Young man in coffee shop, using laptop, holding credit card

Before 2009, the minimum age for a credit card was 18 years old; you could even obtain a credit card in your own name even if you didn’t have a job. Today, the rules are different, you must be 21 years old to get a credit card in your own name, unless you can show written proof of income or have someone cosign on the account.

If you are trying to establish credit at an early age, there are certain financial requirements you need to know. Read on to find out more information about the minimum age for getting a credit card.

At what age can someone get a credit card?

Per the rules stated in the Credit CARD Act of 2009, the legal minimum age for getting a credit card is 21 years old. However, there are some additional financial requirements that allow someone as young as 18 years old to obtain a credit card. If you are between the ages of 18 to 20 years old and want to apply for a credit card, you will need a cosigner who is a parent, legal guardian or someone else who is at least 21 years old and has the means to take responsibility for any debts incurred on the account.

You can apply for a credit card without a cosigner, but only if you have a steady job and can show written proof of independent income to cover the minimum payments due. This proof can come in the form of paycheck stubs or tax documents, and you’ll need to send it to the credit card company.

Why would someone want a card that young?

Credit plays an important role in all of our financial lives, and because of this, it makes sense to establish credit as early in life as possible. The sooner you can start proving a good history of managing your money, the more choices you will have in the future. As with any other habits in life, it’s often easier to create smart financial habits when you are young versus when you are older and have more financial responsibilities.

Your credit scores are a good predictor of credit risk to different creditors and lenders. If you have a good credit profile, lenders will look at your past payment history as an indicator of future payments. The same is true in reverse, where creditors will be hesitant to extend credit if your past history of payments has been spotty. This may lead to increased deposit amount or interest rate to offset this risk.

A good credit profile can sometimes help you get a better job, since some employers do take your credit profile into consideration when hiring.A great credit history can help you qualify for a smaller security deposit on your first apartment, since landlords will often look at your credit as a determining factor for paying your rent on time. You may even be able to get a lower interest rate when purchasing your first car as well as paying less for car insurance premiums.

What should new cardholders look for in their first card?

Your first credit card should be one that has a low annual fee, or no annual fee, and comes with flexible payment terms and conditions. You want to be able to make a mistake, like accidentally missing a payment, without it completely ruining your financial history. The goal is to establish credit in an inexpensive way while you work on managing your money.

Some of the top credit card choices for new cardholders include retail credit cards, student credit cards and other starter credit cards. Retail credit cards are usually offered from retailers, like Target or Macy’s, and allow you to spend money at their store using your credit account as payment. This type of credit card often has a lower threshold for approval which can make it easier to get approved if you have no credit history. Student credit cards cater to students and their current lifestyle needs. A student credit card usually has lower fees, points for getting above average grades and more flexible payment terms.

Another idea for building credit relatively quickly is to become an authorized user on another person’s account. There is no age limit for authorized users and you can even get a card in your own name. The primary card user is responsible for making the payments and managing the account. The benefit of this is that the account history and activity are reported on your credit profile.

Getting a starter credit card if you are younger than 21 can be tough, but it’s not impossible. Just follow the tips outlined above to start building credit and establish smart money habits as soon as possible. If you are between the ages of 18 to 20, consider applying for starter credit cards like a retail credit card or student credit card to help build credit responsibility. You may also want to enlist the help of a parent or legal guardian, unless you can successfully prove enough independent income to make the monthly payments.

Disclaimer: This content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuer. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. This content was accurate at the time of this post, but card terms and conditions may change at any time. This site may be compensated through the credit card issuer Affiliate Program.