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What are the Requirements to Sign Up for a Credit Card?

Last Updated: January 22, 2024
4 min read

Key points about: credit card requirements

  1. In order to approve you for a credit card, companies will have minimum credit card eligibility requirements for your age, income, and credit score.

  2. Student and secured credit cards have different requirements than standard credit cards.

  3. It’s possible to sign up for some credit cards even if you have no credit history.

You can sign up for a credit card by filling out an application over the phone or online. For some lenders, you can also see if you’re pre-approved before applying. That may sound easy, but getting approved for a credit card after you apply often represents years of responsible credit use. That’s because credit card issuers will review your credit history to determine whether you meet the necessary requirements for the card before accepting or denying your application. But even if you have little to no credit history, you still have options to sign up for a new card.

Here’s what to do if you’re looking to sign up for a credit card.

Review the basic credit card requirements to sign up

Not everyone can sign up for a credit card and get approved. Depending on the credit card issuer, there are a number of eligibility criteria you’ll have to meet to be considered. Here are four examples:

First, you need to be old enough to get a credit card. The federal Credit CARD Act of 2009 mandates that if you’re under 21, you will need to have an independent income to get approved for your own credit card account. There are also student rewards cards, like the Discover it® Student Card, for young adults who qualify. In most cases, you must be at least 18 years old to open your own credit card account.

Credit card issuers want to know that you have your own source of income to be able to pay your bills. If you’re 21 years old or older, credit card issuers may consider your income and the income of another person in your household whose income you can access, such as your spouse, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Credit card issuers want to know how much debt you have so they can evaluate whether your debt is manageable at your income level. A good rule of thumb is to use only a small percentage of your available credit—which is measured by your credit utilization ratio. If you already have a credit card or another line of credit or loans under your name, you may want to try paying down your existing debts before applying for new credit cards.

Credit card issuers evaluate your credit history and the likelihood you’ll be able to pay your bills by looking at your credit score. If you have never had a credit card or taken out a loan before, you might not have any credit history.

Credit score requirements for first-time cardmembers

With each credit application, a credit card company assesses your complete financial picture—including your credit report, income, expenses, and other criteria—and decides whether to extend you an offer based on that full picture. So, if you’ve responsibly managed other forms of credit in the past, you may qualify.

But if you’re starting out with no credit history at all, you may be a risk in the eyes of the credit card issuer because it can’t gauge your ability to make payments on time. The good news is that you have options to build your credit profile.

How to sign up for a credit card with no credit history

If you’re a student, one option is applying for a student credit card to start your credit history.

A second option is to apply for a secured credit card. If you’re approved, a secured credit card requires a security deposit equal to your line of credit. You can then build credit with responsible use of your secured card.

You can also become an authorized user on someone’s account, such as a parent or spouse. As an authorized user, you have the ability to make purchases and pay down a balance on the account, which can help you build credit.

Did you know?

Discover has options for people with little to no credit history that also come with the benefit of earning cash back for everyday purchases, like when shopping for groceries or filling up a tank of gas.

What to consider when signing up for a credit card

If you’ve decided to sign up for a credit card, here are some things to consider to find the right fit.

Why you want the credit card

You should determine what your goal is for getting a new credit card. Are you hoping to use it to build your credit history? Do you want to take advantage of a promotional APR offer with a credit card balance transfer? Understanding what purpose the card will serve can help you target your search.

Your credit score

Some credit cards are geared toward people with excellent credit, while others may be more appropriate for someone with good or fair credit. You can review your credit card statements, as well as your credit report periodically, to ensure that there are no errors or mistakes that could impact your credit score. Familiarizing yourself with what’s in your credit report can help you know where you stand with an issuer’s credit card eligibility requirements, and find areas where you can improve your score that may boost your chances of approval.

At AnnualCreditReport.com, everyone in the U.S. can access their credit report for free once every 12 months from each of the three national credit reporting agencies–Equifax, Experian®, and TransUnion.

Rewards

A reward credit card can be a valuable tool for earning miles or cash back on eligible purchases. Someone who does a lot of flying, for example, may want a travel rewards card. On the other hand, if you make most of your credit card purchases at the grocery store, a cash back credit card might make more sense. Note that some rewards cards charge you an annual fee just for using the card, but Discover has no annual fee on any of our cards.

Fees and APR

Along with an annual fee, check whether the card has foreign transaction fees or a high APR. Signing up for a card with these fees or a high interest rate can increase the cost of using a credit card significantly, especially if you’re unaware of how they apply to your credit card’s usage.

Introductory bonuses

Rewards cards may offer an introductory rewards bonus for new members.

Discover has unlimited Cashback Match, where we’ll automatically match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year.1 If you’re interested in a particular card because of the bonus offer, you need to be clear on whether you can meet the credit card requirements–if there are any–to get the bonus offer

Signing up and having your credit card application approved can be an exciting way to gain access to credit and start building your financial future. You can set yourself up for success by researching the best credit card for you and using the tips above to help you use the credit card responsibly.

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  1. Cashback Match: We’ll match all the cash back rewards you’ve earned on your credit card from the day your new account is approved through your first 12 consecutive billing periods or 365 days, whichever is longer, and add it to your rewards account within two billing periods. You’ve earned cash back rewards only when they’re processed, which may be after the transaction date. We will not match: rewards that are processed after your match period ends; statement credits; rewards transfers from Discover checking or other deposit accounts; or rewards for accounts that are closed. This promotional offer may not be available in the future and is exclusively for new cardmembers. No purchase minimums.

  • Legal Disclaimer: This site is for educational purposes and is not a substitute for professional advice. The material on this site is not intended to provide legal, investment, or financial advice and does not indicate the availability of any Discover product or service. It does not guarantee that Discover offers or endorses a product or service. For specific advice about your unique circumstances, you may wish to consult a qualified professional.