How old do you have to be to get a credit card?

When Should My Child Get a Credit Card?

How old do you have to be to get a credit card?

You typically have to be 18 years old to get a credit card on your own. But credit card issuers make it easy to get a credit card for a child under 18 as an authorized user on your account.

In fact, T. Rowe Price found in its 2017 Parents, Kids and Money survey that 18% of kids ages eight to 14 have credit cards.

The right age to get your child a credit card depends on the reasons for getting it and whether your child is ready to manage it. It's also important to know which credit card to get so that you can benefit most from the arrangement.

Find the best credit cards in Experian CreditMatch™.

Why It's Smart to Get a Credit Card for a Child Under 18

Here are three key reasons why you might want to get a credit card for your son or daughter:

1. It Can Help Them Establish a Credit History

Any credit account that lenders report to the three credit bureaus can affect your credit. And if your child is heading to college in the next few years, establishing a credit history sooner than later can help them immensely.

For example, private student loan companies typically require a credit check and having some credit history can also help your child get their first student credit card. They may even be able to finance their first car without needing you as a cosigner.

Keep in mind, though, that not all credit card issuers report authorized user account information to the credit bureaus. To find out if yours does, call the number on the back of your card and ask a customer service representative.

Also, depending on which credit scoring model is used, your child's authorized user status may not impact their credit as much as if they were to be the primary owner of the account.

2. You Can Teach Kids About Smart Credit Card Use

Credit cards can be dangerous if you're not careful. The average credit card balance was $6354 at the end of 2017, Experian data.

If you can teach your children about responsible credit card use, they'll be less ly to make mistakes ignorance. Talk to them about the card's annual percentage rate (APR) and how credit cards typically charge higher APRs than other typical debts.

Explain how it's important to avoid charging more to the credit card than you can afford to pay off each month. Also, show how you can avoid interest altogether by paying off your credit card balance on time and in full.

Teaching your children these lessons in a training-wheel environment can help them develop good financial habits that will serve them well when they enter the adult world.

Find the best credit cards in Experian CreditMatch™.

3. They Can Use It in an Emergency

If you gave your child a cell phone so they can call you in case of an emergency, why not do the same thing with a credit card?

It's unly that your son or daughter will need to use the credit card often for emergencies. But it could provide you with some peace of mind knowing that they won't get stranded without gas money.

It's a good idea to put rules on using the card, though, so you both agree on what qualifies as an emergency expense. Also, you can teach your child the value of saving up an emergency fund so you can immediately pay off any surprise credit card expenses that arise.

Is Your Child Ready for a Credit Card?

Using a credit card requires a great deal of responsibility, and it's not for everyone—even some adults. It's important to have a conversation with your child to determine if they're ready for a credit card. Keep in mind their age isn't as important a factor as their maturity level and willingness to learn.

For example, does your son or daughter typically have problems following rules you set? Do they have a healthy attitude toward money?

You know your kids better than anyone else, so use your judgment and make the call that knowledge. Whether or not your child is ready for a credit card, it's wise to create some ground rules for their new spending power.

For starters, decide who's going to pay the bill. According to the same T. Rowe Price survey, 41% of parents have their kids pay their own credit card bills. Doing this may encourage your child to use the card more responsibly than if you were to foot the bill each month.

If you aren't going to have your child to pay off their own credit card purchases, discuss and agree when it's appropriate to use the card and when it isn't. If you find that they're breaching these boundaries, follow up and remind them of your agreement.

Find the best credit cards in Experian CreditMatch™.

Which Issuers Allow You to Get a Credit Card for a Child under 18?

Adding your child as an authorized user can be a good thing, but you may run into issues if your credit card issuer doesn't allow it or has an age requirement.

To help, we've done some research to determine how the top credit card issuers handle it.

Credit Card IssuerAge Requirement
American Express13 or 15 years old, depending on the card
Barclays13 years old
Bank of AmericaNo minimum age requirement
Capital OneNo minimum age requirement
ChaseNo minimum age requirement
CitiNo minimum age requirement
Discover15 years old
U.S. Bank16 years old
Wells FargoNo minimum age requirement

If your credit card issuer isn't included in this list, call the number on the back of your card and ask about their age requirement.

