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First-Time Credit Card

Last Updated: April 27, 2023
5 min read

Key Points about: first-time credit cards

  1. You’ll need to be 18 or older to apply for your first credit card

  2. First time credit card users should look at secured credit cards, student credit cards, and cashback credit cards as their best options.

  3. Using your first credit card responsibly helps you build a credit history

Getting your first credit card is a big deal. In fact, it’s often one of the first major financial decisions young people make on their own. If you’re a student or someone who’s never had a credit card before, it’s normal to have questions, such as:

  • When should you get your first credit card?
  • How do you know if you’re ready for your first credit card?
  • How do you get a credit card for the first time?
  • What is the best first credit card for beginners?

There’s no cut-and-dried way to know exactly when you should apply for your first credit card. However, they say “forewarned is forearmed.” In other words, having the information you need, even before you need it, can help make this important decision easier when the time comes. This guide to getting your first credit card will walk you through some simple ways to determine if you’re ready for this big financial step:

Before You Apply for Your First Credit Card

1. Are You the Minimum Age?

If not, then you’re not quite ready to apply for your first credit card on your own. You have to be at least 18 years old to open a starter credit card. Good news, though: Although you can’t open your own credit card, your parents, a friend or family member may be able to add you as an authorized user on theirs so you can use the card and start to build a credit history of your own if the credit card issuer reports authorized users to credit bureaus. But keep in mind, if the primary account holder does not manage their card responsibly, the negative information may appear on your credit report according to

2. Are You Financially Responsible?

It’s important to consider your overall financial picture as you get used to using a starter credit card. As a new credit card user, you’ll be learning good habits, like keeping your spending in check and paying off your balances on time, and ideally, in full, every month. If you’re already strategic about how you handle your money and carefully make decisions about purchases—especially big, expensive ones—then that responsibility will likely carry over into how you manage your credit cards, keeping you on track when it comes to reigning in overspending and building your credit. Plus, knowing how to use credit responsibly will give you an edge if you choose to use your starter credit card as a cushion, say for an unexpected purchase, or to access funds quickly in case of a financial emergency.

3. Do you understand the basics of credit cards?

When it comes to deciding if now is the right time to get your first credit card, it’s important to know the basics. One of the most important things to understand is how your credit score works and how it can impact your financial future. It’s also a good idea to have some basic knowledge of how interest works, and how not paying your bills on time can actually cause your balance to grow as late fees and interest charges add up. Understanding simple concepts like these can help you avoid unnecessary fees and charges and let you build a credit history you can be proud of. If you aren’t clear on how credit cards work, then it might be a good idea to give yourself a quick refresher before you apply for your first credit card. And once you know the basics, it could be time to apply for a starter credit card.

First-time credit cards to consider

If the signs listed above check out for you, then you might be ready for your first credit card. Here are some of the best credit cards for beginners:

1. Secured credit card

A secured credit card, like the Discover it® Secured Credit Card, may be a good choice for your first credit card because it allows you to build credit a credit history.

Did you know?

To open a secured credit card, you make a small cash deposit. This deposit then becomes your credit limit for the card. Given this, a secured credit card can help you build your credit history and develop good habits, like not overspending and paying off your balance in full every month. If you’re new to the world of credit, a secured credit card could be a great way to get started.

Learn More About Discover it® Secured Credit Card

2. Student credit card

If you’re a college student, then a student credit card could be a smart choice for your first credit card. Student credit cards are among the best credit cards for beginners because they’re specifically designed for college students and can be a good fit for this unique stage of life. Some student credit cards, like the Discover it® Student Cash Back card, even offer rewards for things you’d be buying anyway, like gas or groceries.

3. Cash back credit card

Does the thought of getting rewards for buying salsa dancing lessons or your daily latte excite you? If so, a cash back credit card could be the best first credit card for you. These credit cards deliver cash back rewards when you use them to make everyday purchases. The Discover it® Cash Back Credit Card may be a great choice for a first credit card because it offers benefits like 5% cash back on purchases in categories that rotate every quarter up to the quarterly maximum when you activate, 1% automatic cash back on other purchases, and an unlimited dollar-for-dollar match of all the cash back you earn at the end of your first year, automatically. There is no limit to how much we’ll match.1

Choosing the Best Credit Card to Start With

Deciding if you’re ready for your first credit card takes some careful thought and reflection. Getting your first credit card is definitely not something to rush into. Take some time to consider if you’re truly ready for your first credit card, along with your current financial habits. Once you feel you’re ready for this key financial milestone, the next step is choosing the best first credit card for your lifestyle and current stage of life. After you’ve been approved and you have your starter credit card in hand, you can enjoy using the card and any perks it offers — responsibly, of course.

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