Question of the Day: At What Age Can I Get A Credit Card?

Jan 29, 2015
Credit Scores, Question of the Day, Credit Cards, Current Events, Credit Reports

Some students come into class having heard that responsible use of a credit card can help build their credit history.  Their first question is often along the lines of “So, when can I get a credit card and start building that history?”

Here’s a quick answer and a resource to get a more detailed and nuanced answer:

  • If you are between 18-21, you CAN NOT get your own credit card, unless you can prove to the credit card companies that you have a source of income significant enough to pay back charges on the card, or can convince your parents to co-sign the account (which makes them jointly responsible and can affect their credit scores if you don’t pay on time!).
  • You can become an authorized user on your parents’ card accounts (even if you are a minor).  Here are a few caveats:
    • If your parents have a positive credit history, this will help you, but if they don’t, their negative credit history will impact you in a negative way!  An ideal account to be an authorized user:  one with long history, no late payments and not bumping up against the credit limit (low utilization in industry parlance)
    • Not all credit card companies will report the authorized user’s activity to the credit bureaus so check ahead of time to ensure this strategy will help build their credit history.
    • While you are not ultimately liable for charges you make as an authorized user, it could make for awkward dinner conversations if you don’t hold up your end of the bargain.

As for an answer regarding the age that you can be added as an authorized user, it varies by credit card company.

Source:  How Does Being an Authorized User Affect My Credit Score (Credit Sesame)?

About the Author

Tim Ranzetta

Tim's saving habits started at seven when a neighbor with a broken hip gave him a dog walking job. Her recovery, which took almost a year, resulted in Tim getting to know the bank tellers quite well (and accumulating a savings account balance of over $300!). His recent entrepreneurial adventures have included driving a shredding truck, analyzing executive compensation packages for Fortune 500 companies and helping families make better college financing decisions. After volunteering in 2010 to create and teach a personal finance program at Eastside College Prep in East Palo Alto, Tim saw firsthand the impact of an engaging and activity-based curriculum, which inspired him to start a new non-profit, Next Gen Personal Finance.

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