How Old Do You Have to Be to Get a Credit Card?

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How Old Do You Have to Be to Get a Credit Card

Credit building and a positive credit history can open additional financial opportunities like better loans, lower fees, and lower interest rates. If you start building your credit history now, you could demonstrate a significant positive credit history when you’re ready to purchase your first house and apply for a mortgage. 

While you generally have to be 18 years old to get a credit card, that’s plenty of time to build a positive credit history and set up positive financial habits. Read on to answer how old do you have to be to get a credit card.

MoneyLion can help you explore a wide variety of credit card options tailored to different needs and preferences.

What are the age requirements for getting a credit card?

In most cases, the legal age requirement for owning a credit card is generally 18. Before turning 18, you’re still considered a minor and are unable to enter into contracts. 

However, you might still be able to access a credit card before you turn 18 by becoming an authorized user on someone else’s credit card account. But generally speaking, the age to start building credit is 18. 

In some cases, anyone under 21 may have to meet additional requirements to open a credit card. However, those 18 to 20 years old can generally open a credit card with proof of income or a co-signer who’s at least 21. Some credit cards, like student credit cards, are even specifically marketed to college students as a first card for building credit history. 

Can you get a credit card if you are under 18?

It’s generally unlikely for individuals under 18 to get a credit card unless a parent adds them as an authorized user. If parents do decide to add their children as an authorized users to a credit card, it’s important to have a conversation about smart spending habits. 

Parents should set clear guidelines on when and how the card can be used, explain the importance of paying bills on time, and discuss the potential consequences of overspending.

Credit card options if you’re 18-20 years old

If you’re 18 to 20, the best credit cards to build a credit history include student credit cards, secured credit cards, or becoming an authorized user. Here’s how each of these options works:

1. Student credit cards

Student credit cards are traditional credit cards marketed towards students’ needs. These cards are usually easier to get approved for and are good starter credit cards. Student credit cards typically have lower credit limits, but you can request an increased credit limit after responsible use.  

You don’t need to make a security deposit, as student credit cards are unsecured lines of credit.  To save more, look for student credit cards with low interest and no annual fees. 

Pros of student credit cards:

  • Easier to get accepted than other credit cards
  • Build credit history
  • Typically, they don’t have annual fees
  • Have an emergency card if you need it
  • Earn cashback or other rewards
  • Convenience

Cons of student credit cards:

  • Late payments can harm your credit score
  • Racking up debt can be a costly mistake
  • High interest rates mean carrying debt is a bad idea

2. Secured credit cards

A secured card functions like a traditional credit card, except you must make a security deposit to use the card. The deposit amount represents your line of credit. Secured credit cards are a way to build a  positive credit history without the risk of racking up debt. They’re also a good option if you can’t get approved for a regular credit card.

Pros of secured credit cards:

  • Easy to apply for
  • Approval for most people
  • Build a positive credit history
  • Learn to manage debt with low-risk

Cons of secured credit cards:

  • Late payments can still harm your credit score
  • Lower credit limits can make them less useful in an emergency

3. Authorized user

An authorized user means someone else, like a parent or family member, adds you to their credit card account. They remain the primary cardholder, but you receive a credit card in your name to make expenses. The primary cardholder is responsible for paying any charges you make on the card.

Becoming an authorized user is an excellent way to boost your credit score by benefiting from someone else’s positive credit history. However, you still need to practice smart spending habits in order to avoid racking up credit card debt. 

Pros of becoming an authorized user:

  • Approval for most people
  • Build a positive credit history

Cons of becoming an authorized user:

  • Irresponsible spending can harm your relationship with the primary cardholder
  • You won’t earn rewards or other benefits

4. Co-signers

Getting a co-signer to open a credit card account means the co-signer agrees to pay the debt if you fail. For students who don’t have proof of income, having a parent act as a co-signer on an account is a practical solution.

