How old do you have to be to get a credit card?
Building credit early can have many advantages. And using a credit card responsibly is one way to establish credit and work on improving your credit scores.
But have you ever wondered how old you have to be to apply for a credit card? And if you’re too young to get a credit card on your own, are there other options? Here are some things to know about credit card age requirements and options for people who are new to credit or still working on their scores.
- You typically have to be at least 18 to open your own credit card account.
- People under 21 may have to meet some additional requirements to open a credit card, and there are generally more credit card options for people over 21.
- People under 18 may be able to access credit by becoming an authorized user on someone else’s credit card account.
- 18-to-20-year-olds may be able to open a credit card with proof of income or an eligible co-signer who’s at least 21.
Age requirements for opening a credit card
You generally have to be at least 18 to open your own credit card. That’s because before you turn 18, you’re typically too young to enter into contracts. That can include things like credit card agreements. And if you’re under 21, there might be some extra requirements to get your own credit card.
Learn more about how age might affect your credit card options and some other ways to build credit with responsible use before you qualify for a traditional credit card.
Getting a credit card before 18
Kids younger than 18 typically can’t open their own credit card. But they may be able to access credit in other ways. One is by becoming an authorized user on someone else’s credit card account.
An authorized user is a person a cardholder has granted access to use their account. An authorized user is allowed to make charges on the card. And they might get their own card connected to the account too. But an authorized user isn’t the person required to make payments every month. That responsibility falls to the account holder.
Each credit card issuer has its own requirements for authorized users. But it’s also important to know that credit card issuers aren’t required to report authorized users’ activity to credit bureaus. If the information doesn’t appear in a credit report, it might not affect the authorized user’s credit at all.
Credit card options for 18-to-20-year-olds
Before you turn 21, you might have to prove that you have enough independent income to make your minimum credit card payments.
Your income might include things like full-time, part-time or seasonal job income as well as self-employment income. It might also include interest, dividends, public assistance or even shared income that somebody else regularly deposits into your account or a joint account, among other things.
If you can’t show adequate independent income, you may need a co-signer, guarantor or joint applicant who can meet certain requirements. But keep in mind that not all credit card issuers allow co-signers, guarantors or joint applicants. And if you’re under 21, you can only apply in writing. You’ll learn more about how co-signers work below.
But there are some options to be aware of if you want to start building credit but have obstacles—like your age, income or a lack of credit history—in your way.
Student credit cards
Student credit cards are often tailored to the college crowd. They may be easier to qualify for than many other credit cards and often offer benefits that are relevant to students. Student credit cards can help build credit history and encourage financial independence. But that’s only when they’re used responsibly. You can even see whether you’re pre-approved for card offers with no impact to your credit before you apply.
Secured credit cards
When a credit card is “secured,” it means money has to be deposited with the credit card issuer in order to open an account. The deposit is often refundable. But credit card issuers each have their own policies about when and how refunds are given. And there are even secured credit cards, like QuickSilver Secured Rewards from Capital One, that let you earn cash back rewards.
Trying to decide between a prepaid card or a secured credit card? It’s important to know that in most cases, prepaid card usage isn’t reported to the credit bureaus. That means that prepaid cards typically can’t be used to establish or build credit the way secured cards can with responsible use. Learn more by reading this article on how secured credit cards work.
A co-signer vouches for someone who’s applying for their own credit card. The co-signer is telling the credit card company that if the cardholder can’t pay, they will. Keep in mind that not all issuers allow co-signers. And co-signers have to be at least 21 and be able to make payments on the account.
Credit card options for people age 21 and up
There are so many types of credit cards out there. And after you’ve worked to build your credit with responsible use—and have your own income—there might be more options available to you.
When the time is right, you might consider upgrading to a credit card that lets you earn rewards when you spend responsibly. From cash back credit cards to travel credit cards and more, there are rewards cards to suit all kinds of lifestyles.
But before you apply for any credit card, it’s a good idea to check your VantageScore® or FICO® credit score so you know where you stand.
One way to monitor your credit is with CreditWise from Capital One. CreditWise gives you free access to your TransUnion® credit report and VantageScore 3.0 credit score—without hurting your score. CreditWise is free and available to everyone—even if you don’t have a Capital One account.
You can also get free copies of your credit reports from the three major credit bureaus. Call 877-322-8228 or visit AnnualCreditReport.com to learn more.
Find out whether you’re pre-approved
It’s also a good idea to do your research and compare your options—no matter where you are in your credit-building journey. Checking to see whether you’re pre-qualified or pre-approved for a credit card can be a great way to compare your options and find the right fit before applying.
Some issuers even have online tools that show you which cards you might qualify for before you apply. Checking to see whether you’re pre-approved for a Capital One card is quick and only requires some basic info. And it won’t hurt your credit scores because it requires only a soft inquiry.
Capital One also has a credit card comparison tool that helps you search by credit requirements, rewards type and other factors to find the right credit card for you.
Age to get a credit card in a nutshell
The minimum age for opening a credit card on your own is generally 18. But if you’re under 21, there still might be some additional requirements for opening an account.
But there are some ways people under 21 may be able to access and build credit with responsible use even if they don’t meet the requirement to open their own account. Those might include becoming an authorized user on someone else’s account, having a co-signer, and applying for a student credit card or a secured credit card.
But no matter how old you are, it’s important to know how to use a credit card responsibly. This can set you up for a strong financial foundation as you work to establish or build your credit. And if a credit card application wasn’t approved in the past, it might help to learn more about why your credit card application may have been denied.
We hope you found this helpful. Our content is not intended to provide legal, investment or financial advice or to indicate that a particular Capital One product or service is available or right for you. For specific advice about your unique circumstances, consider talking with a qualified professional.
Capital One does not provide, endorse or guarantee any third-party product, service, information, or recommendation listed above. The third parties listed are solely responsible for their products and services, and all trademarks listed are the property of their respective owners.
Your CreditWise score is calculated using the TransUnion® VantageScore® 3.0 model, which is one of many credit scoring models. It may not be the same model your lender uses, but it can be one accurate measure of your credit health. The availability of the CreditWise tool depends on our ability to obtain your credit history from TransUnion. Some monitoring and alerts may not be available to you if the information you enter at enrollment does not match the information in your credit file at (or you do not have a file at) one or more consumer reporting agencies.