If you find that your credit card issuer doesn't allow you to get a credit card for a child under 18 as an authorized user, or has a minimum age requirement that's too high, consider applying for a new credit card.

There are plenty of great rewards credit cards from top issuers that have no age minimum. Also, keep in mind that your child's purchases as an authorized user generate rewards just yours. So, getting a card with better rewards can make the arrangement more valuable for you.

Find the best cash back credit cards in Experian CreditMatch™.

Proceed With Caution

Adding your son or daughter as an authorized user on your credit card can help them build credit and develop good credit habits. But if you're not careful, you could be on the hook for purchases they've made, whether you approve of them or not.

But if you follow the tips we've outlined, you'll be able to turn this into a positive experience for both you and your child.


Top credit cards for teens under 18 2021 |

How old do you have to be to get a credit card?
Legally, no one can get a credit card on their own unless they’re at least 18 years old. However, a minor can be an authorized user on someone else’s account. Here are some credit card options that allow teens under 18 as authorized users, along with a few tips for teaching them financial habits.

This age range is a good time to introduce your tween to debit and prepaid cards. These cards are a relatively safe way to teach your child how to spend responsibly. They don’t accrue interest and they draw from preloaded money through a bank account or other source.

The downside to debit and prepaid cards is twofold:

  • Using prepaid cards in particular often incurs fees. Even a simple visit to the ATM can result in a charge. These fees can add up and are counter-intuitive to your goal of teaching your child about responsible spending.
  • Neither prepaid cards nor debit cards will help your child build credit.

During this time, teach your tween about the concept of a credit limit. Load the card with more money than your kid actually needs and make that amount the “credit limit.

” Then instruct them to keep spending well below that limit. The point is to teach your tween how to keep their credit utilization ratio low.

For prepaid cards, consider options FamZoo and TD Go, which allow you to monitor your child’s spending.

If your teen proves they’re able to responsibly use a debit or prepaid card, consider letting them graduate to a credit card. After you add them as an authorized user, you can monitor their spending. At the same time, you can teach them how to manage credit before they get their own card. At this point, you’ll want to start stressing a few additional credit card spending habits:

Teach your teen how to make card payments on time. Set up automatic payments so that you never miss a payment on your teen’s card account. Meanwhile, ask your teen to repay you monthly by a certain date. This helps them learn how to make card payments on time. If they miss a due date, neither their nor your credit score will drop — your automatic payments have you covered.

Encourage your teen to pay off their full balance each month. This is a great habit that will keep them debt later. While you’re at it, praise your teen for keeping their credit utilization ratio low.

Many card issuers — Bank of America, Capital One and Chase — have no minimum age for authorized users. This means you can get your kid a credit card as soon as you think they are ready. However, some card providers have minimum ages of 13 to 16.

You might think your teen is far too young to use a credit card. But you’ll find two big reasons why it could be a good idea for them to have one.

1. It can teach your teen how to use a credit card responsibly for the future

After adding your teen as an authorized user, you have control over their account and can see how they use their card. With insight into their spending, you can more effectively teach them solid financial habits. It’s better for them to learn from you now than figure everything out on their own later.

2. It can help your teen build credit early

Most people start with a brand-new credit history when they’re ready to get a credit card. This usually means they’re limited to student cards and secured cards, both of which typically come with limited features.

You can help your teen build an impressive credit history before they reach adulthood. Just add them as an authorized user on your account and consistently make payments on time.

When they turn 18, their credit may be strong enough to expand their card options considerably.

3. It’s a convenience for parents and kids

Sometimes you could forget to give your kid cash for meals at school, transportation or supplies. Getting your kid a credit card can help you avoid unpleasant situations and avoid cash theft.

4. You can earn more rewards

Why not get something in return for helping your teen build credit? Most credit cards let you earn rewards on purchases made by authorized users. Consider a credit card geared toward families as adding your teen as an authorized user on one of these cards could help you earn additional rewards on common purchases.

