Best Credit Cards in April 2024Articles
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How old do you have to be to get a credit card?

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Getting a credit card can be a good start for a young adult who wants to build credit. Because of the CARD Act of 2009, you probably won’t qualify for your own credit card until you’re 21 years old. However, there are still ways to get a credit card and build credit before you can buy a drink.

Although most banks don’t allow children under the age of 18 to get a credit card on their own, they can still be authorized users on an adult’s credit card. Authorized users can make purchases and payments on the card as if it were their own, without being responsible for the debt.

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Tip

If you can get on a parent or trusted relative’s credit card as an authorized user, that can help you establish credit history and learn how to handle credit responsibly.

Some credit cards allow the primary cardholder to control how much spending power authorized users have. If you’re a parent, that means you can keep your teen from overspending. If you’re a child or a teen, that means you can learn how to handle credit responsibly in a low-risk environment. If the teen shows responsible use, the adult may be able to increase the spending limit.

Credit cards from American Express, like the American Express® Gold Card, allow cardholders to set spending limits as low as $200. Just keep in mind that some credit cards charge a fee to add authorized users to an account.

Authorized user age requirement

It’s possible to be added to a parent’s credit card before you turn 18. The minimum age to become an authorized user varies by bank. Here are the requirements disclosed by some of the major U.S. card issuers:

  • American Express – 13 years old
  • Bank of America – No minimum age
  • Capital One – No minimum age
  • Chase – No minimum age
  • Citi – No minimum age
  • Discover – 15 years old
  • U.S. Bank – 13 years old
  • Wells Fargo – No minimum age

Most 18-year-olds won’t be able to get a credit card of their own. The CARD Act of 2009 included some protections for adults under the age of 21. Banks can’t let these young adults open credit card accounts unless they have a cosigner or the ability to pay back the debt. If you have a job or another source of income, you could still qualify for a credit card. This is designed to keep college students and young adults from getting into debt they cannot afford to repay.

If you’re 18 with a job

If you’re an adult under 21 with an income of your own, you can theoretically qualify for a credit card. However, if you have little to no credit history, getting approved can still be challenging. If you meet the requirements of the CARD Act, but have limited credit history, you might want to look into secured credit cards or other options to build credit without a credit card.

Young adults between the ages of 18 and 20 can also build credit as an authorized user on someone else’s credit card.

If you apply for a credit card when you’re 21 or older, there won’t be any special rules in order to qualify. For example, you can request a credit card without needing to show a source of income. The CARD Act still requires banks to ask for your income — you just don’t need to have an income in order to get a card. However, most banks will still want you to make enough money to show you can pay your credit card bill.

If you’ve been able to build a strong credit history before turning 21, getting your own credit card shouldn’t be too difficult. Although there are fewer cards you can qualify for, you can still get a credit card with limited or no credit history, and build credit that way. You can also be added to someone’s existing credit card as an authorized user.

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Joint credit card accounts

Although joint credit cards aren’t common these days, they’re an option for people who might have trouble getting approved for a credit card on their own. The joint account holder’s income and credit history strengthen the credit card application to improve your odds of getting approved. Unlike an authorized user, both account holders are equally responsible for any and all credit card charges, so don’t open an account with someone you don’t completely trust.

In order to get approved for a credit card, many credit cards require an established credit history. This can be a challenge for young adults who are just starting out. Here’s how to open a credit card if you’ve never had one before.

Student credit cards

Student credit cards are targeted at college students. Since students’ primary focus is to pass their classes and graduate, they typically don’t make much money. Student credit cards understand these limitations, so they often have lower credit criteria and reduced credit limits to minimize debt.

While these credit limits tend to be smaller than traditional credit cards, they provide a way for banks to build relationships today with people who tend to have higher incomes after graduating.

Secured credit cards

Secured cards are best for people building or rebuilding credit because they’re easier to qualify for. In order to open a secured credit card, you must provide a security deposit. In most cases, the secured card’s credit limit equals the security deposit.

By using your secured card responsibly, you can build a solid credit history. Keep your balances low and make all payments on time. Some secured cards automatically review your account for a potential credit limit increase (without requiring an additional deposit) or an upgrade to an unsecured card within the first year.

