Posted by William Charles on March 25, 2016
Credit Cards no image

Published on March 25th, 2016 | by William Charles

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How Old Do You Have To Be To Get A Credit Card?

One of the common questions I get from people, is how old do you have to be to get a credit card? Usually it’s from parents that are into chasing credit card sign up bonuses, but sometimes young adults ask as well. There are a few different factors that are related to age when it comes to credit cards, so lets take a look. I’ve broken it down into different age brackets to make things easier if you’re a specific age.

21 & Older

There are no age restrictions if you’re 21 years of age or older. That doesn’t mean you’ll be automatically approved for all credit cards, just that your age will not play a factor in if you’re approved or denied. Credit card issuers will still take into account things like your credit score and income.

There is no upper age limit on credit cards, you could be a senior that is 150 years old and card issuers would not be able to use your age against you.

Under 21

The Credit CARD Act Of 2009 contains some very specific regulations surrounding persons under the age of 21. In terms of approval, you can be approved if you meet one of the following two criteria:

  • Proof of income (e.g pay stub or tax return) or assets that is sufficient to pay off any credit debt incurred.
  • A co-signer over the age of 21

Card issuers are also prohibited from some marketing tactics: They can’t show you pre-screened offers unless you’ve opted in to receive those offers (something I suggest you do so that you can receive targeted offers. But only if you’re responsible enough to get a credit card without incurring debt you cannot repay) and they cannot offer tangible gifts (e.g a free tshirt or slice of pizza) to students.

Basically if you’re under the age of 21 you’ll either need a job with proof of income or you’ll need to get somebody to co-sign for the credit card.

What Is A Co-Signer?

If you co-sign for a credit card, then you will be joint owners of the credit card. Both owners will be able to make purchases on the card and make changes to the card (e.g requesting credit limit increases/decreases). You’ll also both be liable for any late payments made on the card and it’ll affect your credit as well as theirs.

You should only co-sign for a card if your comfortable with this risk to your credit and are happy to pay for purchases if they refuse to pay as well.

Under 18

If you’re under the age of 18 then you cannot have a credit card in your name, even if you find somebody willing to co-sign for you. You can become an authorized user on somebody else’s account though (e.g your parents).

What Is An Authorized User?

An authorized user is somebody that has access to use a credit card, but is not responsible for the repayment of that credit card. For example, if you make your child an authorized user on one of your credit cards then they will be able to legally use that credit card but you will be held responsible for any charges they make to that card.

Authorized users are only able to make purchases with your credit card, they can’t make other changes/requests. For example they can’t do any of the following:

  • Request a credit limit increase/decrease/reallocation
  • Redeem rewards
  • Change the information on file (e.g address)

Authorized User Minimum Age Limits

Card issuers have different minimum age requirements when it comes to adding somebody as an authorized user. Below are the minimum age limits that we know of:

Main card issuers:

  • American Express: 15+ years of age
  • Bank of America: 18+ years of age
  • Barclaycard: No age minimum
  • Capital One: Not aware of minimum (somebody that was 15 got added)
  • Chase: No age minimum (doesn’t require SSN)
  • Citibank: No age minimum (doesn’t require SSN)
  • Discover: No age minimum
  • US Bank: No age minimum

Smaller card issuers:

  • Nationwide: 16 years of age

What Card Issuers Report Authorized Users?

One of the main reasons of adding an authorized user for somebody who is under the age of 18 is to help them build their own credit history. Card issuers are required to report all spousal authorized users, but some do not report non-spousal authorized users. The major card issuers all do, but some of the smaller ones don’t. I’d recommend reading this post on how being added as an authorized user affects your credit, it also includes information on which issuers do and don’t report non-spousal data.

Should You Add Your Child As An Authorized User?

I don’t have kids, so take my opinion with a grain of salt. I think it is a good idea to add your children as an authorized user to help them build a credit history before they turn 18/21. Just keep in mind that you’ll be responsible for any charges they make on the credit card, this is a good opportunity for you to teach them about basic budget skills and high interest rates on credit cards as well. You can always add them onto a card with a low credit limit to reduce any associated risks, or simply shred their card as soon as it arrives so they can’t put any purchases on it anyway (missed learning experience in my opinion).

Final Thoughts

I think it’s great that a lot of parents want to help their children build their credit from an early age. I think it’s really important that parents teach their kids about the dangers and also benefits of using credit responsible and hope that anybody that did add their child as an authorized user also gives them a well rounded credit education as well.

Otherwise you might just be setting them up for getting bigger loans and credit limits than they can handle at an early age. Feel free to share your experiences and data points in the comments below.



