- Best Credit Cards
- How Old Do You Have To Be To Get A Credit Card
What’s the minimum age for a credit card? (Is It 18?)
You’re technically an adult at age 18, but you can’t yet buy cigarettes or alcohol—you’ve got to wait till you’re 21.
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So how old do you have to be to get a credit card? Do you need to wait till you’re 21 for this too? Or can you get one sooner?
In this post, you’ll learn—
- At what age you can get a credit card.
- How to get a credit card at 18 years old.
- What credit cards are best for teenagers.
- How to become an authorized user of a credit card.
- When you should get a credit card.
- How to build good credit.
How Old Do You Have to Be to Get a Credit Card?
You must be 18 years old to sign a credit card contract. But getting an unsecured credit card before you turn 21 isn't easy since the Credit CARD Act of 2009i. You'll either need a co-signer or proof of regular income to qualify. (Or start with a secured credit card instead.)
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The CARD Act of 2009
Here’s how college move-in day went when I was a kid—
- Show up on campus with all your stuff (whatever you could fit in your car)—and your mom and dad in tow to help Tetris it into your shoebox-sized dorm.
- Walk past the credit card sign-up table on your way into school.
- Sign in with admissions, unload your stuff—and hug your teary-eyed mom goodbye.
- Then head back to the credit card table, and sign up to get a free slice of pizza.
Getting a credit card was easy back then—probably a bit too easy. (Too many kids were signing up for cards—not truly understanding how they worked or how the interest would impact them if they couldn’t afford to pay back what they borrowed.)
The Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure (CARD) Act of 2009 was meant to protect young people from marketing tactics like the one I laid out above. It also stops banks from issuing credit cards to anyone under 21—unless they have proof of income or a co-signer.
That’s why, if you want to get a credit card as an 18-year-old, expect these roadblocks. Plan on sending in some paystubs to prove you have an income—or have a co-signer at the ready.
Minimum age requirements by the card issuer
While the rule of thumb is that you can get a credit card at age 18, not all issuers blindly adhere to this. For instance, to get a Chase card in Alabama or Nebraska, the credit card age requirement is 19 years old. And if you live in Puerto Rico, the minimum age to get a credit card is 21.
At what age can you get a bank card?
If you’re just looking for the convenience of having a card (vs. building your credit with a credit card), then a debit card could satisfy your needs.
Most banks allow children to have a joint checking account with their parent or legal guardian at the age of 13—this, of course, comes with a debit card. It isn’t a hard and fast rule though—some banks will allow children as young as six to have a debit card with joint checking.
How to Get a Credit Card at 18
We already established that the age requirement for a credit card is 18—but we also noted it’s not as easy as just clicking a few buttons online. (You’re going to have to work for this one a bit.)
Then what’s the best way to get a credit card at 18 years old?
Review the best credit cards for 18-year-olds
Before you just run off and apply to the first credit card that pops up on your laptop window, take a moment to review the top cards for teenagers and young adults.
- What cards have the lowest interest rates?
- Do they report to the big three credit bureaus (so you can build your credit)?
- Which cards offer cash back?
- 22 of the Best Credit Cards for 18 Year Olds in 2023
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Next, don’t just apply and hope for the best. Look for a pre-approval option—see if you’re likely to be approved, without the hard-pull hitting your credit report.
Get a co-signer
At age 18, you’ll either need to prove your income or have a co-signer vouch for you. By co-signing, they’re putting their credit on the line, so don’t take this lightly. Find someone with an excellent credit score with whom you have a trusting relationship. (This is probably your mom, dad, or a close relative.)
Apply for a student credit card
If you’re enrolled in college, student credit cards may be the best option for you. Since you’re younger than 21, you’ll still need to prove that you can make the minimum payments—but the process is often more straightforward since the issuer already knows you’re a young adult looking to get your first credit card.
Become an authorized user
This is the easiest way to get access to a credit card as a teenager—you can get a credit card at age 13 this way with many banks.
So what does it mean to be an authorized user?
A credit-carrying adult can simply name you as an authorized useri on their account. You’ll get a credit card, and you can spend money as if it was your own. If the account holder pays the bills on time, your credit will build and improve—and if they don’t, your credit may suffer.
As a young adult, be cautious with this one. Sure, it’s a simple solution to getting a credit card—but it may also hurt you in the long run if you’re an authorized user of a defunct account.
Get a secured credit card
This is a fantastic option for 18-year-olds looking for their first credit card. With a secured credit card, you first load it with money—and then spend it with your credit card.
It’s similar to putting money into a bank account and using a debit card, but this method will help you build your credit.
Apply for a retail credit card
If all else fails, retail credit cards can often be easy to get. They have a low credit limit and high APR—so they aren’t ideal for the user. But if you’re just looking for something to get started with—this could be an option.
How to Get a Credit Card If You’re Younger Than 18 Years Old
If you need a credit card, but you’re not quite 18 years old, what are your options? There aren’t many, I’m afraid. In fact, there’s only one option—to become an authorized user on someone else’s credit card account.
Minimum age of authorized user—by major card issuer
Adults know how important it can be to build your credit. We find many of them are asking questions like—
- “Can I open a credit card for my child?”
- “Can a minor get a credit card?”
- “Can you get a credit card at 13?”
- “How to get a credit card for my kid?”
