Lisa Weinberger

Lisa Weinberger is the Chief Content Officer of PrimeRates. She has been featured on Bankrate, The Altucher Report, Fidelity, Business Insider, and Conductor.

teaching personal finance to high school students

The case for teaching personal finance to high school students

Studies have long supported that students who advance further in high school math have higher wages and are more likely to be unemployed.

But of all the classes student are required to take, math proves the most difficult because students may question the relevance of using it in “real life” situations.

While it may be true that some of the more abstract mathematical concepts rarely come into play, the fundamental skills developed in school often resurface in real-world and work-related problems years down the road.

The problem is that the majority of American students never get the opportunity to learn the financial math skills that prepare to successfully manage money. And that's where teaching personal finance comes into play.

Yet sadly, only 17 states require high schools to provide a financial education course, according to the Council for Economic Education. And only 6% of high school graduates are ready to make financial choices — like how much money to borrow for college or what credit cards to open.

That needs to change.

Here's the case for teaching personal finance to high school students:

The opportunity cost of our money choices

From budgeting to comparing credit card offers and evaluating purchases, we’re constantly making choices with our money. Yet, nearly two thirds of Americans can’t calculate interest payments correctly.

Schools teach mathematical theory and how to crunch numbers, yet they neglect teaching personal finance. Young adults are getting students loans and credit cards before they know how to properly manage money or pay down their debt.

“We as a nation do a great job of producing doctors, teachers, engineers and mechanics, but we don’t prepare them for what to do with that first paycheck,” says Gene Natali, author of The Missing Semester.

Natali teaches at the University of Pittsburgh and at several high schools around the Pittsburgh region. She says that students and young folks want to make good financial decisions, and they see the opportunity to learn about money at a young age, but just aren’t sure how to get started.

“When I first started teaching, I used scare tactics about student loan and credit card debt, and I quickly realized that scaring students isn’t the way to get them interested in good money management and habits. Instead, I reversed course and started talking about the opportunity of money.”

Natali uses the example of a high school student with a summer job who opens a Roth IRA, putting in $1,000 of her hard-earned money each year until she retires at age 70. “When I show students the money they can grow from just an initial deposit into a Roth IRA, their mouths drop to the floor and suddenly their interest is peaked."

Natali says the lesson we need to teach is not telling kids what they need to learn, but rather, showing them what they’re missing if they don’t save early and often.

Spending today brings immediate benefits or gratification. The opportunity cost is that you will have less money to buy goods and services in the future. Saving builds wealth to buy goods and services such as a car, house or vacation.

Financial lessons “just in-time” at home and in school

Ideally, personal finance concepts should be taught in elementary, middle and high school, and then continue into college.

Schools can use financial math to teach students decision-making skills for the real world. That means bringing concepts such as budgeting, building credit, purchasing a car and other real life events directly to the student.

Some states are starting to get behind that concept. In fact, several states are proposing bills that would allow students the option to take a course in personal financial literacy and have it count as a credit toward graduation requirements.

This idea of "just-in-time" financial education, where students learn about a very specific topic just before they do it, is supported by many financial advisors.

For example, a lesson about student loans in high school would be in line with the financial decisions they'll make if they have to pay for college or trade school.

Natali supports the idea of teaching personal finance to students and the main financial issues that will impact them most, including students loans, credit cards and the wonder of compound interest.

“When I’m lecturing at the University level and I ask students whether they have a fixed or floating student loan, they just stare at me with blank expressions,” says Natali. “It’s almost criminal that learning institutions are allowing kids to take out hundreds of thousands of dollars without them understanding the consequences.”

The number of financial decisions an individual must make continues to increase, and the variety and complexity of financial products continues to grow.

“We’re battling forces that we can’t fight unless we point to the opportunity to learn how to set ourselves up for success,” says Natali. “Every young person can control their financial future independent of their background.”

The 5 Best Types Of Milestone Credit Cards

If you have a limited credit history, have mismanaged your credit or filed bankruptcy in the past, you’re not condemned to a life of credit hell. In fact, there’s opportunity to repair and recover your credit when you manage it wisely. And the credit-building opportunities that come with Milestone credit cards can help.

Though they often come with more stipulations, fees and higher interest rates than prime credit cards, unsecured subprime credit cards are a good way to build or rebuild credit. That's because they have been developed specifically for people with bad credit.

Having bad credit can make life extremely difficult. Poor credit can impact your ability to get a job and even find a place to live. A recent survey by U.S. News and World Report found that 68% of people with bad credit (scores under 640) are trying to improve their credit.

If you’re looking to improve your credit, and thinking about picking up one of the Milestone credit cards, research the following cards types to make an educated decision before signing up.

