs. He looked at my wife and said “that lady over there is passing out money, go get some!”, as if he had just solved the world’s problems. He was referring to a cashier in the distance checking people out. He had seen her give people cash from the drawer. LOL He has said similar things about just going to the bank too. Now he knows the bank is holding money we earn but it was pretty funny at the time. If you think about it though it’s really no different than how adults spend money — as if it were an endless supply that never ran out. ๐Ÿ˜€

  6. Wow! And I thought getting my first card offer while I was in college, with no job and no income, was bad. Seriously, we have older kids and my wife runs a home daycare so all of the cash register type of toys have come with credit cards for many years.

    • Brad Chaffee says:

      It certainly makes it easier for a kid to grow up thinking it is absolutely okay to simply swipe your credit card when you want to buy something.

      Noah still loves it and for the most part is too young to understand what a credit card is or that the machine is giving him the option to use one, but he has really enjoyed ringing up his groceries and putting the coins in the slot. Good toy! It just would have been a lot better if it didn’t come with plastic debt. ๐Ÿ˜€

  7. This is crazy, but expected. Maybe he can use his credit card to buy some denim diapers. He better not cry when he’s 10 years old and you still have him doing chores to pay off the toys he’s long forgotten about.

    I actually didn’t used to think about it, but it is easy for an expired credit card or giftcard to end up in the toy pile. I’m going home to purge them out.

    • Brad Chaffee says:

      LOL You want to know what we did to illustrate what credit cards are good for? We cut them up and stuck them in a glass Christmas ornament that says “Financial Freedom…Priceless”. Every year the kids get to see that ornament and every year it causes questions to be asked. (so far) ๐Ÿ˜€

  8. I totally agree with you here. It is crazy.

    Financial literacy is horrid and it seems the credit card companies are trying to fill that void.

    • Brad Chaffee says:

      Well said KC! I think you’re right. The credit card companies are definitely attempting to take advantage of what we’re not teaching our children in school. I really hope financial literacy becomes more important in what’s expected academically. I can’t for the life of me figure out why we don’t treat this as a serious part of education in this country. It makes NO sense! Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts! ๐Ÿ˜€

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