Published on March 25th, 2016 | by William Charles27
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.
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.
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).
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.