As the class of 2008 graduates from high school, a good chunk will be heading off to college. There they will be bombarded with free t-shirts and bottle-openers: if only they'll just take a quick moment to fill out this credit card application. The average college student will graduate with $3 thousand in credit card debt -- which might not sound so bad until you think about the fact that many graduate with none, meaning that the average student who uses a credit card in college graduates with considerably more than $3 thousand in credit card debt. And don't even get me started on student loans.
Since the vast majority of kids will get credit cards (It can be helpful for building a credit history), your role as a parent is to educate Junior about the process. Here are some tips for helping your first time credit card user get off to a good (or at least not destructive start):
Pick a card with no annual fee -- There's just no reason to pay a fee on your first credit card. Few college kids spend enough money for any rewards to justify the fee. Generally this will mean paying a higher interest rate -- tell your kid the interest rate doesn't matter because if he ever carries a balance you will disown him.
De-emphasize the whole rewards thing: remember, credit companies offer rewards because they increase their profits. Getting a $50 savings bond for every $2000 you spend might sound wonderfully financially savvy, but it isn't if the joy of saving induces you into overspending.
Urge them not to place anything other than necessities on the credit card: textbooks, gas, and other costs that aren't likely to increase due to the convenience of plastic. Clothing and especially restaurant meals should be paid for with debit cards or, better yet, cash.
Rather than wait for some snake oil salesman to sign your child up for a credit card when you're hundreds of miles away, take the opportunity to do it together, now. The CreditCards.com Student Credit Cards page has 9 cards for you to choose from, and you can click the links and fill out an application in just a few minutes.