The Ultimate Guide to Credit Cards
Wednesday, September 23, 2020

What is the Minimum Age for a Credit Card? 9 Best Beginner Cards

Minimum Age For Credit Card

credit card advice

Ashley Dull
By: Ashley Dull
Updated: October 2, 2019
Advertiser Disclosure

If you’re wondering about the minimum age for credit card ownership, well, the answer isn’t exactly clearcut. It depends on several factors which we will explore below.

I got my first credit card when I was 18 years old. I can’t quite recall the terms associated with it — 18 was nearly half my life ago — but I do know that it wasn’t the best card I could have gotten at the time. That’s because a) I excitedly applied for the first offer I received and b) this was pre-Credit CARD Act of 2009.

First of all, NEVER apply for the first card offer you receive/see/hear about. Research is of the utmost importance when choosing a card, as we’ll dive deeper into later. Secondly, the Credit CARD Act of ’09 greatly affected the rates and terms of cards, and it also upped the age in which one could apply for a credit card.

21 is the Legal Age to Apply for Your Own Credit Card

Before the CARD Act, you could be 18 years old to get a credit card, and there weren’t very many restrictions on getting one. You didn’t even have to have a job to be approved. Today, you must be 21 years of age to get a credit card in your own name, unless you have a cosigner or can show proof of steady income.

You Can Apply at 18 with a Cosigner or Proof of Income

You can still apply for a credit card at 18, but your parents will need to cosign for you. This can be tricky because the responsibility becomes much heavier when someone else’s credit is at stake. If you miss a payment, the bank can – and will if they can’t get in touch with you – call your parents for payment (not exactly the best way to display your newfound independence).

FICO Credit Score Chart

Your payments account for 35% of your FICO credit score. Always pay your bill on time, especially if your parents have cosigned for you.

Late payments are the worst thing you can do for your credit, and will be reflected in your parents’ credit too because their names are on the account right alongside yours. You’ll also need their permission if you decide to apply for a credit limit increase down the road.

If you have a steady job and income, you can apply for a card without a cosigner by supplying the issuer proof that you can afford the monthly payments on your own. The issuer will likely call your job to verify employment and how long you’ve been with the company, and will want to see your paycheck stubs and/or W2s.

Long story short, you can still get a credit card if you’re 18, but the requirements are much more stringent than they were in years past. If your parents are footing the bill anyway, you may best benefit from becoming an authorized user on one of their cards instead of opening an account in your own name. This is also a great option for anyone under the age of 18 looking to establish credit.

Guardians Can Make You an Authorized User if You’re a Minor

If you’re a minor, you can become an authorized user on your parent’s account. This means you’ll receive a card with your name on it to use as your parents permit. Below is a chart provided by CreditCards.com showing the minimum ages some of the most popular issuing banks allow authorized users to be added.

CreditCards.com chart showing minimum age to become an authorized user

This helps instill healthy credit habits at an early age, and, so long as the account is properly maintained (low credit-utilization ratio, on-time payments), will establish positive credit history for everyone listed on the account.

The Best Card Options for Beginners

You want your first credit card to be one that offers fair terms and flexibility, such as no penalties on your first late payment and the ability to choose your payment due date, and is why it’s so important to do your homework when shopping for your first credit card.

Student Cards

Some of the best cards for those new to credit are, without a doubt, student credit card offers. These cards typically offer the ability to earn rewards, statement credits for good grades (usually defined as a GPA above 3.0 – proof will be required), no annual fees, and sometimes even 0% intro APRs. This means you don’t have to worry about interest charges for however long the promotional period is good for.

STUDENT RATING
★★★★★
4.8
OVERALL RATING
4.2/5.0
  • Earn 1% cash back on all your purchases. Pay on time to boost your cash back to a total of 1.25% for that month
  • Enjoy no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees
  • You can help build your credit with responsible use of a card like this
  • Get Eno®, your Capital One® assistant, to manage your account via text, receive alerts, and shop safer online
  • Pick the monthly due date that works best for you
  • Be automatically considered for a higher credit line in as little as 6 months
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
26.99% (Variable)
$0
Average, Fair, Limited
Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card for Students Review

at the issuer'ssecure website

STUDENT RATING
★★★★★
4.8
OVERALL RATING
4.5/5.0
  • 3% cash back in the category of your choice: gas, online shopping, dining, travel, drug stores, or home improvement/furnishings Learn more
  • 2% cash back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs, 1% cash back on all other purchases
  • You’ll earn 3% and 2% cash back on the first $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club purchases each quarter, then earn 1%
  • Earn a $200 cash rewards bonus after making at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of your account opening
  • 0% introductory APR on new purchases and balance transfers for 12 billing cycles (3% balance transfer fee applies)
  • $0 annual fee
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 12 billing cycles
0% for 12 billing cycles
13.99% - 23.99%
$0
None/Limited
Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card for Students Review

at the issuer'ssecure website

STUDENT RATING
★★★★★
4.7
OVERALL RATING
4.4/5.0
  • Earn unlimited 1.5 points for every $1 you spend on all purchases everywhere
  • No blackout dates or restrictions apply, and points never expire
  • 0% introductory APR on new purchases for 12 billing cycles
  • Earn 25,000 bonus points ($250 value) if you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening
  • $0 annual fee
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
0% for 12 billing cycles
N/A
14.99% - 22.99%
$0
None/Limited

+ See More Student Offers

Cards for No/Limited Credit History

You don’t need to be a student to get a good card, you just need to be sure you’re applying for the right types of offers. Be sure to look for cards that don’t charge annual fees and offer perks like free FICO credit scores, so you can watch your score rise as you establish your credit history.

