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What age to get a credit card: teenager holding up a phone

May 1, 2023

What age can you get a credit card, and when should you?


- Building credit can take years, so it helps to get started early!

- Managing credit well is a skill that can help create opportunities and experiences throughout your life, like buying a house or a car.

- Finding the credit card that’s right for the way you manage your money can be rewarding.

When used responsibly, credit is like a key 🔑 that opens doors to many life experiences. Good credit can help you buy a house or a car, pay for college, and give you more options in how you manage your money. 

Using credit for these big purchases helps you add good debt to your financial history, which can help level up ☝️ your life. Understanding what credit is and how it works at a young age can be a real advantage, and credit cards themselves can be a hands-on learning tool. Knowing what age to get a credit card is key to making this journey the best experience possible. 

Let’s take a deeper look 🔍 at why it's so important to learn about credit and one of the more popular tools used to start building those credit skills. 

Why is it so important to learn about credit early?

Managing credit is a really important money skill — and skills take time to master. Credit allows you to spend money before you’ve earned it, with the expectation that you’ll pay it back on time. It increases your buying power 💪 with a simple swipe. If you haven’t learned your way around credit cards, it can be easy to overspend and get into debt. 

Credit cards are good for building your credit, but not for spending money that you don’t have. When you use a credit card for a purchase, it’s the same as when you borrow money that you will need to repay. But credit cards charge compound interest on the money that you owe, and while compounding interest can help you grow your savings, it can also increase your debt — fast. 

Using a credit card for an everyday purchase can be done responsibly if you’re able to pay it off immediately. This practice can help build your credit and even give you extra rewards on purchases you would have made anyway — like paying a phone bill. If you spend money you wouldn’t have otherwise spent or can’t pay off, credit cards can get you into trouble. 

That’s not to say all debt is bad though. Remember, there’s good debt — like loans for college or a home, where you’ll get an asset that can increase your wealth. 

Luckily, with some practice, you’ll be able to learn how to use credit as a tool that helps you thrive. Learning these skills early can help you get comfortable with credit while the stakes are lower. 

But at what age can you get your first credit card and start practicing?

What age can you get a credit card?

You can get your own credit card 💳 at 18 years old, as long as you can prove you have the income to pay off your debt by yourself. Otherwise, you’ll either need to be 21, or you can opt for a secured card. 

A secured credit card works just like a regular credit card except your credit line is determined by a security deposit you send to the credit card issuer ahead of time. 

If you’re under 18, it’s still possible to get a credit card by being added to a parent’s credit card account as an authorized user. Many parents sign their kids on to their account to give them a headstart on their credit history. 

While some credit card issuers have a minimum age requirement for this, many will allow parents to add their kids at any age. As authorized users, kids will be able to use the card with their parent’s permission and start building credit by establishing a payment history with each monthly payment the parents make.

What age should you get a credit card?

When can you get a credit card and when should you get a credit card are questions that may have different answers. There’s no perfect age to get started with a credit card. The most important factor is your readiness. 

Credit cards are an important tool 🧰 to build credit, but don’t rush into opening a card if you’re not ready to take that step. Every person and situation is different. 

If you’re not ready to take the step with a credit card but want to build financial literacy, a Greenlight subscription offers many great resources to get you started, from financial literacy games 🕹️ to a debit card for kids and teens. 

What are good types of credit cards for beginners?

There are a lot of choices when you shop 🛒 for a new credit card. Make sure you have the best credit card for your needs to set yourself up for personal finance success. For beginners with no credit history, student credit cards or secured cards are two common paths to building a good credit score. 

Another option is to use the customer relationships you already have with banks and lenders. If you have a bank account or debit card set up already, you can ask if they have any credit card products that might be good for you. Just remember there are a lot of options out there. Take a look at the features, fees, and terms before you fill out ✍️ that credit card application. 

What are some features to consider when looking to get a credit card?

What age to get a credit card: teenager using a phone

Credit cards all have different rules, fees, and perks. To find the right credit card for you, you might need to shop around. Here are some of the features that set different cards apart. 

Interest rate 

Depending on how you manage your credit card, you may incur interest charges — so it’s important to know your card’s interest rate. Some cards will have introductory offers with low-interest rates for a set amount of time and raise their rates later on. 

Pay your entire statement balance ⚖️ (not the minimum payment) on time each month to avoid owing interest.

Annual fee

Some cards have an annual fee that can cost between $95 and $500 per year. Oftentimes, these cards come with added perks, like cash back or travel miles. But there are also credit cards that offer perks without an annual fee.

Whether or not you should consider a card with an annual fee depends on your personal spending habits. A card with an annual fee might be worth it for you if it offers useful perks that will offset the per-year cost.

Credit limit

Some credit card companies are known for giving higher lines of credit than others, but most offer different credit limits to different customers based on their creditworthiness. Your payment history, the number of accounts you have open, and the length of your credit history may have an effect on the credit limit you’re offered. 

High credit lines let you spend a little extra when you need to without worrying about going over your limit. But lower credit limits may make it easier to stay out of credit card debt. 

Rewards points

Credit card issuers get paid when you swipe your card. To encourage you to do it more, many offer a rewards credit card that will give you cash back 💵 or points for your purchases. 

If you find a card that rewards the type of spending you already do, you can take advantage of that by being a cardholder. Some credit card offers even have attractive sign-up bonuses in the form of cash or statement credits. 

Flexible payments 

Today, many credit cards offer you more flexible 🤸 ways to pay for individual purchases. They might waive balance transfer fees, reduce interest charges on a single large purchase, offer cash advances, and even let you choose your due date. Banks and financial companies are trying all sorts of things to meet their customers' needs, and this could be something to consider as you find the right card for you. 

Other resources to help you decide when to get a credit card

Credit and credit cards are big topics, and there’s a lot to learn about them. Here are some other resources to consider while expanding your credit knowledge 🎓:

  • FDIC: The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) is best known for insuring banks 🏦 and protecting your bank account, but they also have an educational library of financial literacy resources.

  • Experian: One of the three major credit bureaus, Experian also offers a lot of financial literacy support around credit and credit-building.

  • TransUnion: Another major credit bureau, TransUnion also offers a lot of great information about building credit.

  • Equifax: As another of the three major credit bureaus, Equifax offers a knowledge center about credit cards.

  • This website is an official government resource with a mission to make government services and information 📑 easier to find and understand. Their rundown of credit reports provides an overview of how they work, with links to official sources for more information. 

Take charge of your financial literacy with Greenlight

Mother and daughter working together in their living room

Credit lets you spend money you don’t have yet, and that can be really powerful. It can help you buy a house 🏡 or go to college 🧑‍🎓. But spending money you don’t have or buying things you don’t need can lead to debt, so it’s important to use credit cards strategically and avoid overspending. Handling credit and money responsibly is a skill you need to develop. 

While you can get your first credit card as early as 18 years of age, there are many ways to help build an understanding of credit starting earlier. Some parents add their kids as authorized users on their own cards. Others take opportunities to educate their kids about financial literacy. 

With Greenlight, you can do both. Learn more about credit for parents, credit building for teens, and tools to learn about responsible credit management for a brighter financial future. Give it a try and enjoy your first month, on us.

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