When should I get my first credit card? | finder.com
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When should I get my first credit card?

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If you want to start building a credit history, it might be time for a card.

Just like moving out of home or getting your first car, applying for a credit card is a rite of passage into adulthood. In fact, more than 75% of all Americans have at least one credit card according to the New York Federal Reserve Household Debt Report, Q2 2018.

Before you apply for your first card, consider several factors, including the age requirements, different reasons you might want a credit card, questions to help you find out if you’re ready for a credit card and how to improve your chances of approval when you apply.

At what age can I apply for a credit card?

The minimum age you can apply for a credit card is 18, although you can be added as an authorized user to another credit card account earlier than that. In this case, the primary cardholder is held liable for your balance. And if they pay the balance on time, it can positively affect your credit score.

But don’t get wild with your spending. If the primary cardholder fails to pay their balance, it can stain your credit score for years to come.

When should I get a credit card?

If you want a credit card, checking off the following criteria will help you make sure you apply at the right time for you.

  • Do I make enough money?
    Credit card issuers don’t have specific income requirements, but they want to make sure you can afford to pay off your debt. This is also one of the main factors determining the amount of the credit line you can get.
  • Do I have a good credit history?
    Do you have unpaid loans or fines, or is your credit history a clean slate? You can request a free copy of your credit report from each of the major bureaus once a year. Before you apply, check these details and decide if your financial history supports you.
  • Do I have a budget?
    In addition to interest costs if you carry a balance, some credit cards charge an annual fee. Consider how much you could afford to pay in account fees so you can decide if it’s worth it at this stage of your life.
  • Can I control my spending?
    Similar to budgeting for credit card costs, think about how much you’re likely to use the card. Can you stick to costs that you’re able to pay back each month? If you’re unsure but still want to apply, you could also consider a secured card to help keep your spending in check.

Why would I get a credit card?

Credit cards are not as essential as everyday bank accounts but they can play an important role in your finances. So if you’re wondering why you would want a credit card, here are some of the most popular reasons to apply and start using one.

  • Build credit history
    Credit cards can impact your credit score and your ability to get other loans. So once you get a credit card, aim to pay your credit card account balance off in full by the due date on each statement. This will help you build your credit and increase your chances of success when you want to apply for a mortgage, car loan or other credit product and you can get better loan terms.
  • For emergencies
    Whether it’s a parking fine, a car accident or a nasty surprise at the dentist, major, unexpected costs are a part of being an adult. If you don’t have enough money in your bank account to cover emergencies, you could use a credit card to pay what’s required upfront.

    As well as taking some of the pressure off in stressful situations, paying with plastic can help you avoid additional late fees and allow you to pay off the expense over time. If this is the main reason you get a credit card, look at cards with no annual fee or a low interest rate to help keep your costs to a minimum.

  • Necessary, big-ticket items
    Remember taking items like fridges, washing machines and furniture for granted? As soon as you get old enough to live out of home, you start to realize how much all of these items cost.

    If you’re paying for several big-ticket items around the same time, it can seriously eat into your bank balance. A credit card may help ease some of your cash flow concerns by allowing you to buy what you need when you need it. You may even be able to avoid interest charges by getting a credit card with a 0% intro APR period.

  • Overseas holiday
    Whether you’re taking a gap year or going on an overseas trip for a few weeks, a credit card can help provide financial security when traveling. While there are all kinds of travel card options offering no foreign transaction fees and travel insurance, a credit card is especially useful for any emergency costs that come up. For example, if you need to pay a fine, additional hotel charges or medical costs. Credit cards also offer security features and a zero liability policy to help keep your account safe from overseas fraud.
  • Student costs
    With textbooks, laptops, transport and accommodation, students have a range of additional costs that can be hard to cover upfront. Especially if you’re only able to work part-time while you’re studying.

    A student credit card is designed to give you more flexibility in managing these costs between paydays. Some of these cards come with a 0% intro APR period on purchases and balance transfers, cash back on select purchases or a signup bonus.

How to improve your chances of approval when applying for a credit card

If you’re ready to apply for a new credit card, there are several ways to increase your chances of approval. You can start by comparing credit cards so you can find an option that suits your needs. Then check the eligibility requirements and get all the necessary details and documents together for the application.

Bottom line

When used responsibly, credit cards can become a convenient, practical and valuable part of your adult finances. And, if you play your cards right, they may even help you get approved for a home loan or other financial products in the future.

If you haven’t found the best credit card for your needs, compare other credit card options until you do.

Compare credit cards for new card holders

Name Product Annual Fee Balance Transfer APR Purchase APR Filter values
$0
17.99% to 26.99% variable
17.99% to 26.99% variable
Earn 75,000 Hilton Honors™ Bonus Points after you spend $1,000 in purchases on the card within your first 3 months of card membership. Rates & fees
$0
17.99% to 26.99% variable
17.99% to 26.99% variable
Earn 10,000 bonus miles after spending $500 in purchases on your new card in your first 3 months of card membership. Rates & fees
$0
0% for the first 15 months (then 15.24% to 26.24% variable)
0% for the first 15 months (then 15.24% to 26.24% variable)
Earn a $150 bonus statement credit after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. Rates & fees
$0
0% for the first 15 months (then 15.24% to 26.24% variable)
0% for the first 15 months (then 15.24% to 26.24% variable)
Earn a $150 statement credit after you spend $1,000 or more in purchases with your new card within the first 3 months of card membership. Rates & fees
$0
0% for the first 12 billing cycles (then 16.24% to 25.74% variable)
16.24% to 25.74% variable
When you spend $500 on your card within the first 90 days, you’ll receive a $150 cash back bonus. Rates & Fees

Compare up to 4 providers

Name Product Annual Fee Purchase APR Balance Transfer APR Filter values
$0
9.24% to 17.99% variable
0% for the first 12 months (then 9.24% to 17.99% variable)
Low APR on all purchases including cash advances.
$0
11.99% to 17.99% variable
4.99% for the first 12 months (then 11.99% to 17.99% variable)
Earn a $100 bonus after spending $1,500 on purchases in the first 90 days from account opening.
$0
11.99% to 17.99% variable
0% for the first 12 months (then 11.99% to 17.99% variable)
2% cash back for all PenFed Honors Advantage members and 1.5% cash back on all purchases made with your card.
$0
11.99% to 17.99% variable
0% for the first 12 months (then 11.99% to 17.99% variable)
Earn 5x points on gas at the pump and 3x points on groceries. Earn 1x points on all other purchases.
$0
12.99% to 17.99% variable
0% for the first 12 months (then 12.99% to 17.99% variable)
25,000 bonus points when you spend $2,500 in the first 90 days from account opening.

Compare up to 4 providers

Name Product Filter values Purchase APR Annual Fee Recommended Minimum Credit Score
15.24% to 26.24% variable
$0
670
Build your credit with no fees: Apply if you're new to credit or have a fair to good score.
20.99% variable
$0
580
Designed for college students to build credit history and earn rewards.
25.24% variable
$0
650
Designed to help build credit history with no deposit required. Apply if you're new to credit or have a fair to good score over 650.
17.74% variable
$0
580
Credit card for professionals relocating to America without a US credit history.
0% for the first 7 months (then 16.74% to 26.74% variable)
$0
670
Earn 2,500 bonus points after you spend $500 in purchases with your card within the first 3 months of account opening.

Compare up to 4 providers

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