Before adding your teen as an authorized user, consider how responsible you are as a cardholder. Why? Because your teen’s fortunes will rise and fall with yours. If you pay on time, your teen’s credit will improve.

If you consistently miss payments, you’ll damage your teen’s credit. Bring your son or daughter for the ride if you’re on top of your credit card payments.

But if you have trouble keeping up, it’s probably better not to add authorized users at all.

While you still have them under your wing, teach your teen how to avoid trouble with a credit card. Here are a few common pitfalls they should know about.

  • Just paying the minimum payment. A cardholder is allowed to make only the minimum monthly payment on their credit card. However, that’s arguably the worst thing to do behind paying late. Paying the minimum allows interest to snowball and debt to accumulate.Here’s what to do: Show your teen why it’s smart to pay off their balance in full each month. Teach them how credit card interest accumulates, and how it can be avoided.
  • Overspending. Teach your teen they should avoid spending close to their credit limit. Carrying a high balance puts one in danger of incurring overlimit fees, on top of accumulating high debt. Many experts recommend keeping spending under 30% of one’s credit limit.Here’s what to do: Encourage your teen to spend less than they receive from their allowance or job. Teach them how their credit utilization ratio affects their credit score. And explain why it’s smart to keep their ratio under 30%.
  • Paying late. This is a sure path to decreasing a credit score. Because your teen is an authorized user on your account, you can protect them by paying your card bill as usual. But if you see signs your teen may pay late in the future, it’s best to nip the problem in the bud.Here’s what to do: Set up automatic payments on your card account so that you never miss a payment on your teen’s card account. Meanwhile, ask your teen to repay you by a certain date each month. Encourage them to set up phone or calendar reminders so they don’t forget.
  • Credit card fraud. Teach your kids how to keep their credit card information safe. Although credit card fraud can happen even if you take all necessary precautions, it’s a good starting point for your kid to learn how to protect their credit cards.Here’s what to do: Explain to your kids that the credit card information can be copied and used illegally. Also, teach them how to recognize which sites are safe and which aren’t for online use.

Each of these card issuers allows authorized users under 21 years old, though the minimum age varies. These issuers also report authorized user activity to credit bureaus, which can help the authorized user build a healthy credit score and history.

Though your teen could benefit from a credit card, you don’t have to give them one right away. You can start with a debit card and teach your teen solid financial habits as early as possible. When you’re confident your kid has the skills to manage their money, consider letting them graduate to a credit card.

Getting your teen on the path to a credit card can be a great way to help them financially prepare for the future. Before you make them an authorized user on an account, however, be sure they have proper financial supervision and that they understand the basics of how credit cards work.

  • Some providers might. To set limits on your teen’s spending, consider an American Express card or a small-business credit card. Both options will ly allow you to set custom spending limits. Most other card providers don’t offer this feature.
  • The best student credit card depends on you and your child’s spending habits. Compare student credit cards to find one that best suits your needs.

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Credit Card Age Limits: How Old Do You Have to Be To Get a Credit Card?

How old do you have to be to get a credit card?

Editorial Note: The content of this article is the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. This site may be compensated through a credit card issuer partnership.

You must be 18 years old to qualify for a credit card in the U.S. Those under 18 years old can get a credit card under an adult’s account, while those between 18 and 21 years must meet specific requirements for a credit card of their own. Those who can’t get a credit card have other options that provide similar conveniences as a credit card.

Credit Card Option for Under 18 Years Old

Consumers under 18 years old can’t get a credit card in their own names, but can be added to a parent’s or other adult’s credit card account as an authorized user.

While many credit card companies allow authorized use at any age, others require authorized users to be a minimum age–typically 15 or 18.

In most cases, the primary card holder can add an authorized user by providing the user’s name and Social Security number to the credit card company. This process can be done online or over the phone.

Provisions For Authorized Users: Here, as provided by the major card issuers, are details on the age restrictions, if any, for adding an authorized user to a card. Also included are any provisions to set a spending limit for the user. U.S. Bank declined to provide information.

