Under 21? Credit cards for 18 to 21-year-olds | finder.com
The “under 21” user’s guide to credit cards

The “under 21” guide to credit cards

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Typically, it’s much easier to apply for credit cards if you’re at least 21.

Before that age, you may have a tougher time getting approved. If you’re under 18, you can’t apply for a credit card. And if you’re between 18 and 21, card providers will be sticklers about checking your income.

Still, it’s possible to get a credit card as long as you know what you’re doing. Here’s what you should know about restrictions, authorized users and cosigners, secured and student cards and your best options by provider.

How to get a credit card if you’re under 18 years old

If you’re under 18, you’re not allowed to get a credit card on your own. It is possible to get one, though: You just need to be an authorized user on someone else’s card account. As an authorized user:

  • You’ll get a credit card in your name that you can use.
  • You’re not technically on the hook for making payments — that responsibility lies with the primary cardholder.
  • You may build credit as long as the primary cardholder makes payments on time.

Credit card options for teens under 18 years old

How to add an authorized user

It’s simple to become an authorized user. The primary cardholder must call their card provider with your name, date of birth and — if required — Social Security number. They may also be able to add you online.

Be careful about becoming an authorized user

As an authorized user, you’re not responsible for making card payments. Though that’s a plus in some ways, it can also be a negative: Your credit history will rise and fall with the primary cardholder’s payments. If the primary cardholder makes payments on time, you may see a boost in your credit score. But if they’re consistently late on payments, your score could drop.

How to get a credit card if you’re between 18 and 21 years old

Once you turn 18, you’re allowed to get a credit card on your own. However, it’s a little more difficult to get one when you’re under 21. Federal lawmakers didn’t want young consumers to accumulate mountains of debt, so they passed the CARD Act of 2009.

The CARD Act also stipulates that if you’re under 21, you must prove your ability to pay your card bill. You can report income that you earn on your own, such as scholarships and grants or wages from your job. If you don’t have sufficient income, your other option is to add a cosigner — someone who agrees to pay if you default. If you pay late, you could damage your cosigner’s credit history.

If you’re unsure whether your income qualifies or you need a cosigner, call your card provider. In many cases, your provider will contact you with further steps after you submit your application.

Try a secured or student credit card

If you’re between 18 and 21 years old, your main problem may be the lack of a credit history. Many card providers simply won’t let you borrow money until they can see how responsible you are. In that light, two great options are secured cards and student cards.

Secured credit cards

A secured credit card lends the opportunity for someone under the age of 21 to learn how to responsibly use a credit card while positively building their credit.

  • To open a secured credit card, you must first put down a security deposit of typically $200 to $300 — some providers may offer lower deposits. That refundable deposit amount will then act as your credit limit.
  • The deposit is also a form of collateral, which makes it easier to be approved for a secured card — this ensures the provider will be repaid if you fail to pay your bill.
  • Making on time payments and paying off your monthly balance in full will show lenders that you’re a trustworthy customer.

How to apply for a secured credit card

Student credit cards

If you’re a college student, you’re eligible for a student credit card. This is an unsecured card, so you won’t have to put down a security deposit. Additionally, many providers will approve you even if you don’t have a credit history. By starting a relationship with you early, they may win you as a customer for life.

For excellent student cards, check out the Discover it Card for Students, BankAmericard Cash Rewards for Students, Capital One Journey Student Rewards and Wells Fargo Cash Back College℠ Card.
How to apply for a student credit card

Compare student credit cards

Name Product APR (Annual Percentage Rate) for Purchases Welcome Bonus Interest Free Period
20.49% variable
Up to 23 days
Designed for college students to build credit history and earn rewards.
12.90% to 22.90% variable
Up to 25 days
3% cash rewards on gas, grocery, drugstore for first 6 months, 1% cash rewards on virtually all other net purchases.
16.24% to 26.24% variable
Earn 2,500 points after your first purchase
Up to 23 days
Earn 2,500 bonus points after spending $500 within the first 3 months of account opening.

Compare up to 4 providers

Provider rules and recommended credit cards

Card issuers have different rules for authorized users and cosigned applications. Here’s a handy guide on what issuers allow (or don’t allow), as well as who offers the best secured and student cards.