Store or gas cards

Getting a card from your favorite retail store or gas station is an excellent way to gain access to credit. These cards tend to be one of the easiest cards to get approved for. Depending on the store, customers can get approved during checkout online or in-store without requiring a hard credit check. In some cases, you’re pre-approved based on your store profile.

Store and gas cards act like traditional credit cards, but most of them can only be used to make purchases at that particular retailer. This means that you cannot use them to make purchases at other stores. However, these cards typically report to all three major credit bureaus to help you build credit. As your credit improves, you may qualify for regular credit cards in the future.

Like a traditional credit card, retail cards have a set spending limit and require a minimum payment each month. If you carry a balance, you’ll be charged interest on the unpaid portion.

Building your credit history is key to improving your credit score. A higher score makes it easier to receive better rates and terms on loans, get approved for housing and qualify for the best credit cards for 18 year olds and other young adults.

Credit builder loans

A credit builder loan is a type of loan designed to build your credit instead of borrowing money. These loans typically require a regular monthly payment plus a fee or interest. The lender reports your payments to the credit bureau to help you build a solid payment history.
When the loan term is over, you’ll receive a lump sum payment of the loan payment made. For example, a $600 credit builder loan may require $25 payments plus fees for 24 months.

Secured cards

Secured credit cards are different from unsecured cards because they require a security deposit before approval. Typically, the credit limit equals the initial deposit. Customers can usually increase their security deposit to get a higher credit limit.

Some secured cards review customer accounts automatically after a period of time. With these reviews, the customer can qualify for a higher credit limit (without having to deposit more money) or upgrade to an unsecured card. Secured cards report balances, credit limits and payments to the major credit bureaus to build credit history and reward responsible use.

Becoming an authorized user

Someone with an existing credit card can add you as an authorized user to their account. You’ll learn how to use the card responsibly and can benefit from their account age and payment history. As an authorized user, you may receive credit for the entirety of the primary cardholder’s account history, even if you’ve only been on the account for a short period of time.

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Warning

Although joint credit cards aren’t common these days, they’re an option for people who might have trouble getting approved for a credit card on their own. The joint account holder’s income and credit history strengthen the credit card application to improve your odds of getting approved. Unlike an authorized user, both account holders are equally responsible for any and all credit card charges, so don’t open an account with someone you don’t completely trust.

Reporting your rent payments to credit agencies

Rent payments traditionally have not been included in credit reports. However, there are numerous services today that allow renters to get credit for making on-time rent payments. Some landlords subscribe to a reporting service, or you can subscribe to one yourself. For example, Self recently introduced a service where you can report rent payments to all three credit bureaus for free.

Experian Boost

Experian Boost is a free service that allows people to build credit from non-traditional items. Boost gives credit for recurring payments that you’ve paid with a linked bank or credit card at least three times in the last six months. Eligible charges include rent payments, utility bills, phone service, insurance policies and subscriptions, like Disney+, Hulu, and Netflix.

Banks typically only let people who are 18 or older open credit cards. If you’re under 21, you must be able to show income or proof that you can repay the debt on your own. If you’re underage, you can become an authorized user on someone else’s account. Although many banks require authorized users to be 13 years old, others have no minimum age requirements.

At age 16, you can get a credit card if an adult is willing to add you as an authorized user. As an authorized user, you’ll get a card with your name on it that can be used to make purchases online, in-store and over the phone. Some credit cards include valuable benefits for authorized users, such as purchase protection, extended warranty and travel protections.

The best credit cards for teens have no annual fees, earn rewards and help them build credit. Ideally, the cardholder can set a maximum spending amount that doesn’t give the teenager access to the adult’s full credit limit to prevent overspending. For rewards cards, the bonus categories should provide extra rewards where the teen spends the most.

Young adults who are able to use a credit card responsibly should get a card as soon as possible. It can help them build credit and good financial habits. A credit card makes it easier to pay for everyday purchases, and some cards include purchase and travel protections, which offer savings and peace of mind. If you can’t get your own card, try to become an authorized user on a parent or trusted adult’s card to build credit history.