gotta love 18 year olds

Gotta Love 18-Year-Olds: Your Guide to Getting a Credit Card



Getting a credit card is often seen as the first crucial step towards building a credit history. While the minimum age for obtaining a credit card is 18, individuals aged 21 and older stand a better chance of getting a credit card with attractive rewards offers if they already have an established credit history. Parents can also add teenagers below 18 years as authorized users, depending on the card issuer.

How Old Do You Have to Be to Get a Credit Card?

To be eligible for a credit card in the U.S., you must be 18 years old or older. However, some card issuers allow parents to add teenagers as authorized users. For individuals between 18 and 20, additional requirements such as a cosigner or proof of income are necessary to be approved for their first credit card, as mandated by the Credit CARD Act of 2009.

How To Get a Credit Card If You’re 18 to 20 Years Old

First-time cardholders within this age range may be college students, trade school attendees, or working individuals. Having a credit card at this stage can be beneficial not only for everyday purchases but also for earning rewards, such as cash back. The following are some options to consider for first-time cardholders between 18 and 20:

1. Get a Secured Credit Card

Secured credit cards are an excellent option for individuals without a cosigner. Applicants are required to pay a security deposit to the issuer, typically ranging from $49 to at least $200, which then becomes the card’s credit limit. These cards function similarly to regular credit cards, allowing the cardholder to make purchases up to the credit limit and requiring the balance to be paid off each month. Once the account is closed, and the balance is paid in full (including interest and fees), the security deposit will be returned. Some banks may even review your eligibility for unsecured credit after establishing a good payment history, eventually returning the deposit upon graduation to an unsecured card.

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2. Become an Authorized User

Becoming an authorized user is a quick and straightforward way to obtain a credit card without filling out a lengthy application. Authorized users typically receive their own credit card with their name on it. To become an authorized user, one can ask a parent, guardian, friend, or family member who is comfortable adding them to their account. Some card issuers may charge a fee for adding authorized users.

As an authorized user, the primary cardholder is responsible for paying off both cards. It is essential to create a spending and payment plan with the primary cardholder to avoid overspending and late payments. Ensuring that the card issuer reports authorized user activity to credit bureaus is crucial, as one of the main goals for young credit card users is to build credit for better cards in the future.

3. Get a Student Credit Card

Student credit cards are designed specifically for individuals within the 18 to 22-year-old range who likely have little to no credit history. For example, the Discover it® Student Cash Back is a solid option for college students looking to acquire their first credit card. This card offers a 0% intro APR on purchases for 6 months, followed by a standard variable purchase APR of 17.99% – 26.99%. Additionally, it provides 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places each quarter, like, grocery stores, restaurants, and gas stations, up to the quarterly maximum once activated. Furthermore, cardholders automatically earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases, and the card comes with a $0 annual fee.

4. Get a Cosigner

Applicants aged 18 to 20 must have either a cosigner (such as a parent, guardian, or other family member) or provide proof of employment or income to be approved for a credit card. This information reassures the issuer that the cardholder will be able to pay their bills on time and determines the credit limit for the new cardholder.

It is important to ensure that the cosigner has a decent credit history with a good chance of approval. Both the cardholder and the cosigner are equally responsible for paying off the balance of the card. If the cardholder falls into debt, it will negatively affect the credit scores of both parties, so responsible spending and timely payments are essential. Not all banks allow cosigners on credit cards, so it’s important to check with the specific issuer.

How To Get a Credit Card If You’re At Least 21 Years Old

Prospective cardholders who are at least 21 years old can apply for a credit card independently, regardless of their income status. Individuals in this age group usually have better credit card options, especially if they have built credit through a student credit card or by being an authorized user on a parent’s account. While cosigners are not necessary, they can still be a helpful addition to an application, especially for those with a low credit score or those seeking high-end cards with additional benefits, perks, and reward potential (if allowed by the bank).

Finding the best credit card options typically means looking for cards with no annual fee and generous cash back rewards, such as the Chase Freedom Unlimited®. With this card, you can earn 1.5% back in points that you can redeem for cash or travel.

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How To Get a Credit Card If You’re Younger than 18 Years Old

Parents who wish to start building their children’s credit history early can add their teenagers as authorized users on their credit card accounts. Some card issuers, like Discover, allow authorized users as young as 15 years old without any additional charges to the account holder.

Having an emergency card available at a young age can be useful in times of need. However, it is essential to discuss responsible spending habits to avoid potential issues.

How To Build Credit

While obtaining a first credit card can be empowering, it also comes with great responsibility. First-time cardholders should exercise caution when using their credit cards and fully understand the card’s terms and conditions. The primary goal with a first credit card is to build credit, as the rewards potential might be limited compared to the best credit cards. Therefore, treat the first credit card as a stepping stone towards better benefits, terms, and rewards.

The best ways to build credit are often the same ways to avoid falling into debt. These include:

  1. Avoid spending beyond your means: Only buy items that can be paid for in cash.
  2. Pay off the entire balance every month: Avoid accruing interest by paying off the balance in full.
  3. Pay the bill on time every month: Timely payments help protect your credit history and avoid late fees.
  4. Use the card responsibly: Avoid unnecessary fees by using the card responsibly.
  5. Don’t apply for too many cards: Stick with the first credit card for at least six months to a year before considering applying for another one. Clearly define your financial and credit goals before applying for additional cards.


Obtaining your first credit card is an essential milestone on the path to financial independence. While the legal age to apply for a credit card is 18, individuals between 18 and 20 years old can still get one with a cosigner or proof of income. As you grow older, more options open up, and individuals at least 21 years old can apply for a credit card independently. Remember that responsible credit card usage can lead to a great credit score and better financial opportunities in the future.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

  • At what age can you get an unsecured credit card?
  • Is it illegal to have a credit card under 18?
  • Can you get a credit card at 17?
  • How do I know my child is ready for a credit card?
  • Can my teenager get a credit card?
  • Which credit card is best for teenagers?

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Bottom Line

Acquiring a credit card at a young age is possible by becoming an authorized user on a parent’s account. However, the legal age to apply for your own credit card is 18. For individuals between 18 and 20 years old, a cosigner or proof of income is required for approval. For applicants aged 21 and above, applying for a credit card independently is possible without any assistance.

Always provide accurate information on a credit card application, including social security numbers, annual income, and mailing addresses, as required. Misrepresenting critical information, such as income, can lead to fines or even prison time.

Having a credit card comes with responsibility. As long as new cardholders avoid overspending and pay off their balance on time every month, they are likely to build a strong credit score.

About the Authors

Chauncey Crail – Chauncey grew up on a farm in rural northern California. At 18, he ran away and explored the world with just a backpack and a credit card, discovering that the true value of any point or mile is the experience it facilitates. He remains most at home on a tractor but has learned that opportunity is where he finds it, and discomfort is more interesting than complacency.

Dia Adams – Dia Adams is a Managing Editor for Forbes Advisor in the credit cards and travel rewards vertical. She is the author of the Amazon Bestselling book “Disney World Hacks” and has been featured on national television, radio, print, and online media as a credit cards, miles and points, Disney, and family travel expert. Dia is passionate about helping individuals make informed financial decisions and leverage travel rewards to explore the world with their families.

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