CitigroupNoneOnly Costco Anywhere card
Bank of AmericaNoneNo
Capital OneNoneNo, but can turn card off at any time
American Express15Yes
Wells FargoNoneNo

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Authorized users receive their own credit card with their name on it, but they are not legally responsible to pay any debt that’s charged on the card. That responsibility lies with the primary card holder.

If only to minimize any misunderstandings, then, it’s important that the main user and secondary user agree how the credit card can be used, including what can be purchased with the card and how much can be charged each month.

To help reinforce these agreements, some credit card issuers allow the primary card holders to set spending limits for authorized users.

One potential benefit for authorized users is that the credit card’s payment history will be added to their credit reports. Most major card issuers report authorized user accounts to at least one of the three major credit bureaus: Experian, Equifax and TransUnion.

That can help an authorized user build a good credit history, as long as the primary card holder makes timely monthly payments and doesn’t overcharge. If, however, the primary user becomes delinquent on payments or maxes out the card, that will hurt the secondary user’s credit.

In such cases, an authorized user can call the credit card company using the phone number on the back of the card and request to be removed from the account. More information about the benefits and risks for authorized users can be found here.

Credit Card Options For 18-to-21 Year-Olds

Young adults can receive a regular credit card on their own or with help from a co-signer. They can also choose among three card types that are particularly suited to first-time card holders.

A Regular Card On Their Own

Those between 18 and 21 years old can open a credit card account in their name if they have proof of individual income, according to rules set by the Credit Card Accountability and Responsibility Act of 2009.

In an effort to curb credit card debt among young people, the act requires credit card companies to make sure young applicants have the means to repay their bills. Most issuers require applicants 18 to 21 to simply state their salary amount on the credit card application.

But, unique among the major banks we surveyed, Wells Fargo takes it one step further and requires additional documentation of income, such as deposit slips, paystubs, or tax returns.

A Regular Card With A Co-Signer

Another way for adults between 18 and 21 to get a credit card is to have a co-signer, another adult who is at least 21 years old. The co-signer should have good credit history to increase the chances of getting approved. Un an authorized user, both co-signers are jointly liable for repayment and both can charge debt to the card.

Both must use the card responsibly because the payment history is reported to each signer’s credit reports. Even more than with authorized cards, then, the co-signers should agree on how to use the card, such as what purchases can be made and how much can be charged each month. This requires ongoing communication between the two parties.

To cancel a jointly held card, issuers typically require permission from both co-signers.

A Good “Starter” Credit Card

Three types of cards are well-suited to young first-time card holders. Secured credit cards are good for those with little to no credit history. They require a security deposit to open the account.

Several issuers also offer student credit cards for young adults with limited credit history and income. They typically offer limited rewards and have higher interest rates, but no fees.

Retail credit cards also are easier to qualify for than a regular credit card, but they typically come with smaller credit limits and higher interest rates. Many of them can’t be used outside the issuing store.

Alternatives to Credit Cards

If getting a credit card or being an authorized user aren’t viable options, two other kinds of cards are available to young adults. Both have similar conveniences to credit cards, but both require upfront funds to be deposited ahead of time. Neither help to build credit history.

Debit Cards

Young adults can get a Visa- or MasterCard-branded debit card that can be swiped at checkout or used to complete online transactions.

Debit cards require having a checking account, though, and most banks won’t allow anyone under 18 to open a checking account without a joint account holder who is an adult. Another consideration is fees.

Checking accounts come with a host of fees: a monthly maintenance fee, overdraft or nonsufficient funds fees, out-of-network ATM fees, wire transfer fees, a fee for printed statements, and fees for cashier’s checks and money orders.

The charges typically range from $15 to $35. We offer more detailed information about checking accounts here.

Prepaid Cards

These alternatives to credit cards are easier to obtain than debit cards because there’s no background check. But many prepaid cards require an adult over 18 to obtain the prepaid debit card, and those between 13 and 18 can become registered users on the card.

The drawbacks of prepaid credit cards include limits on the amount of cash that can be loaded, withdrawal limits, and a lack of federal protection for deposits.

Prepaid debit cards also come with fees, but they don’t allow users to charge more than the deposited amount.


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