28 Responses to How Old Do You Have To Be To Get A Credit Card?

  1. Anon says:

    I’m under 21, and have gotten more than 5 cards without ever providing proof of income or a co signer.

    Discover, Multiple Chase, Barclaycard, Multiple Amex, and Citi.

    • This guy says:

      Under 21 here, 3 cards, never had to provide proof. Discover IT, Sallie Mae Mastercard, Amex BCE. There were blanks where I had to provide my income (or an estimate thereof), but proof was never required.

  2. gloobnib says:

    So if my 18 year old signs up for a card and I co sign A) will he still get the signup bonus even if I (as the co signer) wouldn’t be eligible? B) any data points on how chase applies the 5/24 rule to co signers?

    • Not sure how it affects sign up bonuses with co-signers unfortunately. Can anybody else chime in?

      • Dred says:

        This was all in Jan 2016 with the Discover It card.
        My 18-yo daughter applied by herself, following a referral from me and my Discover It card ($50 bonus to her and to me for doing that). No income, no credit. Got rejected.
        So we instantly re-applied (this was all done on the phone, with Discover’s guidance) with me as co-signer.
        Success.
        We both got the $50 referral bonus. Both being doubled in 12 months.
        So basically, in our case, even though I am the co-signer, it is as if it’s 100% her card as it relates to bonuses etc.

  3. lcqq says:

    I just checked Discover. The authorized user must be 15 or older. They do need the SSN and DoB

    • Alex says:

      Yup. Was thinking about building credit for my 9 year old, my 6 year old and my 2 year old lol. Didn’t work!

  4. lcqq says:

    For the Barclaycard. At least AAdvantage Aviator card, they ask for the authorized user 13 or older. I just want to apply a credit card for my 1 year old

  5. Carlos says:

    The reason why most under 18 cant get a CC is because your not allowed to enter into a legally binding contract until your 18.

    Also I got CCs at the age of 16 because I lied and nobody checked, culprits were Amex, and Citibank.

  6. Jordan says:

    I don’t think the AU spot will report on their credit report if they do not provide their social security number.

  7. Bellevuemike says:

    Does the child’s credit score improve if the adult is making purchases with their account? Or does the child’s credit score only improve if the child’s card is being used to make purchases?

    In other words, can you just put the child’s credit card in a sock drawer and watch their credit score improve over time? I would think this is how most parents would see it effective to raise and establish a great credit score for their child.

  8. Susan says:

    I remember getting my first credit card when I was 12. My uncle added me as an authorized user and gave me an annual birthday allowance equivalent to 3 x my age. It felt good to be the only kid (I knew) who had a credit card. I used it only once for a $9 charge. ha ha…

    I applied to my first credit card (Discover) at the age of 18 and it was approved.

  9. Mohammad M says:

    Will, can you also explain what is reported to AU’s file? Do the credit lines carry age from the original opened date or from the date that the AU is added?

  10. gloobnib says:

    Another way of asking part of my previous question: Is a co-signer the same thing as a “joint” account, or is the account only in the teen’s name, with the co-signer acting strictly as guarantor?

    Related: What constitutes “proof of assets” to gaurantee repayment? If my 18 YO can show a savings account with a $5K balance in his name, is that sufficient to get a $5K CL from a card issuer?

  11. Bob says:

    Did some sort of law change about this where banks have to do their due diligence when approving credit card apps now? I have a friend whose credit was absolutely DESTROYED by his dad. His Dad opened up credit cards in his name, using his SSN when he was under 18. The cards were maxed out and never paid. When it came time for him to start opening a few credit cards, that is when he figured it out. No one would approve him. He got his credit report and that is when he figured out he had cards in his name well before he was 18.

    He doesn’t speak with his dad anymore.

  12. Trup says:

    Does the co-signer get a hard pull during such an application?

  13. Becky Blaine says:

    You forgot Capital One. I added my teenage daughter to my Capital One Venture card. They did require her SSN and specifically told me they will report it on her credit. I believe she was 15 when I added her as an authorized user. I’ve also added her to some of my Chase cards, but since they didn’t ask for her SSN, I’m assuming she’ll get no credit help from those.

  14. Mariana says:

    I have my now 13 year old as an AU for my chase freedom card with Chase (for one year now). No SSN was required. Anyone know if this will help build her credit score? I hope it does.

  15. Jonathan S says:

    You might want to update Barclay authorized user minimum age. Just tried adding a toddler online to the Uber card and I received an error saying that the authorized user needs to be 13 or older.

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