There are plenty of benefits to having a credit card -- think credit card rewards, purchase protection, and the ease at which you're able to shop without having to worry whether you've brought enough cash. But how old do you have to be to get a credit card?
Having a credit card in your name is a huge responsibility, and as such, there are some age restrictions on who can qualify for one.
You must be at least 18 to get a credit card in your own name, even if you have a credit card cosigner.
The Credit CARD Act of 2009 placed some further restrictions on issuing credit cards to consumers who are 18 to 20. If you're under 21, a card issuer might ask you for additional verification information or a cosigner.
But consider whether your question is "How old do you have to be to get a credit card," or "How old do you have to be to use a credit card?" They're different.
It is possible to use a credit card before the age of 18. If someone (like a parent) is willing to add you as an authorized user to his or her account, you can get a credit card sooner. Credit card authorized users are able to make charges to a primary cardholder's account.
The issue of how old you have to be to get a credit card alone isn't necessarily the only factor in getting approved for one. Your credit score is the key to credit card approval in most cases.
Your credit score is a number that rates how good you are at paying off debt, among other things. When you make a debt payment (for a loan or credit card, for example), apply for a credit card, or do other similar things, those actions are part of something called your credit history. Your credit history is recorded in a report, known as your credit report. The information on your credit report is used to calculate your credit score. The better you are with making on-time payments, the better your credit history, credit report, and credit score.
If you're barely out of high school and haven't yet had any bills in your name, your credit history may be thin. You might not even have a credit score.
Instead of asking how old you have to be to get a credit card, you're probably now thinking, how can I build a credit history and get a credit score? Especially if no one will approve me for a credit card?
Don't worry -- there are ways to get a card, even if you have no credit score. Here's how.
First, you can get added to someone else's card as an authorized user. All the activity on that account, including the primary cardholder's, will typically show up on your credit report. This can help or hurt your credit, depending on how the account is used. If the balance stays low and is paid off on-time each month, it should help you build a positive credit history.
Another option is to apply for a credit card with a cosigner (although not every card issuer allows a cosigner). Ideally, your cosigner should be someone with stellar credit. That way, you'll get approved based on your cosigner's record. Of course, finding a cosigner is easier said than done. Your cosigner effectively takes responsibility for making sure your charges are paid in full. Some typical candidates for a cosigner might include a parent, aunt, uncle, or older sibling.
Another option you might look into, particularly if you already have negative marks on your credit, is to get one of the best secured credit cards. With a secured credit card, you give the card issuer a cash deposit. Then you're allowed to charge purchases up to the amount you've put down. So if you give the issuer a $500 deposit, you can charge up to $500 on your credit card. A secured credit card will allow you to build a credit history so that you're eligible for a traditional credit card in the future.
Now, if you're in college, you might get approved for a student credit card. The best student credit cards are designed specifically for students. They work just like traditional credit cards. However, they typically come with lower credit limits. You might snag one if you have some type of income, even with a limited to nonexistent credit history.
Knowing how old you have to be to get a credit card is only the first step. Establishing a credit history is a key part of getting approved for a credit card at any age.
Some newer credit scoring models now take debit card activity and bill payments into account. Try getting a debit card early on and putting a bill or two in your name. Pay it on time and in full every month. For example, if you're on your parents' cell phone plan, you might get your own plan and then make steady payments when your bills come due.
You'll still want to get some credit activity on your credit report to build a well-rounded credit history. And as mentioned earlier, charging against a secured credit card and paying off your balance is one of the best ways to do this.
So, how old do you have to be to get a credit card? While the answer is technically 18, it's not always that simple. If you end up having trouble getting approved even once you're over 18, don't despair. With a little effort, you can build a credit history and snag a card of your own once issuers trust that you're reliable enough to pay your bills.
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