Here's a look at the best types of Milestone credit cards: 

Overall, the Milestone MasterCard caters specifically to consumers with no credit history and blemished credit, so approval is more likely than it would be with many other cards. Card activity is also reported regularly to the credit bureaus, which can help increase your credit score with responsible use. While there's one main Milestone credit card, there are several versions the company issues for different situations and various wants and needs from customers.

1. Milestone Gold MasterCard

When it comes to subprime credit cards, the Milestone Gold MasterCard is one of the better options as it carries a lower APR (23.9%) than most of its competition. It’s also a good choice for anyone looking to rebuild their credit after bankruptcy.


  • Prequalification will not impact your credit score
  • You can qualify if you have less than perfect credit
  • Mobile account access at any time
  • Protection from fraud if your card is stolen
  • Account history is reported to the three major credit bureaus in the U.S.

Annual Fee:

  • $35 to $99: The annual fee is based on your credit profile and not everyone will qualify for the lowest cost annual fee.


Upon approval, you’ll receive a $300 minimum credit limit based on your creditworthiness, income, debt and other qualification factors. Keep in mind that a portion of your credit limit includes the annual fee.

Remember, this credit card is to help you get back on your feet and not meant to hold onto for a long time. Use it for a while until you can improve your creditworthiness to graduate to a less expensive credit card.

Apply for the Milestone Gold Mastercard

2. Milestone MasterCard Unsecured for Less than Perfect Credit 

If you have poor credit, this Milestone credit card is a good option among subprime card choices. The great thing about this card is the initial screening process. It gives you a better idea of whether you’ll get approved before you’re dinged by a hard inquiry, which avoids making your already poor credit worse.


  • Easy pre-qualification process which does not affect your credit score
  • Less than perfect credit is okay
  • 24/7 access to your account information, even on mobile
  • Protection from fraud, if your card happens to be lost or stolen
  • Account history is reported to the three major credit bureaus in the U.S.

Annual Fee:

  • $35 to $99


This choice in the Milestone line of credit cards provides a second chance for people who couldn’t otherwise get a line of credit with their poor or non-existent credit. So, it’s important you use it wisely. If you don’t, expect an indefinite penalty APR of 29.9% should your account become delinquent. You will also be assessed an over-the-limit fee of $35 if you exceed the credit limit.

3. Milestone Mastercard with Mobile Access to Your Account

Just beginning your credit history and need access to your account while on the go? Then this card from Milestone is a good start. It requires a slightly better credit score than the cards mentioned above. But again, it’s a great start for beginners. The APR is on the lower side among the competition at 23.9%.


  • Instant pre-qualification is available for those who qualify
  • Mobile friendly online access from anywhere
  • Pick from multiple card designs at no extra charge
  • Account history is reported to the three major credit bureaus in the U.S.

Annual Fee:

  • $35 to $99


If you need to access your account on your smartphone, this card is a good option. But remember, it should just be used as a temporary measure to help build credit, not as a long-term credit card. By making regular on-time monthly payments, you can build your credit history by demonstrating the kind of financial responsibility that lenders look for in evaluating your creditworthiness.

4. Milestone Mastercard with Free Choice of Card Image

Want to showcase your personality while building credit? This card might be for you. It allows you to pick out your own image. And that's in addition to identity theft resolution services, extended warranty coverage and price protection. The APR, like the other cards on this list, is 23.9%.


  • Applying is quick and easy with a fast decision process
  • Less than perfect credit is okay
  • 24/7 access to your account information, even on mobile
  • Card designs to fit your personality at no extra charge
  • Account history reported to the three major credit bureaus in the U.S.

Annual Fee:

  • $35 to $99


If you're the type who likes a card with a little flavor, this option from Milestone is a solid choice. Along with everything the standard Milestone card offers, it also allows you to pick out your favorite image in order to showcase some personality.

5. Milestone Gold Mastercard, Bad Credit Considered 

Not all credit cards will consider consumers with bad credit, but this card from Milestone is an exception. In addition, foreign transaction fees on the Milestone Gold Mastercard (1%) are lower than competitor’s fees of 3%, making a good choice if you're planning on traveling overseas.


  • Application is quick and easy with instant pre-qualification available
  • All credit histories considered
  • Access your account online or form your mobile device 24/7
  • Choice of card image at no extra charge
  • Account history is reported to the three major credit bureaus in the U.S.

Annual Fee:

  • $35 to $99


Bad credit can be a major burden when picking out a credit card, since many lenders simply won't accept consumers with credit that isn't in tip-top shape. Fortunately, Milestone credit cards like this one consider all applicants.

Should you get one of these cards?

“It’s important to compare different credit cards for bad credit, before jumping on the first one,” says credit card expert Beverly Harzog. “Make sure to be strategic in the cards you’re applying for by researching which credit card companies cater to consumer with bad credit. And don’t appear desperate by applying for every card you can because you’ll only damage your already bad credit even more.”

Bottom line: The cost of building or rebuilding your credit can be expensive, but if you’re responsible and follow the rules, you’ll be able to jump to a lower APR card and continue to improve your score and your overall financial life.

