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To open your own credit card, you must be at least 18 years old. A common misconception is that the minimum age requirement varies by state, but this is not the case. Opening a credit card at a young age can seem overwhelming, but understanding the steps and benefits of doing so will help you through the process.
Can You Get a Credit Card Under the Age of 18?
While 18 is the minimum age to be the primary holder of a credit card, there is a way that those under 18 can still use one—a parent or guardian can make their child an authorized user on their credit card account. An authorized user is an individual who can use a credit card without being responsible for the bill, and you’ll need to submit a request to the credit card company to add your child as a user.
Also note that some credit card companies issue a minimum age requirement for authorized users, while others do not.
By doing so, you give your child a head start in building credit for themselves. This will become useful when your child is ready to qualify for a loan or apply for their own credit card. Becoming an authorized user will also help them establish healthy credit practices early on. Make sure your child knows how to properly use their card, because as the primary cardholder, you’re still responsible for the bills.
How to Apply for a Credit Card as a Teenager
Applying for a credit card as a teenager is a similar process to that of an adult, but with a few exceptions. To get a credit card, you must initially apply. Based on your credit history, credit score and personal financial information, you’ll be either approved or declined. As a parent, you can become a cosigner to help your child get approved for a card if they haven’t had much experience building credit yet.
Getting a Cosigner
A cosigner is someone that agrees to take responsibility if the primary cardholder can’t pay off their outstanding balance. Applying with a cosigner (presumably with good credit) can help you get approved and even a higher credit limit. Keep in mind that some credit companies don’t allow cosigners, so you may need to do a little research beforehand.
Best Credit Cards for Teenagers
With so many credit card options, it’s easy to feel lost when deciding which one to apply for. Consider applying for a card that is made for younger people and first-time credit applicants. These cards are designed for users that may not have a high stream of income or any preexisting credit. The following are a few cards that are popular for first-time credit applicants:
- College credit card: These cards are designed for college students without experience in building credit. Since pursuing an education is often quite pricey, student debt makes it harder to get approved for a normal credit card. College credit cards typically offer users low fees, low interest rates and perks such as money back when using their card. Although it’s easier to get approved, you are still required to show proof of income and enrollment in school.
- Secured card: This card requires an initial cash deposit in order to use the card. Think of it as a prepaid credit card. The amount of your cash deposit acts as your credit limit. As a result, secured cards typically also have higher interest rates than normal credit cards. Even with a cash deposit, all activity put on a secured credit card still impacts your credit score.
- Store credit card: Some retailers also offer credit cards. While these cards are mainly for customers to shop at the specific store, the card can also be used for purchases elsewhere. These cards are easier to acquire since they often don’t require a specific credit score. Store credit cards intrigue customers by providing exclusive discounts and rewards, but beware as they often come with high interest rates.
Tips on Getting Approved
Getting approved for a credit card as a teenager can be difficult, since you likely don’t have significant preexisting credit or income. Both of these factors highly impact whether an applicant will get approved or denied for a card. The following are some tips on getting approved as a young user:
- Take into consideration all forms of income. When your application asks for your income, you can include much more than just your income from a part-time job. You can also include student loans and parental allowance as income.
- Consider getting a part-time job. Having a stable salary will show credit card companies that you have the ability to pay off your card.
- Add a cosigner if your credit card allows you to. As mentioned above, this will help the company see that you have someone to rely on for your spending habits.
- Apply for a card designed for young adults. College credit cards and secured cards are a few great ways to get started with building credit. Both cards are designed for those who may not have previous credit.
How to Build Credit at a Young Age
Building credit is always important since it takes time. Having good credit will open up more doors for you down the line. The time you dedicate to building your credit early will pay off when you’re applying for a loan, buying a car or making a big financial decision in the future.
When Is the Best Time to Build Credit?
The best time to build your credit is as early as possible. The length of your credit history impacts your credit score by 15 percent. By starting at an early age, your credit score will be positively impacted in this regard. As a general rule of thumb, seven years of credit history is ideal for building good credit. If you’re unsure about opening up a new line of credit, consider speaking to a financial advisor first.
Everyone’s financial situation is different, so it’s a good idea to know what will work best for you before getting started.
Best Practices When Building Credit
Building and keeping up good credit can be new for those who haven’t had much experience yet. The following are some best practices for doing so:
- Apply for a credit card. You can’t build credit without a form of payment that affects your score. Do your research and find a card that you have a good chance of being approved for.
- Be responsible with your spending habits. Having a credit card can positively impact your score if you use it responsibly. Be careful not to overspend—it can feel like you have unlimited funds if you’re new to using credit. Make sure you can pay off your balance in full to avoid a negative impact on your credit.
- Keep utilization low. A general rule of thumb is to use no more than 30 percent of your card’s spending limit at a time. This will show lenders that you can be smart with your spending habits.
- Make on-time payments. Late payments hurt your score immensely. Payment history actually affects 35 percent of your overall score. If you can’t make full payments at the card’s due date, at least pay off the minimum amount due on your balance.
Why You Should Build Credit Young
Building good credit doesn’t just happen overnight. It takes years of smart moves and healthy practices to build a solid foundation. If you wait too long to start building, you’ll have a harder time when applying for loans or engaging in other financial decisions later.
Starting young also helps establish good credit practices from the very beginning. By doing so, you’ll be less likely to engage in activities that hurt your credit down the line. It can be easy to damage your credit, but hard to repair it. By learning this now, you hopefully won’t need to do much damage control later.
Although 18 is the required age to be a primary account holder on a card, there are still ways to start building credit at a younger age. This can be very beneficial for the future, as long as it’s done right. We know the process of applying for a card and building credit can be stressful at times—visit our credit repair blog to learn more about credit best practices.
Reviewed by Kenton Arbon, an Associate Attorney at Lexington Law Firm. Written by Lexington Law.
Kenton Arbon is an Associate Attorney in the Arizona office. Mr. Arbon was born in Bakersfield, California, and grew up in the Northwest. He earned his B.A. in Business Administration, Human Resources Management, while working as an Oregon State Trooper. His interest in the law lead him to relocate to Arizona, attend law school, and graduate from Arizona State College of Law in 2017. Since graduating from law school, Mr. Arbon has worked in multiple compliance domains including anti-money laundering, Medicare Part D, contracts, and debt negotiation. Mr. Arbon is licensed to practice law in Arizona. He is located in the Phoenix office.
Note: Articles have only been reviewed by the indicated attorney, not written by them. The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, act as legal, financial or credit advice; instead, it is for general informational purposes only. Use of, and access to, this website or any of the links or resources contained within the site do not create an attorney-client or fiduciary relationship between the reader, user, or browser and website owner, authors, reviewers, contributors, contributing firms, or their respective agents or employers.