NO/LIMITED CREDIT RATING
★★★★★
4.8
OVERALL RATING
3.8/5.0
  • Pay no annual fee
  • Be automatically considered for a higher credit line in as little as 6 months
  • Fraud coverage if your card is lost or stolen
  • Use online banking to access your account, even from your smartphone, with our mobile app
  • Check out quickly and securely with a contactless card, without touching a terminal or handing your card to a cashier. Just hover your card over a contactless reader, wait for the confirmation, and you're all set.
  • Pay by check, online or at a local branch, all with no fee - and pick the monthly due date that works best for you
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
26.99% (Variable)
$0
Average, Fair, Limited
NO/LIMITED CREDIT RATING
★★★★★
4.7
OVERALL RATING
4.5/5.0
  • Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day
  • Earn cash rewards without signing up for rotating categories
  • Be automatically considered for a higher credit line in as little as 6 months
  • Monitor your credit profile with the CreditWise® app, free for everyone
  • $0 fraud liability if your card is ever lost or stolen
  • No limit to how much cash back you can earn, and cash back doesn't expire for the life of the account
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
26.99% (Variable)
$39
Average, Fair, Limited
NO/LIMITED CREDIT RATING
★★★★★
4.7
OVERALL RATING
4.0/5.0
  • No annual fee
  • Unlike a prepaid card, there is regular reporting to the 3 major credit bureaus
  • Accepted at millions of locations worldwide
  • Make the minimum required security deposit and you'll get an initial credit line of $200. Plus, deposit more money before your account opens to get a higher credit line
  • Access to an authorized bank account is required to make your $49, $99 or $200 refundable security deposit
  • Be automatically considered for a higher credit line in as little as 6 months with no additional deposit needed
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
26.99% (Variable)
$0
Limited, Bad

+ See More Offers for No/Limited Credit

The last offer, the Capital One Secured MasterCard, is what’s known as a secured credit card. These types of cards sort of act like prepaid cards in that a deposit is required to secure your line of credit. The amount of your deposit is typically equal to the amount of credit limit you receive. This particular secured card reports to all three credit bureaus, so though you’re using your own money to fund purchases, you’re still building positive credit history.

Prepaid Cards

Prepaid cards are available to anyone 18 years of age or older, and do not require a cosigner or credit check. This is because you’re not borrowing money from an issuing bank, but rather funding the card with your own money – if you deposit $200 onto the card, you’ll have $200 to spend. This is a viable option if you just need a card to make purchases online or anywhere credit cards are accepted.

PayPal Prepaid Mastercard® Review

at Netspend'ssecure website

PREPAID RATING
★★★★★
4.8
OVERALL RATING
3.6/5.0
  • Move money from your PayPal account to fund your prepaid card account.
  • Earn cash back and personalized offers, just for using your card.
  • With Direct Deposit, you can get paid faster than a paper check.
  • Card issued by The Bancorp Bank, Member FDIC. Card may be used everywhere Debit Mastercard is accepted.
  • Click PayPal Prepaid Mastercard® for additional features & program details, and to request a Card.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
N/A
Variable Monthly Fee
Not applicable
Bluebird by American Express® Review

at the issuer'ssecure website

PREPAID RATING
★★★★★
4.8
OVERALL RATING
4.0/5.0
  • Get your paycheck up to 2 days faster with free direct deposit
  • Cash your checks to your Account with the Bluebird Mobile app. Access your money in minutes for a fee or in 10 days for free if your check is not returned unpaid.
  • Enjoy Card Membership benefits such as Purchase Protection and Fraud Protection when making purchases online or in store with Bluebird
  • Get free ATM access at over 30,000 MoneyPass® ATM locations. You can also pick up cash at over 4,500 Walmart® stores with Cash Pickup Powered by Ria®.
  • Pay no monthly fees or overdraft fees
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
N/A
$0
Not applicable
American Express Serve® Review

at the issuer'ssecure website

PREPAID RATING
★★★★★
4.8
OVERALL RATING
3.8/5.0
  • Enjoy FREE withdrawals at over 30,000 MoneyPass ATM locations nationwide.2 You can also use non MoneyPass® ATMs, but fees may apply
  • Get access to your money up to 2 days faster with early Direct Deposit
  • With Serve, you can pay anyone, anytime. Use FREE Online Bill Pay or Write a Check online and we'll mail it to anyone you need to pay.
  • Check your balance and recent transactions, pay bills on the go, add checks, get SMS text alerts, and send money to family or friends who have a Serve Account
  • No credit check, no minimum balance, no hidden fees
  • Transfer cash to anyone from anywhere. Cash is ready for pickup in minutes.
Intro (Purchases)
Intro (Transfers)
Regular APR
Annual Fee
Credit Needed
N/A
N/A
N/A
$0 - $6.95 monthly fee
Not applicable

+ See More Prepaid Offers

Prepaid cards do not report usage to the credit bureaus, however, meaning you won’t build credit using one. If establishing credit is your goal, prepaid cards are not your solution.

Benefits of Building Credit Early

By becoming an authorized user on your parents’ account or opening an account of your own, you can begin to establish credit history — a super important component of adulthood. Your credit history and credit score will be the deciding factor when it’s time to get your first apartment, a new car, and in some cases, a job.

Do your due diligence and find a card that will support your (healthy) spending habits with perks that are attractive to you. The card I got when I was 18 did not offer me most of the things I suggest you find in your first credit card. Needless to say, that card is no longer in my wallet.

Advertiser Disclosure

CardRates.com is a free online resource that offers valuable content and comparison services to users. To keep this resource 100% free, we receive compensation from many of the offers listed on the site. Along with key review factors, this compensation may impact how and where products appear across the site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). CardRates.com does not include the entire universe of available offers. Editorial opinions expressed on the site are strictly our own and are not provided, endorsed, or approved by advertisers.