Guide to Credit Card Age Limits

By Jason Steele · March 12, 2024 · 7 minute read

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Guide to Credit Card Age Limits

If you’re young and looking to access and build credit, opening a credit card can be a great step. However, you need to be at least 18 years old to open your own account. If you’re under the age of 18, you can’t open your own credit card, but you can be an authorized user on someone else’s account.

Even if you’re old enough to get a credit card, when you’re under the age of 21, you may face additional requirements when applying. Read on for tips on getting a credit card when you’re young and options you might consider to be able to start building your credit.

At What Age Can You Get a Credit Card?

To open your own credit card, you must be at least 18 years old.

However, if you’re between the ages of 18 and 20, you may encounter stricter verification requirements, including showing proof of ability to repay, such as through income, or getting a cosigner. This is due to regulations from the Credit CARD Act of 2009, which is intended to protect young consumers from taking on more debt than they can handle.

After age 21, these regulations won’t apply to you, but card issuers may still review your income as part of your application. It’s also important to pay attention to the terms and conditions of the credit card, such as the APR on a credit card, as you consider your credit card options and apply.

If you’re younger and have a limited credit history, you may only get approved for a card with a higher APR. Do your research before applying to have an idea of what is a good APR on a credit card.

Tips for Getting a Credit Card When You’re Young

Once you understand what a credit card is and how credit cards work, you may see the appeal of a credit card and want to open one. If you’re under the age of 18, the best things you can do to work toward being able to get your own credit card are to start building credit and to learn the basics of financial management.

Start Building Credit

Building credit when you’re young may be hard, especially if you’re under 18 and not yet eligible for your own credit card. One way to do so, however, is by becoming an authorized user on a credit card account.

A responsible parent or guardian can add you as an authorized user for their account, even if you’re still under the age of 18. Being added to the primary cardholder’s credit history can help build your credit.

Learn the Basics of Financial Management

It’s also important for young people to learn the basics of financial management. Learning about things like budgeting, credit card interest, and credit scores before you even own a credit card can help put you on the path to financial success. That way, when you do eventually get your own credit card, you’ll know how to stay on top of credit card minimum payments and avoid debt.

This can also be a good time to familiarize yourself with common financial scams, such as credit card skimmers, so you’ll know what to be aware of when you do get your own card.

How to Get a Credit Card If You Are 18 to 20 Years Old

Many young people between the ages of 18 and 20 are attending college or trade school or working. They may not have a lot of income yet, and their credit history may be limited. Still, first-time cardholders do have options for getting a credit card, which can be an important step toward building their credit history and score.

Secured Credit Cards

One option is secured cards, which are a type of credit card that require the cardholder to make a refundable security deposit. The security deposit typically becomes the amount of the card’s credit limit.

Secured cards are often marketed toward people who want or need to build their credit, so they can be a great choice for young people who are age 20 and under. Once you make the initial minimum security deposit (which usually serves as your credit limit), you can use your secured credit card in the same way that you would use any other credit card. Like any other credit card, your credit card will have a credit card expiration date and a CVV number.

A few points to note:

•   Since your credit limit is often equal to the amount of your security deposit, secured credit cards often don’t have very high credit limits compared to the average credit card limit. However, having a lower credit limit can help prevent young people from overspending.

•   With a secured card, your money is tied up temporarily in the security deposit. While you get your security deposit back when you close or upgrade the account, that’s money you otherwise can’t use in the meantime.

Become an Authorized User

Young cardholders could also become an authorized user, which is someone who’s added to a credit card account with authorization to use that account. The authorized user typically has their own card and can use it to make payments as usual. However, only the primary account holder is held responsible for payments.

The authorized user benefits from this arrangement because the primary cardholder’s account history and activity are reported on the authorized user’s credit report, which can help build their credit history.

Apply for a Student Credit Card

Student credit cards are designed and marketed for students roughly between the ages of 18 and 22 years old. Students generally have different needs than other credit card customers, so it may make sense for them to get a credit card designed specifically for them.

As an added bonus, some students may qualify for credit cards with rewards, such as cashback on categories that students may spend more on, like restaurants and grocery stores.

Consider Credit Builder Credit Cards

There are also some credit cards that are available to applicants with poor credit who are looking to build their credit. Responsible use of a credit card can be a great way to build or improve credit, as your payment history will be reported to all three major consumer credit bureaus. Just keep in mind that these cards can have higher than average credit card interest rates and more fees due to their availability to those with lower credit scores.

Get a Cosigner

Another option for young applicants is to get a cosigner for a credit card. Indeed, applicants within the 18 to 20 age range must get a cosigner if they can’t provide proof of employment or income when applying. Also, people in this age may not have much of a credit history, if any, which can be a downside.

A cosigner can be a parent, guardian, or other family member who assumes legal and financial responsibility for the applicant if they are unable to pay off the balance of the card. Ideally, the cosigner should have a decent credit history to improve the chances of the credit card application getting approved. If the cardholder fails to repay a card or falls in debt, it will negatively affect the credit score of both the cardholder and the cosigner, so this is an important responsibility.

Check with your bank or credit card issuer before using a cosigner, since not all banks allow cosigners on credit cards.

The Takeaway

Once you reach the age of 18, you will be able to get a credit card of your own. You can make sure you’re ready for this responsibility by building your credit history, getting down the financial basics, and knowing how to apply for a credit card when the time comes. You’ll have options as a young credit card applicant, from secured credit cards to student credit cards to credit builder cards and more. Learning how to use a credit card responsibly is an important part of your financial life.

Whether you're looking to build credit, apply for a new credit card, or save money with the cards you have, it's important to understand the options that are best for you. Learn more about credit cards by exploring this credit card guide.


Can I get a joint card?

Some card issuers allow cosigners on credit card. If you’re not able to qualify for a credit card on your own, you could also explore becoming an authorized user on someone else’s credit card account.

Does a student credit card affect credit score?

Yes, a student credit card affects your credit score. A student credit card is a regular credit card that’s just designed with students’ unique needs in mind, so it will affect your credit like any other credit card would.

What is the limit on a student credit card?

Credit limits on student credit cards vary by issuer and card. However, credit limits on student cards are often lower than the average credit card limit due to the fact that students generally have more limited credit histories and lower incomes.

Do you need credit for a secured credit card?

Most secured credit cards have less restrictive requirements for an applicant’s credit. In fact, many secured credit cards consider applicants with very poor or limited credit.

Photo credit: iStock/RgStudio

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