When Should I Get a Credit Card?
Have you ever pondered the question, “When should I get a credit card?”
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You don’t have to wait to get a credit card until you have a specific need for it. In fact, because part of your credit score is determined by how long you’ve owned and responsibly managed credit cards, the ideal time to get a credit card may be as soon as you’re eligible to do so.
If you can answer “yes” to at least one of the questions below, the time to get a credit card in your name may be now.
Are You at Least 18 Years Old?
You’ll need to be at least 18 years old to apply for and own a credit card in your own name. In addition, you may be asked to provide proof of income (money you make from a part-time job may be adequate) that indicates that you’re financially equipped to make at least the minimum payments due on the card.
Are You Willing to Learn How to Use Credit?
Credit cards don’t inherently lead to living in debt. In fact, they’re a tool you can use to benefit your financial life — provided you understand some of the best ways to use them.
If you’re willing to learn some of these important credit basics:
- paying your bills by the payment due date each month
- trying to pay your balance in full to avoid finance charges
- educating yourself about any fees or finance charges associated with your credit cards, including those that may apply to late payments, balance transfers or cash advances
Do You Want to Build Your Credit History?
You may be able to begin your credit history by being an authorized user on another person’s credit card account, or holding some utility bills in your name (if they report activity to credit bureaus). But you’ll eventually need to own credit in your name if you want to build your credit score past a certain point.
When you own a credit card and use it responsibly, you’re empowered to build a positive credit history over time, which may help you get approved for additional credit cards and loans with competitive rates and terms in the future. NerdWallet estimates that using your credit card and making on-time payments (which are then reported to the major credit bureaus) for about six months should help you begin to establish your credit score.
Do You Have a Longer Term Goal That Requires Credit?
When you own a credit card in your name and keep the account active, you’re building your credit history — even if you continue to pay cash for most of your purchases.
Should the day come that you want to apply for a mortgage, an auto loan or even an apartment, the fact that you have an established and positive credit history may empower you to find the best rates and terms available. The earlier you start to build a credit history with a credit card in your name, the better your credit may be — even if you don’t intend to borrow for years into the future.
Do You Plan to Travel?
USA Today reports that while there may be some hotels willing to let you book a room without a credit card, you may be required to use your own cash to make the required deposit for incidentals. By contrast, that same transaction with a credit card may place a temporary hold on a portion of your credit line — but you won’t pay anything out of pocket (unless there’s damage).
Renting a car may be similarly challenging without a credit card. In fact, Creditcards.com reports that not having a credit card may inherently cause car rental companies to perceive a customer as risky. Plus, many credit cards offer travel-related benefits, which may include potential coverage against trip cancellation and lost baggage.
There is no one right answer to the question, “When should I get a credit card?” These initial questions, however, will help your start your research and empower you to make the decision that is right for you.
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