What is the Minimum Age for a Credit Card?

Minimum Age for a Credit Card

Last Updated on 06/15/2017 by GS Staff

Q:

What is the minimum age for a credit card?

A:

As a teenager moves toward adulthood there tends to be a gradual increase in their financial responsibilities. They may start making their first bill payments, start establishing a bank account, and potentially file their first tax return. Usually in the late teenage years to early twenties, the discussion of starting to establish credit starts to take place. But, what is the minimum age to obtain a credit card and start building credit?

Minimum Age for a Credit Card

You have to wait until age 21 to obtain a credit card without any restrictions. Of course, you must first apply for a credit card and be approved at this age. This may be difficult if you have not established credit prior to reaching age 21. There are ways to obtain a credit card prior to 21, but a U.S. law created in 2009 (CARD Act of 2009) has put restrictions on obtaining a credit card for individuals under 21.

Ages 18 to 20

You must be at least 18 to obtain a credit card on your own. If you are between the ages of 18 and 20, you can apply for a credit card but you must meet one of the following:

  • Provide evidence to the creditor showing you have a source of income to pay your financial obligation. This must be your own income (i.e. part-time job).
  • Or provide proof you have sufficient assets of your own to pay.
  • Or have a co-signer over the age of 21.

It used to be a lot easier. I remember being a freshman in college several years ago and one of the first things I did was sign up for a student credit card on campus. I was given some sort of college t-shirt on the spot for signing up and a couple weeks later the card arrived in the mail. There was no proof of income or assets required. Yes, I did make some irresponsible charges, like high interest cash advances, that I regretted like so many other college students.

Under 18

The law does not allow a person to obtain a credit card under the age of 18. However, they can become an authorized user if it is permitted by the credit card issuer. An authorized user is allowed to use the credit card account of another individual, but they are not legally responsible for paying the debt. The authorized user receives their own credit card with their name on it once they are added to the primary holder’s account.

While an authorized user is not legally responsible for paying the debt, their credit still is impacted in most cases. According to Discover, untimely payments on a credit card account can negatively affect both the primary account holder and the authorized user. On the flip side, if timely payments are made, both the primary card holder and the authorized user may have their credit profile strengthened. Note that the credit card company must report the authorized user to the credit card bureaus in order to have an impact on the user’s credit.

Given the above, you should be cautious about signing on as an authorized user. While you cannot be certain that a person will make timely payments going forward, you should try to evaluate how they handled paying their bills in the past.  You may want to avoid being an authorized user on an account of a person you know has had a history of bad debt management. Most people keep their financial information private, which makes it difficult to evaluate if you should sign on as an authorized user.

Creditors That Report Authorized Users

If you are seeking to build your credit by becoming an authorized user, you should be certain that the credit card issuer will report you as a user to the credit bureaus. The good news is that many major credit card issuers do report authorized users. We took a sampling of some of the major credit card issuers to see how they handled reporting authorized users to the bureaus. Here is what we found:

Credit Card IssuerAuthorized User Allowed?Authorized User Reported To Credit Bureaus?
American ExpressYesYes
ChaseYesYes
Bank of AmericaYesYes
Capital OneYesYes
CitiYesYes
DiscoverYes Yes
US BankYesYes
Wells FargoYesYes

Maximum Age for a Credit Card?

Are you ever too old to obtain a credit card? No, not in the United States, as long as you qualify for the credit. A creditor cannot discriminate based on race, color, religion, sex, gender, national origin, age, marital status, or receipt of public assistance. Additionally, they cannot offer different terms and conditions based on your age, race, etc.