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Tips for choosing your first credit card

Applying for your first credit card as a high school or college student could help you on your journey towards building a healthy credit score. Ahead, you'll find some useful tips for applying for your first credit card.

Can I be approved for a credit card with no credit history?

There may be suitable credit card options for people with no credit history. If you have no credit, you might want to consider a student credit card, which offers a low credit limit for you to get started. If you aren't a student and have little to no credit, you may find secured credit cards useful as your first cards.

Do I need a co-signer for my first credit card?

Some credit card companies require a co-signer (typically an adult over the age of 21) on your credit card account for applicants under 21 years old, others may not. The person that you may designate as a co-signer is also held accountable for any debt incurred in the event that you are unable to keep up with your payments.

What do I need to provide when applying for a credit card?

If you are applying for a credit card, here are a few things you might need for your application:

  • Proof of income (pay stubs)
  • Social security number
  • Valid ID or Passport
  • Co-signer agreement (if applicable)
  • Authorization for credit score inquiry
  • Checking account information for processing any fees or payments

How do I get a credit card for the first time?

You can expect the following steps throughout your application process:

  1. Decide which card is best for you: Consider the benefits, perks, interest rates and features that may come with the different types of credit cards available and narrow down which benefits, perks and features are most important to you.
  2. Contact the card company to see if you pre-qualify: A soft inquiry (a type of credit check that doesn't affect your credit score) could help you determine if your credit score is high enough to apply for a certain card. Although pre-qualifications are not guarantees that you could be approved for a specific credit card, they may help you narrow down options for credit cards that align with your current needs.
  3. Apply online: Once you're ready to apply for a credit card, review the credit issuer's website to learn about your options for applying online.
  4. Once approved, carefully read your cardmember agreement: Make sure you're aware of information like how to verify and use your card, how to submit a payment, billing information and details about your interest charges.
  5. Set up a finance or budget plan: Before using your credit card, be sure to have a plan or budget in place so that you don't spend more than you are able to pay off before the end of each payment due date. This will allow you to avoid interest charges and helps prevent high balances or missed payments that could negatively affect your credit score.

Best first credit cards for teenagers & college students

First-time credit card users might find cards with the following features and perks most useful:

Student credit card

Students and recent graduates with little or no credit may want to look toward a card with a low annual fee or a card that waives the annual fee altogether. Student, store and secure credit cards may also waive application and processing fees. Student credit cards may offer a low credit limit, but this can increase once you have established a positive payment history.

Low-Interest cards

There are also low-interest credit cards that waive interest charges for a few months up to a year. Having a 0% interest rate, if even only for a few months, is a perk that can be very useful for first-time cardholders who may still be adjusting to having a regular payment schedule.

Cash back rewards

A cash back credit card offers opportunities to earn money back from select purchases, which may include school supplies, books, and electronics at select retailers and merchants.

Store credit cards

First-time credit card applicants may find that store credit cards have flexible requirements when it comes to credit history. These cards may be a great option for establishing and building credit over time through making consistent on-time payment and keeping balances low.

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