Minimum age for authorized users Cosigner allowed for those under 21 Recommended secured credit card Recommended student credit card
American Express 15 cross-icons cross-icons cross-icons
Bank of America None transparent-green-tick cross-icons transparent-green-tick
Capital One None cross-icons transparent-green-tick transparent-green-tick
Chase None cross-icons cross-icons cross-icons
Citi None cross-icons transparent-green-tick transparent-green-tick
Discover 15 cross-icons transparent-green-tick transparent-green-tick
Wells Fargo None cross-icons cross-icons transparent-green-tick

Secured credit card banks and lenders

American Express

American Express cardholders can add authorized users as young as 15. The company does not allow users to cosign applications for individuals under 21.

Amex is unlike other card providers, because it doesn’t offer any student credit cards. And it has just one secured card: the USAA Secured Card American Express® Card, which requires affiliation with the military for approval.

Bank of America

Bank of America cardholders can add authorized users with no minimum age. BofA is one of the few that allow cosigned applications.

The BankAmericard® Secured Credit Card is rather weak compared to its competitors. However, the BankAmericard Cash Rewards for Students is among the best student cards you’ll find.

Capital One

Capital One allows authorized users with no minimum age. It doesn’t allow cosigned applications.

The Secured Mastercard® from Capital One® is an excellent pick, and the Journey® Student Credit Card from Capital One® is a good option too.

Chase

Chase allows authorized users with no minimum age but doesn’t allow cosigned applications. It’s also not known for its secured or student cards. If you have good credit, however, consider starting with the Chase Freedom® credit card or Chase Freedom Unlimited® credit card.

Citi

Citi allows authorized users with no minimum age but doesn’t allow cosigned applications. The Citi® Secured Mastercard® is solid, if not spectacular. If you want a student card with points, try the Citi ThankYou® Preferred Card for College Students.

Discover

Discover cardholders can add authorized users as young as 15. It doesn’t allow cosigned applications.

Discover offers an excellent secured and student card, both of which are arguably the best in their respective markets. Look into the Discover it® Secured Credit Card and Discover it Card for Students.

Wells Fargo

Wells Fargo allows authorized users with no minimum age, but it doesn’t allow cosigned applications.

The Wells Fargo Secured Credit Card is a so-so pick, but the College Cash Back Card is a fine choice for students.

Compare credit cards

Name Product APR for Purchases (Purchase Rate) Intro APR for Balance Transfer Annual Fee
14.74%, 18.74% or 24.74% variable
0% for the first 15 months (then 14.74%, 18.74% or 24.74% variable)
$0
Earn unlimited 1.5% cash rewards on purchases. See Rates and Fees
12.74%, 16.74% or 20.74% variable
0% for the first 18 months from account opening (then 12.74%, 16.74% or 20.74% variable)
$0
An 18-month 0% Intro APR period on both purchases and balance transfers, plus zero foreign transaction fees, makes this is a strong well-rounded card. See Rates and Fees
16.74% variable
0% for the first 15 billing cycles (then 16.74% variable)
$495
Mastercard Black Card members receive an annual $100 air travel credit toward flight-related purchases including airline tickets, baggage fees, upgrades and more.
16.74% variable
0% for the first 15 billing cycles (then 16.74% variable)
$195
Enjoy unique excursions, privileged access to exclusive events and insider opportunities.
16.74% variable
0% for the first 15 billing cycles (then 16.74% variable)
$995
Earn points every time you spend. Luxury Card enhances your purchasing power by providing you with one (1) point for every one dollar ($1) you spend. Every purchase gets you closer to the rewards you want.
24.74% variable
$39
Designed to help build credit history with no deposit required and access to benefits.
23.9% variable
$75 annual fee for the first year ($99 thereafter)
With this card you get a 23.9% Variable APR.
19.74% to 25.74% variable
$0 to $99
Get 1% cash back rewards on eligible purchases including gas, groceries, and services such as mobile phone, internet, cable and satellite TV, terms apply.
14.74% to 25.74% variable
0% for the first 15 months (then 14.74% to 25.74% variable)
$0
Earn 10,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you use your new Card to make $1,000 in purchases in your first 3 months.
14.99% to 24.99% variable
0% for the first 12 statement closing dates (then 14.99% to 24.99% variable)
$0
Earn more cash back for the things you buy most.
14.74% to 25.74% variable
0% for the first 15 months (then 14.74% to 25.74% variable)
$0
Earn $200 back after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. You will receive the $200 back in the form of a statement credit.
17.74% to 24.74% variable
$0 annual fee for the first year ($95 thereafter)
Earn 50,000 points when you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first 3 months of your account opening, and an additional 30,000 points when you spend a total of $30,000 on purchases within the first year of your account opening.
17.74% to 24.74% variable
$450
Earn 50,000 BONUS POINTS after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening* — that's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
14.74% to 24.74% variable
0% for the first 12 months (then 14.74% to 24.74% variable)
$95
15,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $1,000 in the first 3 months of opening your account
16.74% to 25.49% variable
0% for the first 15 months (then 16.74% to 25.49% variable)
$0
Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase - it's automatic. No minimum to redeem for cash back.
17.74% to 24.74% variable
$95
Earn unlimited 2 points for every $1 spent on travel and dining purchases and 1.5 points for every $1 spent on all other purchases.
14.74%, 20.74% or 24.74% variable
0% for the first 15 months (then 14.74%, 20.74% or 24.74% variable)
$0
Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day
16.74% to 25.49% variable
0% for the first 15 months (then 16.74% to 25.49% variable)
$0
Earn 5% Cash back in bonus categories up to $1,500 every quarter. Earn 1% Cash back on all other purchases.
16.74% to 24.74% variable
$0
20,000 online bonus points offer. Ditch the restrictions of typical airline rewards cards. Any airline, any hotel, anytime. No blackout dates.
16.74% to 25.49% variable
0% for the first 15 months (then 16.74% to 25.49% variable)
Jumpstart your financial fitness! 60 day introductory balance transfer offer, save on interest, and get your free monthly credit score.
14.74%, 21.24% or 24.74% variable
$0 annual fee for the first year ($95 thereafter)
Earn 50,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening.

