How Old Do You Have to Be to Get a Credit Card?

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The teenage years comes with a lot of new privileges and responsibilities like getting your driver's license and gaining the right to vote. There are some financial privileges, too, like being able to get a bank account without your parents and getting your first credit card.

How Old Should You Be to Get a Credit Card?

You must be at least 18 years old to get a credit card by yourself, but getting a credit card at that age won't be as simple as applying for the credit card and getting approved.

While you can legally get a credit card as young as age 18, the law requires that you have your own steady source of income to qualify for a credit card. Unfortunately, a monthly allowance from your parents probably won't count. It's for your own good. You need to have steady, dependable monthly income so you can pay back any charges you make on your credit card and avoid getting into credit card debt.

For your first credit card, look for a credit card targeted for students or a retail credit card. These cards are more likely to approve you even though you're just starting out. A secured credit card, which requires you to make a deposit against the credit limit for the account, is another good option for getting your first credit card at age 18. The Discover it Secured and Capital One Secured MasterCard are two great secured credit cards for starting out.

Getting a Credit Card Under Age 18

You can get a credit card under age 18 if an adult adds you as an authorized user to their credit card.

 As an authorized user, you'll have a card with your name on it that you can use to make purchases. The primary account holder is responsible for making the payments, however, that person may in turn expect you to cover the payments for the purchases you make on the account.

Being an authorized user on a credit card can help jumpstart your credit history and make it easier to get approved for a credit card on your own once you're old enough.

You can also get a prepaid card under age 18. A prepaid card isn't a credit card, but it looks like one and swipes like one. It's similar to the way a debit card is connected to a checking account, but the application process for a prepaid card is much simpler. With a prepaid card, you have to prepay any purchases you make on the card, versus paying for the purchases after you make them. A prepaid card doesn't help you build a credit history.

Of course, you don't have to get a credit card at age 18. Credit cards carry a high risk of debt and getting one before you're ready puts you at risk of hurting your credit history before you ever really get a chance to get started. It's better to wait a few years until you have a steady job and can consistently afford to make your credit card payments on time.