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When Should You Get a Credit Card?

Published November 3, 2022
4 min read

Key points about: When you should get a credit card

  1. You could consider getting a new credit card if it can help you reach a specific goal, such as making a large purchase or building your credit history with a secured card.

  2. If you already have a credit card, see if a new card will complement your current one.

  3. Try to see if you qualify for the new card before applying.

You may want to get a new credit card if you have a specific need for the card, the card offers enticing benefits, or the new card will complement your current cards. There are also a few things to consider if it’s your first credit card.

Why should you get a new credit card?

Think about how you plan on using the new credit card, which can help you figure out which card will be best. For example, you may want a new card to help you:

  • Add to your credit history. A good credit history can help you qualify for other credit cards and loans, receive more favorable interest rates, and may even impact your ability to rent a home or get a job.
  • Earn rewards. Many credit cards offer cash back rewards, miles, or points, and some cards offer bonus rewards in specific categories.
  • Make a large purchase. Some credit cards have promotional 0% APR offers. You can use the new card to make a large purchase and pay off the balance without paying interest during the introductory period.
  • Transfer and pay down credit card debt. Some balance transfer cards offer a low introductory APR on balances you transfer to the card. If you have credit card debt, see if transferring the balances can help you save money on interest and pay off the debt more quickly.

What to look for when getting your first credit card?

If you haven’t had a credit card before, you’ll need to make sure you can qualify for a credit card on your own. At a minimum, you may need to be 18 years old. And, if you’re 18 to 21 years old, you must provide proof of an independent source of income.

If you’re over 21 years old, you may be able to list on your application income you might reasonably be able to access, such as a spouse’s income that’s deposited into a joint account. However, the card issuer may still consider how your overall income compares to monthly debt and housing payments to determine if you qualify.

Do you need to start building your credit history?

Even if you meet the minimum eligibility requirements, you may not have many credit card options if you haven’t established your credit history and don’t have a credit score. However, there are still credit cards available for people who are new to credit.

For example, a secured card or student credit card might not require a high income or established credit history.  The Discover it® Secured Card can help you build credit with responsible use.1

Credit card interest and fees

Also, learn how credit card interest works and which fees you may have to pay before opening your first card. Credit card fees may include:

  • Application fee. Some card issuers charge you a fee when you apply.
  • Annual fee. A fee you may have to pay each year to keep your account open.
  • Additional card fee. A charge for adding an authorized user to your account.
  • Usage-based fees. You may have to pay a fee if you use your card to withdraw cash as a cash advance, transfer a balance, or don’t pay your bill on time.

You can generally avoid paying any interest on purchases if you pay your bill in full and on time every month. You may also be able to avoid certain fees. For example, Discover has no annual fee on any of our cards.

When should you get a second credit card?

You might want a second (or additional) credit card if the new card has valuable benefits, will better fit your circumstances, or complements your current card.

For example, you might have a rewards card that you use for everyday purchases, and you want a second card that has a lower interest rate for emergency expenses. Or your current card’s rewards program might not suit you anymore, and a new card could better align with your spending and lifestyle.

You can compare credit card offerings to see which card you want. However, applying for a new credit card can lead to a hard credit inquiry, which could hurt your credit score even if you’re not approved.

Some credit card issuers, including Discover, let you check to see if you’re pre-approved for a card before you apply. Checking to see if you are pre-approved won’t impact your credit score and can help you avoid applying for cards that you likely won’t be able to get.

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