Cameron DiGiovanni, Writer
No, you don't need a job to get a student credit card, though you do need enough income to cover both your regular expenses and minimum monthly credit card payments, which are around $20 for most student cards. What counts as income depends on the credit card issuer and your age. You might be able to include scholarships, household income and even your allowance, among other sources.
What Counts as Income on Student Credit Card Applications:
Shared Household Income
If you are over 21 years old, credit card issuers can consider your household income - money earned by a spouse, partner, or parent - as long as you have reasonable access to it. On the other hand, applicants between 18 and 21 years old can only apply for a credit card with their independent income. This rule was put in place through the CARD Act of 2009 with the purpose of discouraging irresponsible borrowing and predatory lending practices targeted toward young consumers.
Many credit card issuers will also consider support you receive from a parent or guardian as part of your income, even if you are not yet 21 years old. As a rule of thumb, you can include funds that are regularly deposited into your bank account.
Even if you don't have a traditional job, you can still include freelance earnings on your credit card application.
Scholarships and Grants
Credit card issuers have different policies when it comes to considering academic scholarships and grants as a form of income. Generally, you're safe to add any money that ends up in your account after covering tuition and school fees. Some issuers might even allow you to include the entire sum on the application, if the funds land in your personal bank account first. Unfortunately, student loans don't count as income, since they're a form of debt.
Social Security and Unemployment Benefits.
Income from government assistance programs, such as Social Security and unemployment benefits, can also count as income on credit card applications.
Even if your added income from all these sources doesn't satisfy student credit card requirements, there are still a few ways you could get a credit card.
Student Credit Card Alternatives if You Have No Job
Become an Authorized User
Even if your income situation makes it unlikely for you to get approved for any student credit card, you can still become an authorized user on someone else's account. Authorized users receive their own credit card and can make purchases, but the primary cardholder remains responsible for making payments.
Get a Secured Credit Card
If you don't have a regular source of income, secured credit cards might be a viable option. Because users are required to place a refundable deposit as collateral, income requirements for secured cards tend to be less strict. However, keep in mind that even with the security deposit, you're still responsible for making minimum monthly payments.
Calculating Annual Income for Student Credit Card Applications
It can be difficult to accurately measure your annual income when you don't have a fixed salary. And while credit card companies only ask for an estimate, it is important to remember that overstating your income on a credit card application can result in your application being declined. Moreover, knowingly lying on a credit card application is a crime.
To make sure you put down the right number, read carefully though the issuer's application guidelines or call customer service for more information. And if you need help picking a card, check out WalletHub's picks for the best student credit cards of 2023.
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