If you’re applying for a credit card for the first time, you may be wondering about what the requirements for a credit card really are. Is it all about your credit score, or do you need to fulfill other requirements as well?

Credit card issuers look at several key factors of your overall credit profile when they are deciding whether or not you qualify for a credit card. Here are four of the most important requirements for a credit card application with additional details on each below:

  1. Age
  2. Income
  3. Low Debt
  4. Credit Score


First, you need to be old enough to get a credit card. Ever since the passage of the federal Credit CARD Act of 2009, which limited the ability of credit card companies to offer credit to young people, most credit card issuers require borrowers to be 21 years old, or 18 at minimum, to apply for credit in their own name.

If you’re 18-20 years old, you will need to have a verifiable source of independent income, unless you are simply becoming an authorized user on the account of someone who is 21 or older. There are several student rewards card options for young adults who qualify.


Having a credit card is a big responsibility, and card issuers want to know that you will be able to repay your bills. This means that you need to have your own source of income.

Until a few years ago, credit card issuers were allowed to consider an applicant’s overall household income as part of the application process, but now you can only include your parent or household partner’s income on your credit card application if you have “reasonable expectation of access” to that income, such as via regular deposits into a shared account.

Card issuers also will evaluate whether your monthly income is sufficient to ensure regular payments on your credit limit – they might offer you a lower credit limit to start with, and then over time increase the limit as you demonstrate the ability to pay your bills responsibly.

Low Debt

Credit card issuers want to know how much existing debt you have, so they can evaluate whether or not your debt is at a manageable level for your income. A good rule of thumb is to use only a small percentage of your available credit — which is measured by your credit utilization ratio — and to keep your credit utilization low to help improve your credit score.

If you already have a credit card or line of credit or loans under your name, you may want to try paying down your existing debts to a manageable level before applying for any new credit cards.

Credit Score

Credit card issuers also evaluate your credit history and likelihood of repaying 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. This alone does not disqualify you from getting approval for a credit card – you may be able to start building your credit score by applying for a secured credit card. With a secured credit card, you put down a security deposit up front which will equal your credit limit for the card. You can build your credit history over time by charging responsibly and paying your bills each month. After you’ve established your creditworthiness, you may qualify to transition to another card with a higher credit limit.

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