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At What Age Can You Get a Credit Card?

Last Updated: December 20, 2023
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.

If you’re ready to get your first credit card, you may wonder at what age you can apply. The short answer? Once you turn 18, you’re free to apply for credit. Still, there are a few things you’ll need to consider.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, the Credit CARD Act of 2009 says credit card applicants aged 18 to 20 must verify they have enough independent income to pay back their credit card debt, such as income from employment or regular allowances.

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.

Student credit card

If you're a college student, you might consider a credit card tailored to your needs. Student credit cards are designed for college students 18 and older with little to no credit history. 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. And by using a student credit card, you can build credit with responsible use. 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 card

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 equal to the approved credit amount. And after a series of consecutive on-time payments, you may get your deposit back and qualify for an unsecured credit card. And 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 card1. 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 line2. 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 quarter3

What if you’re over 21?

Per the CARD Act, once you reach age 21, you can apply for a credit card using household income you have access to, including your spouse’s income. If you don’t have a credit history, a secured credit card may still be the best fit. However, if you’ve built a strong credit history, you may have more options.

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

Although minors can’t 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 card 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.

As long as the credit card issuer reports the account activity to a credit bureau, the authorized user can begin building credit if both users spend responsibly and make on-time payments. 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. 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 See Cashback Bonus Program Terms and Conditions for more information.
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