A story of Two Teens and a Credit Card

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A Story of Two Teens and a Credit Card

Written by Karen M. Chan, CFP®

Extension Educator, Consumer and Family Economics, University of Illinois Extension


Three chairs at front of room

“Microphone” that show host can put in front of Beth’s and Angela’s faces

Sign for the show, Real Life with Karen

The characters

Show Host Karen (played by an adult, usually the program organizer)

Beth and Angela, 19-year old best friends (played by teen audience volunteers)

Credit expert (played by an adult or teen audience volunteer)


  • Make copies of the Credit Expert’s remarks (1), the background information sheets for the Beth and Angela characters (enough for half the audience of each one), and the Show Host instructions (1).

  • Download and print copies of the fact sheets from Credit Card Smarts, a publication from University of Illinois Extension at http://web.extension.illinois.edu/creditcardsmarts/menu_factsheets.cfm. These two fact sheets are the most pertinent to this lesson, but you may want to print some of the others as well:

  • Check Your Credit Report

  • Choose the Best Credit Card

The Setup
Angela and Beth have agreed to appear on the talk show, Real Life with Karen.
What both Angela and Beth know:
Beth and Angela have been friends since they were kids. They graduated from high school last year, with almost exactly the same grade point average. They’re taking the same classes at their local community college, and they got similar jobs that pay about the same.

They decided to move into an apartment together. They found two that they liked and could afford. They filled out one application in Angela’s name. The application for the one they liked best was filled out in Beth’s name. The apartment application in Angela’s name was approved.

Secrets that will be revealed on the show:
Angela’s secret: She doesn’t feel like she and Beth are getting along very well any more. She’s been jealous of Beth and her “material goods” for awhile. And more recently, Beth has been short-tempered and gotten kind of nasty with Angela a couple of times. She doesn’t want to go through with getting an apartment together, but she doesn’t know how to tell Beth.
Beth’s secret: Beth has been paying for all these nice things with her credit card. She hasn’t been able to pay the credit card bills, and she has a bad credit history. The apartment application in Beth’s name was turned down. There was a note attached to the notice that Beth had been turned down, saying that it had to do with something called her credit report.
The resolution:

The show has arranged for a credit expert to come on and teach the girls about credit cards and credit history. The goal: Beth will stop using her credit cards until she has them completely paid off. (That means she’ll actually have less money to spend than Angela until she does get them paid off.) The friends cry, hug, and make up.

A Story of Two Teens and a Credit Card
Show Host/Coordinator
Divide the audience in half, down the middle of the room. The audience on one side are Beth’s supporters. Give them each a copy of the same background info that “Beth” has. The other side are Angela’s supporters, and they have the same background info as Angela. By giving the audience this information, they can help prompt Angela and Beth if one of them gets tongue-tied on the show.

Ask for three volunteers who read well and would like to be on a talk show. This script is written for two teen girls to be the main characters. If you have a male volunteer, he can be the credit expert. Be prepared to prompt and help out the two teen girls if they can’t think how to respond to your questions on the “talk show.”

Encourage audience involvement. Prompt them to boo, clap, hiss, etc., in reaction to the information that Angela and Beth reveal. Tell one side of the audience that they ar Beth’s friends, and the other that they are Angela’s friends. You can call on Beth’s side of the audience, or Angela’s side of the audience, to support their girl or to supply information the girls are forgetting.
Feel free to ad lib and add to the suggested script provided here.
Greet the audience:

Welcome to Real Life with Karen!! Today we have two special guests. Let’s meet our first guest, Angela.
The show host brings Angela out, and says to the audience:

Angela has been best friends with Beth since they were little kids. They graduated from high school together, and now they’re planning to get an apartment together.
But Angela doesn’t like how the friendship is going right now. She’s come on the show to tell Beth that they are no longer best friends and she won’t be moving into an apartment with her.
The show host says to the audience:

Beth is waiting to come on stage. She thinks she’s here to talk about best friends.
Beth! Come out and join us!
Beth comes out, the audience applauds, and Beth takes her seat.

Beth, tell us what it’s like to have a best friend like Angela.
Beth ad-libs about their friendship.
Show Host:

Beth, Angela has a secret she wants to tell you.
Angela ad libs (about not wanting to be friends or share an apartment, and the reasons).
Show host: Make sure she talks about the jealousy about the clothes, etc., and the arguments—that Beth has gotten short-tempered.
Show Host:

Beth, what do you have to say for yourself?

Prompt Beth, if needed, about how she was able to afford the clothes, etc.

And why has she been so difficult recently? Has she been under a lot of stress?

Beth, do you also have a secret you’ve been keeping from Angela? (about her bad credit, not paying her bills, and getting turned down for the apartment because of that.)
Angela, how do you feel about her keeping this from you?
Angela ad libs.
Show Host:

Beth and Angela, we have another surprise for you. When you filled out the forms agreeing to come on the show, one of those forms allowed us to get a credit report on each of you. A credit report shows whether you’ve borrowed money from anyone—which includes using a credit card—and how well you’ve paid your bills.
So, Beth, we already knew that you were having credit problems. To help both of you get this all straightened out, we’ve brought in the Credit Card Expert, Mr./Ms. Thomas.
Audience, please welcome Mr./Ms. Thomas (Thomas comes out.)
Mr./Ms. Thomas, what do you have to say to the girls?
Ms. Thomas reads the material about credit.
Show Host: Briefly talk with the girls and the audience about what Ms. Thomas has taught them about credit cards.

