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Should You Get a Credit Card at 18? What Age Is Best?

Should You Get a Credit Card at 18? What Age Is Best?

You know that it is important to start building your credit from an early age, but when should you get a credit card? Is there a right age to do so?

You cannot legally open a credit card until 18 years old. Most people should try to get a credit card at this age to start building their credit. However, if you won't be able to make on-time payments, you should wait to open a card. You should also wait if you don't fully understand how credit cards work.

Discover more details about the right age to get a credit card, including why it is smart to get one at age 18 and what to be aware of before going ahead and opening a card.

excited young boy credit cardWhat Age Should You Get a Credit Card? Is 18 the Best Age?

As long as you can use it responsibly, you should get a credit card as early as possible. This means getting a card at age 18. Getting the card will help you start building your credit. It can also teach you some early financial lessons.

But there are some important caveats to keep in mind before getting a credit card at 18. Most importantly, you should only do so if you understand how they work and can pay it back in full every month.

Why Should I Get a Credit Card at 18?

The biggest reason to get a credit card at 18 is to build your credit score, but it is not the only one.

Build Your Credit Score

One of the main factors affecting your credit score is your credit history. The longer your credit history, the better. Since 18 is the earliest you can start building your credit history, this means it is smart to do so right away.

On top of that, the sooner you get a credit card, the more quickly you can start building up a history of on-time payments. This is another significant factor affecting your score, giving you a nice boost.

Remember that building a strong credit score will help with a long list of financial tasks. From being approved for credit cards with higher limits to applying for an auto loan or mortgage, your credit score will help. Besides helping you get approved for credit cards and loans, having a better score can get you lower interest rates.

Even if you don't have plans to buy a car or home anytime soon, your credit score will also affect other aspects of your life. For example, most landlords check the credit score of their tenants, and some employers even check them. Your credit score can even affect your insurance rates, including home and auto insurance.

Develop Good Financial Habits

The other big advantage of getting a credit card at age 18 is that you will start to learn or solidify good financial habits. Think of having one credit card as a way to ease yourself into managing monthly payments on several credit cards or loans in the future.

Even if you know how to be financially responsible in theory, a credit card may be one of the first real opportunities to hone those skills. In this way, getting a credit card when you are young can help ensure your financials are strong later in life.

As a bonus, if you happen to make a mistake or miss a payment on your credit card, it is better to do so when you are young, and it is likely small. It will be much easier to correct, and by the time you buy a home, it may no longer appear on your credit report.

Credit Cards Come With Some Other Advantages

Compared to other payment methods, such as cash or debit cards, credit cards also have a few advantages. These include:

  • Easy to use for online purchases
  • Typically offer fraud protection (and to a greater degree than debit cards)
  • May come with rewards

How to Get a Credit Card at 18?

Your first time applying for a credit card may be a little daunting. This is especially true given the extra challenges today's teens face getting a credit card compared to before. These requirements are designed to prevent people from taking out the debt they can't pay back, which would hurt their credit score and financial future. In practice, you will need to prove your income to get a credit card at age 18.

Get a Source of Income

If you want to get a credit card in your name without a cosigner, you will need to have a job or source of income. Even if your credit is perfect, you will need to show the credit card issuer that you have an income source before being approved.

There are no official guidelines for how much income you need to have. Nonetheless, most card issuers will have their guidelines, but they aren't likely to publish those. The good news is that the credit card issuer must tell you why you are declined for a card. This means that you will find out if it is because of a lack of income.

No Income? Get a Cosigner

If you don't have a source of income, then you can get a cosigner. The cosigner will have to be at least 21 years old and meet qualifications, including having sufficient income.

This is a great solution for teens, but it is also a major thing to ask of the cosigner. They will not be authorized to use your card, but they will be responsible for the balance. If you don't pay on time, they will be responsible for doing so, AND it will negatively affect their credit score. As such, your best options for cosigners are typically family members or spouses.

Or Get a Secured Credit Card

The point of getting a credit card when you are 18 is to build your credit score. Secured credit cards will do just as good of a job at this as unsecured (standard) cards. You deposit cash when you open a secured card, and that deposit amount becomes your credit limit.

If you pay on time, great. If you don't, your card may be closed, or the card issuer will use part of your security deposit to pay the balance and reduce your limit. In either case, the card issuer is paid. This reduced risk means it is much easier to be approved for a secured card.

In many cases, you can even upgrade your secured credit card to an unsecured one after a certain number of on-time payments.

You Can Also Become an Authorized User

Yet another option is to become an authorized user of another person's credit card. You can do this as young as 13 years old. As an authorized user, you get a card with your name, but you are not legally responsible for payments. Your card connects to the main cardholder's account, and they must pay your balance.

Like cosigning, this comes with an obvious financial risk for the person who adds you as an authorized user. As such, family members are most likely to add you as an authorized user.

The cardholder's payment history for that particular card will still show up on your credit history. This means that becoming an authorized user may help you with your credit score and make it easier to be approved for cards in the future.

Credit Card Alternatives for Good Financial Habits

As mentioned, one of the goals of getting a credit card as soon as you can is to build your credit history and score. If none of the above work for you, there are a few other options. These won't affect your credit score but can still help you develop good financial habits.

Debit cards are one good option. You only need to open a bank account to get a debit card. Many stores accept debit cards just like they would credit cards. Another option is a prepaid credit card similar to a gift card. However, neither of these options will boost your credit score. In either case, you need to have money to spend money. The money must be in your bank account or on the card before spending it.

happy young boy card

When Should You Get a Credit Card?

Overall, you should get a credit card as soon as you are able to, as long as you will be financially responsible for it. Only get a card if you can make monthly payments and understand that you have to pay it back.

If you still don't understand how credit cards work, have a limited income or don't think you'll pay on time, don't get a card yet. Even credit issues created when you are young can be incredibly hard to overcome. For example, you could easily work up thousands of dollars in credit card debt. Then, if you can't pay it, it would keep accumulating interest and multiply. In the meantime, your credit score would drop significantly.

Keep reading: Name On Credit Card – What It Means When Ordering Online


You can get your first credit card at age 18. It is smart to do so right away, as long as you will make on-time payments and feel confident managing the card. This will help you build your credit score and hone your financial skills to get you on the right track for the future.

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