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Your Financial Life

Q&A: Young adults, financial literacy and credit cards

By Julie Wenzel, Susan Darrow

3 minute read time

Julie Wenzel, VP Product Solutions Manager for Johnson Financial Group and Susan Darrow, AVP Branch Manager at our De Pere, Wisconsin location share financial literacy information for young adults. Susan recently led four days of conversations with incoming freshmen at a local college. Credit cards were a hot topic. The following Q&A with Julie and Susan addresses questions that regularly arise in conversation with young adults.

Q: Why should young adults consider applying for a credit card?

Susan: A credit card, when used responsibly, can be the first step for building good credit and creating a strong credit history. This credit history is crucial for many life events, such as getting a mortgage or car loan without co-signers on the loan. Having the ability to get a loan without a co-signer is part of real financial independence.

Beyond loans, credit scores often matter to landlords and affect the cost of insurance. Responsible credit card use also helps establish and reinforce budget management. By starting to build good habits early, young adults can create lifelong good money habits at a time when their expenses are limited.

Q: How should a credit card be used responsibly?

Julie: First, it's crucial to pay your monthly bill on time. Setting up auto-pay can help with this. Second, avoid maxing out your credit line. There are many online and digital tools to keep track of your spending and your budget. Check with your financial institution on what may work best for you. Third, aim to pay off the balance each month—but never fail to make at least the minimum payment.

Q: Why is it important for parents to encourage their children to get a credit card?

Susan: Often, parents may be reluctant about their children getting a credit card due to concerns about misuse. However, not having a credit card could be a disservice to their child, especially beyond the college years. Encouraging responsible credit card use can help young adults build a solid credit history, understand financial concepts, and develop good financial habits to last a lifetime. Young people are not generally taught about good financial habits in school. When I meet with them, I take the time to show them what a statement looks like, how to use credit card rewards, and how to make a payment. I’ve even taken out my own wallet and statements to illustrate how to create good money habits with credit cards.

Q: What type of credit card should young adults apply for?

Julie: For college students, a college rewards card might be a good option for many young people who are opening their first line of credit. Since most college students have non-existent or limited credit history, a college rewards card is designed for those looking to build good credit, while receiving rewards that are tailored to college students. For those in college or beyond, another option to help build credit is a secured card, which requires a cash deposit to serve as your credit limit.

Q: What kind of support can young adults expect from their bank in managing their credit card?

Susan: We’re here to have a conversation with you about your needs, help you understand the importance of credit, and guide you in managing your credit card. If any issues arise, like potential fraud, we are there to assist you through resolution. As a branch manager, I’ve helped people contact our card -issuer partner, deal with fraud, and address any sort of issues or questions they have with their credit cards.

Julie: Through our MyJFG online and mobile banking solution, you can view your credit score, link accounts at Johnson Financial Group and external accounts including credit cards, and use our budgeting tool to monitor your spending. These tools make it easy to create and maintain good financial hygiene and spot any problems early.

Q: What other benefits come with using a credit card?

Susan: Besides building a credit history and financial literacy, using a credit card can offer added benefits including rewards, such as cash back to travel miles depending on the card. Credit cards also offer zero-liability fraud protection.

Julie: Credit cards provide a convenient way to make purchases and offer a way to build credit. Whether you are beginning your financial journey or need to improve your credit score, a credit card will help establish or rebuild credit.


Julie Wenzel

Julie Wenzel

VP Product Solutions Manager | Johnson Financial Group

As Vice President, Product Solutions Manager, Julie oversees a suite of payment products and solutions for individuals and businesses. She is responsible for product life cycle management including strategy, project development, marketing and financial performance.

Susan Darrow

Susan Darrow

AVP Branch Manager | Johnson Financial Group

As Assistant Vice President, Branch Manager, Susan leads a team of knowledgeable financial professionals focused on building long-term client relationships. She also works with clients to understand their financial needs and can provide you with tailored, comprehensive banking solutions.