Are there different Milestone Credit Cards?

Mastercard® offers a Milestone Credit Card product line. While each individual product may share similarities, the ins and outs of the offers may be different. One thing they all have in common, though, is an annual fee. The Milestone Mastercard® - 300 has the lowest annual fee at $35 per year. Annual fees can reach up to $99 annually. While these fees may seem rather low, it’s important to remember the card does not come with rewards. Annual fees can vary depending on the applicant, so it’s important to review your personalized offer. When you take out a credit card, you are entering an agreement. It’s important to understand what you’re agreeing to so that you can fulfill the obligation and boost your credit score by being a responsible borrower.

What is the highest limit on Milestone Credit Cards?

One of the drawbacks of the Mastercard Milestone Credit Card is a low credit limit, maxing out in the hundreds of dollars amounts. However, compared to other options that might require a security deposit, bad credit borrowers can appreciate any amount of unsecured credit. While some may ding the Mastercard® Milestone Credit Card for high fees, low credit limits, no rewards, and high APR, bad credit borrowers may have limited options. This does not mean you should be desperate and take any offer, but you should be realistic about options and the path forward on your credit journey.

Are Milestone Cards worth it?

The Mastercard® Milestone Credit Card is designed to help borrowers build or establish credit. Whether you are new to credit or have blemished credit from past experiences, such as bankruptcy, a Milestone Credit Card might be able to help boost your score. However, as you may know, subprime (or bad credit) loans or credit cards can come with hefty fees and interest rates. Not to mention the restrictions that might be attached. 

Choosing not to rebuild your credit, though, can be costly, too. We encourage borrowers to read the Milestone Credit Card offer or agreement carefully. Additionally, it can be beneficial to understand how to maximize the benefits fully. There are other ways to build or rebuild credit, too, so you may want to consider alternatives side-by-side. 

Determining if a Milestone Credit Card is worth it is a decision you’ll need to make for yourself. If you feel it can help your credit and you are in a position to use and responsibly manage it, it might be time to consider a Milestone Credit Card. If you are desperate for a credit card and struggling financially, it may not be such a good time for a credit card. Consider your personal needs and finances to make the best choice. In addition, exploring Milestone Credit Card offers can help validate your ideas or decisions. It’s one thing to read and research, but it’s another to check real offers. 

What is the minimum credit score for the Milestone Mastercard?

Milestone Credit Cards are intended for use by those with bad credit. While there’s no advertised credit score requirement, applicants will need to be at least 18 years of age. Remember, the card is designed for borrowers with bad or limited credit. While you might read that it’s best to improve your credit score before applying for a credit card, this card can be the exception to the rule. It might not always be a good idea, but it may be an option that helps you build or rebuild your credit score. 

Is it hard to get a Milestone Credit Card?

The Mastercard® Milestone Credit Card may have less strict requirements, but it does not come with guaranteed approval. Applicants with a very low credit score or no credit history may face some challenges. Building credit is never easy, but rest assured, there are options out there. If the Milestone Credit Card is not the right option, keep exploring other options. Finding a way to boost your credit score can be beneficial in the long run, especially with the need for financing in the current day and age. 

Is Milestone Credit Card for people with bad credit?

The Milestone Credit Card is targeted at borrowers with bad credit or little to no credit. It’s designed to offer an opportunity to build credit to expand your options of credit down the road. Here are some things you should know about the Mastercard® Milestone Credit Card.

  • Line of credit is reported to major credit bureaus: There are three major credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Each credit bureau can provide its own report reflecting what’s been reported to them. Some loans for bad credit borrowers are very expensive and not reported to the major credit bureaus. Therefore, they may help fill the need for cash, but they might not help you boost your credit score for long-term benefit. The Mastercard® Milestone Credit Card is reported to the major credit bureaus so it can work to build your credit profile. 
  • No security deposit required: A majority of credit cards designed for borrowers with bad credit require a security deposit. The security deposit is usually equal to the credit limit. Therefore, it’s essentially prepaid. The Mastercard® Milestone Credit Card does not require a security deposit or collateral. 

How do I know if I was approved for a Milestone Credit Card?

To get approved for a Mastercard® Milestone Credit Card, you’ll first need to apply. Within seconds of submitting your application online, you can receive a personalized offer. Getting pre-qualified for the Mastercard® Milestone Credit Card does not impact your credit score. You should note, though, that pre-qualified status and approved status are different. A pre-qualified status means the lender still needs to verify the applicant’s information. The applicant may also be required to submit documentation. After getting pre-qualified, you typically need to accept the pre-qualified offer to initiate the underwriting process, which is followed by approval in most cases. Approval status can be checked online, or Mastercard can notify the applicant via email or mail, but approval notifications can vary. 

Apply for the Milestone Gold Mastercard

Scroll to Top