Well, the answers to these questions will depend on what credit card issuer you have. American Express, for instance, says the child needs to be 13—while for Discover they need to be 15 to become an authorized user. This table shows the minimum age for each credit card issuer—
|Card issuer||Minors allowed?||Minimum age||Number of users allowed||Fee for adding user|
|American Express||Yes||13||Not specified||$0–$175|
|Bank of America||Yes||None||Up to 5||Free|
|Discover||Yes||15||Up to 5||Free|
|Synchrony||Yes||None||3 to 6||Free|
|U.S. Bank||Yes||16||Up to 7||Free|
Source: Creditcards.com So, if you were asking yourself, “Can you get a credit card at 12?”, the answer is yes (as an authorized user)—but only for Bank of America, Capital One, Citi, Chase, Synchrony, and Wells Fargo. You can see that the Capital One authorized user age is “none”, which means you can add a child as a user at any age, while the Discover authorized user age is 15.
How to Get a Credit Card If You’re At Least 21 Years Old
If you’re 21 years old, you’re free! The world is finally your oyster—with access to cigarettes, cocktails, and credit cards (we condone the latter—not necessarily the first two).
What does this all mean? (And what’s the best way to get a credit card now?) Honestly, the advice doesn’t change much—I’d still recommend student credit cards and secured cards to build your credit further.
If your credit score is already good and you’ve been responsible with your spending, I’d recommend looking at the top credit cards. If you qualify, you’ll be well on your way to earning great rewards and further building your credit.
When to Get a Credit Card
When young adults ask, “Should I get a credit card at 18?” there are some strong opinions out there—from the Dave Ramsey rants saying that people with credit cards are idiotsi, to people like the Money Ninja saying, “Get a credit card as soon as you legally can by yourself (18 years old) to start building credit early. Or even better, have parents add their child as an authorized user on one of their existing credit cards.” When do we believe someone should get a credit card? When they can check these three boxes:
- “I know how to set up and stick to a budget.”
- “I have a steady income.”
- “I want to start developing my credit history.”
If you’re 18 years old, and you’re nodding “yes” to the above bullets, then go for it—get yourself a credit card. If you can’t honestly say yes to all of them, then it’s probably not time for you yet—and that’s okay. (It’s often better to have no credit than to start your life out with bad credit.)
How to Start Building Credit
Once you have your credit card, building credit is actually pretty easy—
- Start buying things with your credit card.
- Pay off your statement (or, at the very least, the minimum payment) by the due date.
- Repeat the above steps every month.
By using your credit card—and paying the bill each month—the credit bureaus will receive your outstanding payment report, and your score should slowly rise. If you started with no credit, you’ll see your first FICO score about six months from when you started using your card.
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Other ways to build credit
Besides using your credit card, there are several other ways to build credit—
- Take out a loan (not recommended unless you’re confident you can pay it back).
- Add rental payments to your credit history with Experian’s RentBureau.
- Be sure payments for utilities, cell phone, streaming services, and internet plan are recorded—use Experian Boost for this.
- Monitor your score with Credit Karma—be sure to keep the information accurate.
How old do you need to be to get a credit card? If you want your own account, the legal age is 18 years old—but you’ll either need to prove that you have a regular income or get a co-signer. Getting a card on your own is much easier once you turn 21.
If you’re between 18 and 21 years old, you basically have two options—secured cards and student credit cards. If you’re younger than 18, you can still get access to a credit card by being an authorized user of an adult (likely a parent). Some banks allow this at any age—but more commonly, the minimum age for an authorized user is 13.
Finally, you may want a credit card—but be honest with yourself. If you can’t manage your emotions, don’t know how to budget, and don’t have a regular income—a credit card will probably do you more harm than good.
At what age can you get an unsecured credit card?
At age 18, you can apply and get accepted to unsecured credit cards—although you’ll either need to prove that you have an income, or get a co-signer.
Can anyone get a credit card?
Yes, nearly anyone can get a credit card. If you have bad credit, you may need to get a secured credit card or have a co-signer—but you can still likely get a credit card.
Is it illegal to have a credit card under 18?
You can’t have your own credit card account if you’re under 18—but you can become an authorized user on your parent’s or guardian’s account once you turn 13 (even younger for some cards).
Can my teenager get a credit card?
18-year-olds can get their own credit card account (if they have an income or co-signer). If your child is younger than that, you can add them to your account as an authorized user. They’ll get a credit card, and will be able to spend within your account just like you do. They can build their credit this way—but there’s also the risk of them spending too much.
Which credit card is best for teenagers?
Our top pick for 18-year-olds is the . There’s no annual fee, a 0% APR, 1% cash back on every purchase—and they report to all three major credit bureaus.
How old do you have to be to get a credit card in Canada?
The law says no one can get a credit card in Canada until they are 18 years old.
Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009 (Credit CARD Act). (2013, July 19). Federal Trade Commission. https://www.ftc.gov/legal-library/browse/statutes/credit-card-accountability-responsibility-disclosure-act-2009-credit-card-act
Team, B. E. (2022, August 11). How Old Do You Have to Be to Get a Debit Card? Banks.Com. https://www.banks.com/articles/banking/how-old-get-debit-card/
The Truth About Teens and Credit Cards. (n.d.). Ramsey Solutions. Retrieved March 21, 2023, from https://www.ramseysolutions.com/debt/the-truth-about-teens-and-credit-cards
What’s the minimum age to be an authorized user? (2022, August 5). CreditCards.Com. https://www.creditcards.com/credit-management/what-is-the-minimum-age-to-be-an-authorized-user/
Editorial teamMeet the team
Founder/Personal Finance Expert
Derek has a Bachelor's degree in Finance and a Master's in Business. As a finance manager in the corporate world, he regularly identified and solved problems at the C-suite level. Today, Derek isn't interested in helping big companies. Instead, he's helping individuals win financially—one email, one article, one person at a time.
Kacper is an editor, writer, and multilingual translator with expertise in producing tailored content for global online brands.
Content writing and marketing professional with 5+ years of experience in the B2B and B2C sectors. Deepti has written about several subjects, including finance, project management, human resources, and more.
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