One of the most crucial things a young person can do is establish a strong credit history, and the earlier you start, the better. Obtaining a credit card before the age of 21 isn’t always easy, even though most card issuers require you to be at least 18 to be a primary cardholder.
Here are some things to consider before applying for a credit card if you’re new to credit, including the legal age requirement.
How old do you have to be to get a credit card?
Cardholders are generally required to be at least eighteen (18), which is the legal age of majority to enter into contracts. The majority of credit card issuers will require you to provide proof of income if you are under 21 and lack a credit history or a good to excellent credit score in order to confirm that you can repay your debt on your own.
Credit cards for those under 21
A secured credit card, which requires you to put down a security deposit that serves as the card’s credit limit, is an option if you’re over eighteen and don’t have the necessary income for a regular credit card. Secured credit cards reduce the risk that lenders assume when they approve your card by requiring an upfront deposit, which is tailored to those with no credit history or low credit scores. With minimal fees and even rewards on your purchases, the best secured credit cards let you establish or repair your credit.
Think about getting a student credit card if you’re still enrolled in classes. If you’re under 21, you might need to provide evidence of your own income in order to get these cards. For people with a spotty credit history or low income, the best student cards, however, provide lenient credit requirements and greater credit approval rates. They even provide prizes made especially for students.
How to access a credit card before you’re 18
The only option available to you if you’re under 18 is to become an authorized user on someone else’s credit card account. Being an authorized user entitles you to a credit card of your own that is connected to the account of someone you can trust, like your parent or mentor. Even though the card bears your name, any debt that you are unable to pay off ultimately belongs to the primary cardholder.
It is common for credit issuers to report authorized user payment activity to credit bureaus, so having an authorized user will probably improve your credit score in addition to that of the primary cardholder. However, the primary cardholder’s decisions may have a detrimental impact on your credit score as well if they have a history of missing or late payments or high credit utilization.
Credit card options for those under 18 and up to 21
|ge of cardholder
|Options available to access credit
|On a family member’s or a reliable friend’s credit card account, you can get authorized user status.
|18 to 20
|If you can provide proof that your income satisfies the requirements of the issuer, you can be eligible for a standard credit card. There are a few options available, such as secured cards that need a deposit up front, student cards that accept low incomes, or requesting that a family member or close friend add you to their account as an authorized user.
|21 and up
|You can typically qualify for a traditional credit card by meeting the issuer’s requirements.
How to start building credit
As soon as your credit card application is approved, you must begin to use it sensibly. You can raise or lower your credit score in as little as six months by practicing good credit practices, such as making on-time payments. Using your card sensibly also involves being aware of the variables that credit bureaus take into account when calculating your credit score. Those elements consist of:
- Payment history
- Credit utilization ratio
- Age of credit
- Credit mix
- Any new credit received
When you first start using credit, it can be tempting to spend your newly free money extravagantly, but that can quickly get you into trouble. You must spend within your means and pay off your debt, ideally in full each month, in order to use your card in a helpful way. Keep your credit utilization, or the percentage of your available credit that you are using, under 30% by only using your credit card for purchases you know you can pay off at the end of the month. This will assist you in avoiding credit card debt accumulation and credit damage.
Before applying for additional cards, start with one and focus on establishing your credit for at least six months to position yourself for success. By taking the time to raise your credit score, you’ll be able to access an entirely new class of excellent credit cards with competitive interest rates, substantial rewards, and large welcome bonuses.
The bottom line
You must be at least eighteen to apply for your own credit card. The majority of card applicants under 21 may, however, need to meet additional requirements in order to be granted a card.
Turning 18 opens the door to new financial opportunities that can help you get on a clear path to a high credit score, even with the additional requirements you might encounter. You can take advantage of the perks and benefits that credit cards can offer whether you want to apply for a secured card, put up the money for a top starter credit card, or ask to be added as an authorized user on someone else’s account.
Just be careful how you use credit, and pay off your debts on time. You can avoid paying exorbitant interest rates on the amounts you would have carried over if you are able to make your monthly payments in full. You can gain access to better credit products in the future by striving for an outstanding credit score now.