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When can you get a Credit Card?

Last Updated: January 10, 2024
4 min read

Key points about: getting credit cards

  1. You can get a credit card in your name at 18 but will need income to qualify.

  2. Some teens under 18 can get a credit card if a primary cardmember adds them as an authorized user on their credit card account.

  3. Secured and student credit cards have less rigorous qualifications than regular cards, including credit history, credit score, and income requirements.

If you’re considering getting your first credit card, you might wonder when you can apply. While you’re allowed to get a credit card at 18, the type of credit card you qualify for depends on your income and a few other factors. But you don’t need income to become an authorized user on someone else’s credit card account, and teens under 18 may even qualify to become authorized users. Read on to learn more about your options.

Credit card income requirements

Proof of income shows a credit issuer you can pay back your debt. Some credit cards require more income than others, so it’s essential to understand the conditions before you apply.

If you’re a borrower between 18-20, you must provide proof of independent income as required by the Credit CARD Act of 2009—but you don’t necessarily need a job, according to the Federal Trade Commission. For example, income can include regular allowances or leftover funds from a scholarship or student loan. If you’re 21 or older, you may be subject to additional income requirements depending on the credit card issuer and the card you choose. However, you can include your income and any regular income you have access to, such as income from a spouse, on your credit card application.

Credit cards for first-time borrowers

Even if you’re 18, some credit cards require a credit history and higher income levels to apply, something not all first-time borrowers have. However, there are specific credit cards for young adults with limited income who have yet to establish credit.

Secured cards: A secured credit card requires a deposit equal to the credit limit approved by the credit card company, which protects the lender if you fail to pay your debt. And a secured card often comes with a lower spending limit and a higher interest rate than a regular credit card. Still, some secured rewards credit cards offer cash back on everyday purchases. And as long as the card issuer reports your payment activity to a credit bureau, a secured card can help you build credit with responsible use.

With some creditors, once you’ve shown you can manage your debt, you can get your deposit back and graduate to an unsecured credit card. With the Discover it® Secured Credit Card, you can get your deposit back after six consecutive months of on-time payments and maintaining good status on all your credit accounts, and if you qualify, we will increase your credit line1.

Student cards: Getting a student credit card may require submitting proof that you’re a student but doesn’t require a security deposit. While the credit limit is typically lower for student credit cards, you can build credit with responsible use and may earn cash back rewards with eligible purchases. For example, a 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.

Getting a credit card as an authorized user

You can become an authorized user on someone else’s credit card account with no income or credit history required. Even teens under 18 may qualify. Becoming an authorized user is simple: a primary cardmember requests to add you, and the card issuer sends you a card you can use for purchases.

While you will have a card in your name, you’re not responsible for payments, and you can build credit with responsible use–helping you qualify for your own line of credit once you’re eligible. However, if either you, or the primary cardmember overspend, or if the primary cardmember misses payments, it can negatively impact your credit.

Applying for your first credit card

Once you’ve decided on a card that fits your needs, you can apply online.

Did you know?

Applying for a credit card is relatively straightforward. You’ll need to provide basic financial and personal information on your credit card application, such as your Social Security number and income, plus any additional information applicable to the credit card, like proof of enrollment in college if you’re applying for a student credit card.

How long does it take to get a credit card?

After you’ve submitted your application, the credit card issuer checks your credit. The time this takes can vary depending on the issuer and your credentials. There are three possible outcomes after you submit: you can receive instant approval, denial, or a message that your application needs further review. Any further review will add time to the approval decision.

Ultimately, it can take up to 30 days to get approval or denial from a credit card company. If approved, you’ll typically receive your new credit card in the mail within two weeks. There may also be a simple activation process that requires you to call the issuer.

Once you’re 18, deciding when to apply for a credit card is up to you. Understanding your options based on income and credit history can help you choose the best credit card for your situation. Whether you start with a secured or student credit card, or become an authorized user (even before 18), spending responsibly and making on-time payments are vital to building good credit and realizing your financial potential.

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  1. Secured CLI with Grad Transparency Claim & Proximity Rules: 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.
  • 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.