Beth, do you think you can follow Ms. Thomas’ advice, and get those credit cards paid off?
Angela, now that you understand what has been causing Beth to act differently these last few months, are you willing to be her friend?
Angela and Beth hug and make up, promising to remain best friends and use credit cards wisely.
Discuss the fact sheets from University of Illinois Extension’s Credit Card Smarts series.

A Story of Two Teens and a Credit Card

Name: Beth

Age: 19
Education: Graduated high school last year with a 3.0 grade point average. Taking classes with your best friend, Angela, at one of the City Colleges of Chicago.
Employment: Working about 30 hours a week at a daycare center.

You and Angela have been best friends since you were little kids. You graduated together from high school.

While you were a senior in high school, you got a credit card. You didn’t use it much until after you graduated, but since then you’ve been charging more and more on the card. It felt great. You could have whatever you wanted. You bought lots of new clothes and an I-Pod. And you get your hair braided or colored whenever you want.
You charged that card all the way up to the limit—your credit limit, the maximum you can charge on the account. So you got another card. And kept charging.
Now, you are having trouble even making the minimum monthly payments on both cards. You’ve been late with your payments several times, and you’ve stopped making payments on one of them. You’ve been getting nasty letters and phone calls from that credit card. They’ve turned your account over to a collection agency and they’re constantly calling and writing you for the money.
The stress is really getting to you. You’ve been picking fights with everyone, including Angela. So when Angela asked you to go on a talk show with her to talk about being best friends, you felt like you owed it to her. Plus, the show will pay you each some money. That will really help with the credit cards.

The two of you recently decided to rent an apartment together. You found two places that you liked and could afford. You filled out one of the applications in Angela’s name, and the other in your name. The one Angela filled out was approved. But yours wasn’t. You haven’t told Angela yet.

Angela doesn’t know anything about your credit problems.

A Story of Two Teens and a Credit Card

Name: Angela
Age: 19
Education: Graduated high school last year with a 3.0 grade point average. Taking classes with your best friend, Beth, at one of the City Colleges of Chicago.
Employment: Working about 30 hours a week at a fast food place.

You and Beth have been best friends since you were little kids. You graduated together from high school.

Recently, you’ve gotten a little jealous of Beth. Beth always seems to have the perfect clothes, including lots of cute shoes and some “extras” that you can’t afford, like the newest I-Pod or expensive hair styling.
You really want to keep Beth as your best friend, but you feel like she’s showing you up. It just doesn’t seem fair. Plus, Beth has seemed kind of angry and short-tempered recently.
The two of you recently decided to rent an apartment together. You found two places that you liked and could afford. You filled out one of the applications in Beth’s name, and the other in your name. Since your friendship with Beth isn’t going so well, you’re having second thoughts about sharing an apartment with her.

You have agreed to go on the teen talk show, Real Life with Karen, to talk about it. But Beth thinks that the show is just about having best friends.

A Story of Two Teens and a Credit Card

The credit expert, Mr. or Ms. Thomas
You come on the show to tell the girls how to use a credit card wisely and avoid problems in the future. Here’s your speech:

When we pulled Beth’s credit report, all those late payments and non-payments were on it, as well as the fact that one credit card has turned her account over to a collection agency.

Many teens make the same mistakes that Beth made. Credit cards can be easy to get. It may not even feel like you’re spending real money when you use it. Is that how it felt, Beth? The cards only require you to pay a small percentage each month of what you owe, so it feels like you can afford to charge a lot. But you can quickly get in over your head. Even if Beth never charges another dime on her cards, it could take her 20 years or more to pay them off. The $2000 of fun purchases she made could end up costing her closer to $5000.
Many credit card users pay off their cards entirely each month. Beth, once you get caught up, that should be your goal. Pay it off each month, and you’ll never pay a penny of interest.
There is another kind of “plastic” that gives you some of the same advantages of a credit card. It’s a debit card. Debit cards are tied to a checking account. When you make a purchase using a debit card, you’re spending your own money from your checking account. You’re not borrowing money, as you are when you use a credit card.
Until Beth gets her spending under control, she should use her debit card instead of her credit card, so she can only spend the money she really has. If your debit card has a MasterCard or Visa logo on it, you can use the card anywhere that accepts credit cards. Those debit cards may look like credit cards, but they will have the word “Debit” or “Check card” spelled out somewhere on the front of the card.

The negative information on Beth’s credit history—the late payments and being turned over to a collection agency—will stay on her credit history for seven years. The only way to clean up her credit is to start paying all her bills on time. After a year or two of paying on time, creditors will be more willing to give you credit, or offer you a better interest rate.

I also have a few words for Angela: Just because someone LOOKS like they have money doesn’t mean anything. They may be in debt over their heads, just like Beth is. As long as you’re living within your means, don’t waste your energy being jealous of others. Besides, Beth is going to pay a high price. While she’s paying off her credit cards, she’ll have very little money to spend on anything.

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