Pros of getting a co-signer:

  • Open your own credit account with benefits
  • Build a positive credit history
  • Have an emergency card if you need it
  • Earn cashback or other rewards
  • Convenient payments

Cons of getting a co-signer:

  • Late payments can harm your credit score
  • The temptation to rack up debt can be a costly mistake
  • High interest rates mean carrying debt is a bad idea
  • Irresponsible spending can damage your relationship with the co-signer

Credit card options if you’re at least 21 years old

Credit card options increase significantly if you’re at least 21 years old. Most standard credit cards are available to you, although you’ll still need a good credit score and income to get approved for many credit cards. Alternatively, you could ask someone else to co-sign when you apply. 

Possible categories of credit cards include:

  • Cashback credit cards
  • Travel rewards credit cards
  • Low-interest credit cards
  • 0% APR introductory offer credit cards
  • Student credit cards
  • Business credit cards
  • Premium rewards credit cards
  • Secured credit cards

Benefits of having your own credit card early

There are significant benefits to having a credit card and building a positive credit history from a young age. These include:

1. Establish credit history early

Your credit history is 15% of your credit score. The number of years of your oldest account factors heavily into this number. That means establishing a credit history when you’re young or still in college can open doors earlier in life. 

Just think – if you get your first credit card at 18 and apply for a mortgage at 25, with responsible management, you could already have seven years of positive credit history in your favor. 

2. Learn financial management skills

Financial management skills are among the most essential skills rarely taught in schools. Learn these skills by creating habits and systems to pay the credit card on time, maintain a budget, and avoid building debt. 

Risks and challenges associated with early credit card ownership

Challenges of credit card ownership involve the temptation of accumulating debt and overspending. Here’s what you should know:

Overspending and debt accumulation

Credit cards make it easy to purchase things online with a click or swipe in a store. That ease of payment is one of the attractive features of a credit card, but it can also become a significant risk. 

If you purchase something and plan only to make the minimum payment due on the credit card, you could pay almost double the item’s cost. Accumulating credit card debt can trap you in an unhealthy cycle of debt.

For example, if you have $1,000 in credit card debt with a 30% APY and pay $35 per month toward the debt, you’ll end up paying $775.70 in interest alone. It will take four years and three months to pay off the debt.  

To avoid overspending, create a budget and stick with it. Whenever you’re tempted to purchase something you didn’t plan, go home and think about it. Check your budget and see whether it fits. You only want to make a purchase if it works with your financial goals. 

Fraud and identity theft risks

As soon as you have a credit card, there’s a risk that someone could get your card information, make unauthorized charges, or attempt to steal your identity. 

To avoid this:

  • Use online security: Don’t shop on unsecured websites. Look for site URLs that begin with https and have a security certificate. 
  • Avoid phishing: Don’t click on links in emails that might be your bank. These could be phishing scams. Instead, navigate to the bank’s website directly or call the credit card issuer.
  • Use secure Wi-Fi: Don’t make financial transactions or card payments using public Wi-Fi.
  • Check credit reports: Review your credit reports regularly for inaccurate accounts, activity, or information.
  • Check all charges: Check your credit card and bank statements for unauthorized charges. 

Using Credit Cards Responsibly

Learning to manage credit responsibility at a young age is a valuable skill that can set you up to have a 705 credit score or an 800 credit score.

When you master budgeting, paying credit cards on time, and sticking to your financial goals, you have the tools to build savings and reach bigger financial targets. Remember to take it one day at a time, double-check all purchases, and act responsibly to enjoy the convenience of credit cards while you start planning for your future. 


What is the minimum age to apply for a credit card?

Generally, the minimum age to apply for a credit card is 18, although some credit card issuers require a minimum age of 21. 

Do I need a job to get a credit card?

You generally need to demonstrate income to get a credit card. You may be able to get a student credit card or a secured credit card without a job. Alternatively, you could get a co-signer to help you get a credit card if you don’t have a job. 

Can I get a credit card without a parent’s permission?

At 18, you can get a credit card without a parent’s permission if you have income. Without proof of income, you’ll likely need a co-signer to open a credit card account. 

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