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How old do you have to be to get a credit card?

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    While you need to be 18 to enter into a credit card agreement, qualifying for a credit card before you turn 21 may not always be easy. This article will cover different options available to get a credit card if you're under 21 and signs that you might be ready for your first card:

    • When can I get a credit card?
    • Is there any way to have access to a card before I'm 18?
    • Three signs that you might be ready to get a card 
    • What are my options for my first credit card?
    • Applying for a credit card after 21

    At what age can you get a credit card?

    You'll need to be at least 18 years old to sign a credit card contract; however, since the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009, getting an unsecured credit card before you turn 21 isn't easy. You'll need to show proof that you have a steady source of income to qualify.

    If you can't show a source of income, such as a job, you'll need to have a cosigner on the card or ask to be an authorized user on a friend or relative's credit card.

    How can I use a credit card before I'm 18?

    There are two ways to have access to a card before you're 18:

    Authorized user

    If you want a card and you're under 18, you can have access to a card by becoming an authorized user on someone else's card (typically a parent or legal guardian). Some issuers have minimum age requirements for becoming an authorized user. As an authorized user you'll get your own card, but the primary cardmember is responsible for your credit card spending. Being an authorized user can help you begin to build a positive credit history, assuming the credit card issuer reports authorized user activity to the credit bureaus and the cardmember is paying balances on time.

    Prepaid card

    You could also get a prepaid card, which isn't a credit card. Activity on it isn't reported to credit bureaus, so it won't help build credit. With a prepaid card, you'll still be able to make purchases online and in-person the same way you can with a credit card, but it isn't connected to a line of credit. Instead, the card is prepaid ahead of time. Keep in mind that prepaid card activity isn't reported to the credit bureaus, so this won't help you build credit.

    Three signs you might be ready to get a card

    Three signs that you might be ready to get your first credit card include:

    • You know how to stick to a budget: While getting a credit card can feel like you're receiving "free" money, it's important to remember that it's a loan. If you can't pay it back on time, you'll quickly wind up in financial quicksand by having to pay high credit card interest rates on top of money owed. That's why it's important to know how to create and stick to a budget before receiving a card.
    • You want to start building credit history: A positive credit history can help you with securing loans and having access to the best interest rates.
    • You have a steady income: You have a steady stream of income coming in each month to pay your bill. Keep in mind that this income should be able to cover your living expenses, credit card bills and extra leftover for savings.

    What are my options for my first credit card?

    Options for a first credit card include:

    Authorized user card

    Assuming the credit card issuer reports authorized user activity to the credit bureaus, you can be added as an authorized user to a card to begin building a credit history and learn how to manage a credit card.

    Secured credit card

    You could use a secured credit card. The difference between a secured credit card and an unsecured credit card is that with a secured credit card you put a cash deposit down for the amount that you want in credit on the card. This money acts as collateral in the event that you default on your payments.

    While Chase does not offer secured credit cards, check with your credit card issuer to see if they do.

    Student credit card

    Student credit cards are intended for individuals who have not yet built up credit histories. They are usually easier to qualify for than regular credit cards and often have lower credit limits, but may have higher interest rates.

    Applying for a credit card after 21

    If you're older than 21, issuers will look at your credit report and history to determine if you'll be approved for a card. Your history of payments and debts are two of the most important factors that will be examined. Once you get a credit card, you'll start building a credit history, which can help you get approved for loans and good interest rates down the road.

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