You can get your first credit card at any time by becoming an authorized user. If you want your own credit card account, you will have to be at least 18 and able to prove you have enough income to afford a credit card.
When you become an authorized user on a primary cardholder’s account, you can make charges (assuming the primary cardholder allows it), but you bear no responsibility for paying the bills. The account also gets added to the authorized user’s credit report, which allows for a head start on building a solid credit history, provided there’s no negative activity on the account. There is no legal restriction on the age of an authorized user, and most credit card issuers don’t have a minimum age requirement, either.
Legally, you can get your own credit card account for the first time when you turn 18 years old, as long as you have a verifiable source of independent income. Even if you don’t plan to charge your purchases often, it’s still worthwhile to open a credit card account. You’ll still build credit if you don’t use your card, just not as quickly. The fastest way to build credit would be to charge 1% to 10% of your credit limit per month and pay it off in full.
When to Get Your First Credit Card:
- As an authorized user: Any time. You should start building credit as early as possible. While there is no legal minimum age to become an authorized user, some issuers may have their own age requirements.
- As a primary cardholder: Once you turn 18 years old and are legally allowed to apply. The Credit CARD Act of 2009 only emphasizes that applicants under 21 need to be able to show that they have enough independent income to afford a credit card.
- If you’re older than 18: As soon as possible. Credit building is essential for things like buying cars and houses later in life.
If you’ve been an authorized user on an account in good standing and have a full-time income, you should have little difficulty getting approved for your first credit card. But make sure to focus on cards for people with limited or no credit, to have the best odds of approval.
People with no credit history can also look into secured credit cards, some of which don’t even do a credit check when you apply. You’ll just have to put down a security deposit, usually at least $200, to set your credit limit. This deposit is fully refundable when you close your account without an unpaid balance.
Or, if you’re a student with a part-time income, consider applying for a student credit card. A student credit often comes with better terms and rewards than a regular credit card for limited credit.
Finally, when you get your first credit card, understand that it will also be your most important credit card. If you spend within your means and consistently pay on time, you will eventually qualify for credit cards with better terms and more rewards. If you go the opposite route, it will be more difficult to secure additional credit and you may run up costly debts. To keep an eye on you credit, you can sign up for free credit score updates, right here on WalletHub.
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