Compare up to 4 providers

Name Product APR (Annual Percentage Rate) for Purchases Welcome Bonus Interest Free Period
9.99% fixed
Up to 25 days
Low fixed interest rates with no penalty rate.
10.24% variable
Up to 25 days
19.14% variable
Up to 25 days
A secured Visa® credit card that helps you build your credit quickly.
9.99% fixed
None
This secured card can help you rebuild your credit with an initial deposit of $200 to $1,000.
20.24% variable
Up to 25 days
17.99% fixed
Up to 25 days
Borrow up to $10,000 and get your credit score back on track.
14.24% variable
Up to 25 days
The First Latitude MasterCard® Secured Credit Card
The First Latitude MasterCard® Secured Credit Card
26.24% variable
Up to 25 days
13.99% fixed
Up to 25 days
Have little or poor credit? The primor® Secured Mastercard® Classic has no minimum credit score requirements and no processing or application fees to worry about.
9.99% fixed
Up to 25 days
Fast, easy application process. No processing or application fees!
13.99% fixed
Up to 25 days
Credit lines available from $200 to $5,000! You decide where you want to start and open your Personal Savings Deposit Account to secure your line.
17.99% variable
Earn 5,000 miles after your first purchase
Up to 24 days
Earn SKYPASS miles while building your credit history in the United States.
13.74% variable
Up to 21 days
Created to help you establish or rebuild credit.

Compare up to 4 providers

Shopping credit cards are reward-driven credit cards that are store specific. While you can earn cashback, save money with exclusive discounts or finance a big purchase, you should be aware that these cards generally have high APRs.
Name Product APR (Annual Percentage Rate) for Purchases Annual Fee
24.4% fixed
$0
A no annual fee credit card and discounts when you shop at Target.
See issuer's website
$0
The Fingerhut Credit Account is store-specific, and used to finance purchases made from Fingerhut.com or Fingerhut FreshStart's catalogue.
See issuer's website
$0
Helps you keep building your credit as you buy great name brand products.
See issuer's website
$0
Get instant access to purchase items in the Fingerhut store with no overlimit fees.
$0
Get a $500 credit limit to make purchases on the Horizon Outlet website.
$0
Looking for the best card? You can have it while you build your credit with Horizon Card Services. Get an unsecured line of credit and the best customer service!
$0
Shop the items you need at myuniqueoutlet.com with up to a $1,000 credit.
$0
Get a $300 to $5,000 instantly to shop 100,000+ items at Emporium.
24.4% variable
$0
28.49% variable
$0
6, 12, 18, and 24-month financing options available and special promotions just for cardmembers.

Compare up to 4 providers

Frequently asked questions

Megan Horner

As the assistant publisher of credit cards at finder.com, Megan is passionate about helping you compare and find the best credit cards for your situation, whether that is earning great rewards or improving your credit score. In her previous position, Megan worked as an assigning editor at Credit Karma, where she focused on editing and publishing educational articles on credit cards. Megan started her career as a writer at a comparison website, so she has a longstanding background in surfacing the best deals and helping people make decisions. In her spare time, Megan likes to hike, camp, surf, and read.

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