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

Last Updated: May 24, 2024
3 min read

Key points about: Credit card age requirements

  1. You must be 18 or older to get a credit card in your name.

  2. Borrowers between 18 and 20 must prove they have independent income to get approved for a credit card.

  3. Primary cardmembers may be able to add individuals younger than 18 as authorized users to their credit card account.

At what age can you get a credit card?

Once you turn 18, you’re free to apply for your own credit card. If you’re under 18, you can explore alternative options like becoming an authorized user on another cardmember’s account, which allows you to start building credit early. This article will review different credit card options for people who are under 21, along with eligibility requirements for different age groups.

Understanding credit cards for ages 18 to 21

According to the Credit CARD Act of 2009, credit card applicants aged 18 to 20 must verify they have enough independent income to pay back their credit, such as income from employment or regular allowances. Once you reach age 21, you can apply for a credit card using household income you have access to, such as income from your spouse.

Regardless of legal age or income, younger borrowers may have difficulty qualifying for certain credit cards due to their lack of credit history (the record of your borrowing and repayment of credit over time). A credit history starts when you open your first credit account. Student and secured credit cards are designed for first-time borrowers with no credit history. And once you have your first credit card, making on-time payments and keeping your credit card debt low can help you begin building credit so you can qualify for additional credit in the future.

Understanding credit cards for ages
Understanding credit cards for ages

Types of credit cards for young adults

How old do you have to be to get a credit card as a young adult? While you’ll generally need to be at least 18 years old to open your own account, the specific requirements depend on the card issuer and what type of card you’re trying to get. 

College students and young adults can apply for various credit cards, even with limited credit histories.

Many credit cards aimed at young people fall into one of two categories: student credit cards, like the Discover It® Student Chrome Credit Card, and secured credit cards, like the Discover It® Secured Credit Card. Let’s look at how these types of credit cards work, what you need to qualify, and what makes them ideal for students and other young adults. 

Student credit cards

Student credit cards are tailored to college students 18 and older with little to no credit. Though they often have a lower credit limit (the amount you’re approved to spend by your credit card company), some student credit cards offer rewards like cash back programs. Using a student credit card responsibly can help you establish a credit history. Building a good credit score can also help you with future goals like securing a mortgage or financing a car.

The Discover it® Student Cash Back Card lets you earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places you shop each quarter, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate.

Secured credit cards

Borrowers 18 and older with little to no credit history may also qualify for a secured credit card. A secured credit card requires a security deposit, the amount of which can equal your credit line, depending on the issuer. After a series of consecutive on-time payments, you may get your deposit back and qualify for an unsecured credit card. Depending on the credit card company, secured credit cards could provide cash rewards for each eligible purchase you make.

Did you know?

There’s no credit score required to apply for a Discover it® Secured credit card.1 And you can upgrade to an unsecured card after six consecutive on-time payments and maintaining good status on all your credit accounts, and if you qualify, we will increase your credit line.2 You can also earn cash back on your next road trip with 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants, on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter.3

Cosigners for 18+ individuals with no credit history

The minimum age to get a credit card is 18 years old. If you’re at least 18 but are under 21 or have no credit history, you may qualify by applying with a cosigner, such as a parent or other family member who is at least 21 years old. According to the Federal Trade Commission, a cosigner is usually a family member or friend who has demonstrated responsible credit use on their credit report and has a stable income.

In this situation, a cosigner on the credit card acts as a guarantor to minimize the risk for the credit card issuer. If the main borrower doesn’t pay, the cosigner is obligated to pay any missed payments.

According to Experian, most credit card providers do not accept credit card cosigners—including Discover. This practice is more typically associated with loans, such as personal loans, student loans, mortgage loans, or car loans, where cosigning is more common.

Can you use a credit card before you’re 18?

Can you get a credit card at 16? Although minors cannot apply for a credit card, a credit card issuer may allow individuals under 18 to become authorized users on an adult’s credit account. The minimum age may be different for different issuers.

Authorized users receive a card with their name on it, which they can use to make purchases. While the primary cardmember is the only user legally responsible for making payments toward the card’s balance, late payments may negatively affect the credit history of all users listed on the account.

If the credit card issuer reports account activity to a credit bureau, an authorized user can establish a credit history through responsible use. From family members to friends, at Discover, a primary account holder may add authorized users 15 and older to their credit card account.

While you can get access to a credit card as an authorized user before the age of 18, you’re limited to using a card someone else has chosen and allowed you to access. Eighteen is the earliest age you have the option of completing a credit card application in your own name. Regardless of your route, using a credit card responsibly is key to building a good credit score and long-term financial success.

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  1. No Credit Score Required (Secured Card): Based on 2022 Discover it Secured credit card application data, applicants without a credit score may qualify. You must meet other applicable underwriting criteria. When we evaluate your creditworthiness, we consider all the information you provide on your application, your credit report, and other information. If you have a credit score, we may use that in our evaluation.

  2. Graduation Transparency (Secured CLI): Monthly reviews start your seventh month as a customer. We will refund your security deposit if you have made all payments on time for the last six consecutive billing cycles on all your Discover accounts including any loans, and you've remained in “good status” on all credit accounts you are responsible for whether they are Discover accounts or not. “Good status” means: (1) your credit report shows no delinquencies, charge-offs, repossessions, or bankruptcies for the six months prior to our review; and (2) your Discover Secured Card is not in a prohibited status at the time of our review, including, but not limited to: closed, revoked, suspended, subject to tax levy, garnishment, deceased, lost/stolen, or fraud. Monthly reviews may be delayed if you change your payment due date. When you qualify to upgrade to a standard, ‘unsecured card’, Discover will also consider you for a credit line increase. We typically process your refund in 2-3 business days based on your delivery preference. If you close your account and pay in full, we’ll return your deposit within two billing cycles plus ten days.
  3. 2% Chrome Gas and Restaurants: You earn a full 2% Cashback Bonus® on your first $1000 in combined purchases at Gas Stations (stand-alone), and Restaurants each calendar quarter. Calendar quarters begin January 1, April 1, July 1, and October 1. Purchases at Gas Stations and Restaurants over the quarterly cap, and all other purchases, earn 1% cash back. Gas Station purchases include those made at merchants classified as places that sell automotive gasoline that can be bought at the pump or inside the station, and some public electric vehicle charging stations. Gas Stations affiliated with supermarkets, supercenters, and wholesale clubs may not be eligible. Restaurant purchases include those made at merchants classified as full-service restaurants, cafes, cafeterias, fast-food locations, and restaurant delivery services. Purchases must be made with merchants in the U.S. To qualify for 2%, the purchase transaction date must be before or on the last day of the offer or promotion. For online purchases, the transaction date from the merchant may be the date when the item ships. Rewards are added to your account within two billing periods. Even if a purchase appears to fit in a 2% category, the merchant may not have a merchant category code (MCC) in that category. Merchants and payment processors are assigned an MCC based on their typical products and services. Discover Card does not assign MCCs to merchants. Certain third-party payment accounts and digital wallet transactions may not earn 2% if the technology does not provide sufficient transaction details or a qualifying MCC. Learn more at Discover.com/digitalwallets. See Cashback Bonus Program Terms and Conditions for more information.
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