How Old Do You Have To Be To Get A Credit Card?


By Drew Cheneler - Founder - SimplyMoneyLyfe.com

Last updated 2/28/2020


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Summary: While you have to be 18 to get your own credit card, there are other ways you can get one at a younger age and advantages to waiting until you turn 21.

Whether you are a parent, teenager, or college student, it is imperative that you know the rules and regulations behind qualifying for a credit card.

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Like obtaining your driving licenses or furthering your education, owning a credit card is a privilege and a responsibility. 

Fret not, today we are going to discuss the age requirements to apply for a credit card and what might hold you back from obtaining one.

What is the Minimum Age to Have Your Own Credit Card?

Currently, to obtain and qualify for a credit card under your own name in the United States, you need to be at least 18+ years of age; however, it is easiest to qualify for a credit card if you are above the age of 21+ years old and here is why: 

Per the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009 (CARD Act), if you are between the ages of 18 – 21 years of age, then you need to prove that you earn steady independent income. Or in easier terms, have a job.

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Typically, the financial institution will require you to submit a bank statement or a paycheck to verify.

Why? 

The U.S. Government is attempting to curtail credit card debt in America and this extra step ensures you can pay off your monthly payments.

How to Get a Credit Card If You Are Under 18

Unfortunately, if you are under the age of 18, you cannot get a credit card under your own name. But, don’t let this deter you - for real!

There is one quick solution - become an authorized user on your parents or legal guardians credit card account. Now, you may be asking, what is an authorized user?

An authorized user is an individual that is granted access by the primary card holder to use their credit card account.

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You – as an authorized user – will get your own credit card, which can then be used at your own discretion, but only the primary card holder will be held liable for the payment.

It is important to note, that if you become an authorized user, then you need to understand the risk you potentially put the primary card holder in if you overspend or fail to pay your portion of the bill.

If you are a parent or legal guardian, turn this option into a beneficial learning experience. After all, personal finance is not taught in high schools, and is barely taught at Colleges or Universities in America. 

As the primary card holder, you have complete control over the account and can set expectations, which is great. Through this experience, your child can learn the fundamentals of building credit history and the responsibility that comes with being a credit card holder.

What If I Am Between the Ages of 18-to-21 Years Old?

Like we discussed earlier, if you are between the ages of 18 – 21 years old, then you need to provide proof of steady income.

Though it is certainly possible to get a credit card at the age of 18, it is significantly more challenging because you have no credit history. And if you are a full-time student without a job, then you don’t have a source of income.

However, like someone under the age of 18 years old, you also have one simple solution – a co-signer. Fortunately, most financial institutions allow you to apply for a credit card with a co-signer.

However, a credit card issuer will only approve your application if your selected co-signer has a strong credit history.

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But what exactly is a co-signer? In a nutshell, a co-signer is a parent or legal guardian who assumes responsibility for your credit card payments if you fail to make them.

If you want to avoid this process, then consider obtaining a prepaid card or open a checking account. Most prepaid cards only require you to be 18 years of age, but they come with a few restrictions, such as how much money you can add to the prepaid card and how often you can withdraw money. 

Still, this is an option and a great alternative to a credit card if you are struggling to get one.

Applying For A Credit Card as a 21-Year-Old

If you are over the age of 21 years old, then you are in a unique position. Whether you are a college graduate or a working professional, your ability to get a credit card depends solely on your credit history, trust worthiness, and income.

With little to no credit history, there are a handful of credit cards that are well suited to meet your financial needs, kick start your credit history, and will provide you with a myriad of benefits.

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If you have no credit history, then a secured credit card is your best option. A secured credit card requires an initial cash deposit, which serves as the banks collateral in case you miss or default on a payment. 

Here is the deal, a secured credit card act’s identical to a traditional credit card, but it allows you to build up and establish your credit history.

Quick Tip:

When dealing with a Secured Credit Card you get to choose your own credit limit, you should start with a good amount.

If you are a student, then applying for a student credit card is a great opportunity. Most financial institutions offer student credit cards, which are specifically designed for individuals with minimal credit history and a low income.

Student credit cards are traditionally accompanied with higher fees and offer almost no benefits. But, they do allow you to establish credit history and are a great first option.

Drew Cheneler is the Founder of SimpleMoneyLyfe.com, a site dedicated to helping consumers understand the finite details of financial products. Drew is passionate and motivated more than ever to help you make simple smart financial decisions. His work has been featured on Credit Knocks, Creditcards.com, and a slew of other online publications.

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