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

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.
How to apply for a student credit card

Rates last updated February 25th, 2018
Name Product Product Description APR for Purchases ( Purchase Rate ) Annual fee Interest Free Period
Wells Fargo Cash Back CollegeSM Card
3% cash rewards on gas, grocery, drugstore for first 6 months, 1% cash rewards on virtually all other net purchases.
12.40% to 22.40% variable
$0
Up to 25 days
Citi ThankYou® Preferred Card for College Students
Earn 2500 bonus points after spending $500 within the first 3 months of account opening.
15.74% to 25.74% variable
$0
Up to 23 days

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 usersCosigner allowed for those under 21Recommended secured credit cardRecommended student credit card
American Express15cross-iconscross-iconscross-icons
Bank of AmericaNonetransparent-green-tickcross-iconstransparent-green-tick
Capital OneNonecross-iconstransparent-green-ticktransparent-green-tick
ChaseNonecross-iconscross-iconscross-icons
CitiNonecross-iconstransparent-green-ticktransparent-green-tick
Discover15cross-iconstransparent-green-ticktransparent-green-tick
Wells FargoNonecross-iconscross-iconstransparent-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, 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 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 Capital One Secured Mastercard is an excellent pick, and the Journey Student Rewards 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 or Chase Freedom Unlimited.

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 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

Rates last updated February 25th, 2018
Name Product APR for Purchases ( Purchase Rate ) Intro APR for Balance Transfer Annual fee Product Description
Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard®
17.24%, 21.24% or 24.24% variable
0% Intro APR for 12 months (with whichever is greater: $5 or 3% balance transfer fee)
$0 annual fee for the first year ($89 thereafter)
Enjoy 40000
bonus miles after you spend on purchases in the first 90 days — that's enough to redeem for a $400 travel statement credit toward an eligible travel purchase.
Luxury Card Mastercard® Titanium Card™
16.24% variable
0% Intro APR for for the first 15 billing cycles (with whichever is greater: $5 or 3% balance transfer fee)
$195 ($95 for each Authorized User added to the account)
Enjoy unique excursions, privileged access to exclusive events and insider opportunities.
HSBC Gold Mastercard®
12.24%, 16.24% or 20.24% variable
0% Intro APR for first 18 months from account opening (with whichever is greater: $10 or 4% balance transfer fee)
$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.
Indigo® Platinum Mastercard® Credit Card
23.9% variable
$75 annual fee for the first year ($0 to $99 thereafter)
With this card you get a 23.9% variable APR.
Barclaycard Ring™ Mastercard®
10.24% variable
$0
A low, variable APR on purchases, balance transfers and cash advances.
Credit One Bank® Visa® with Free Credit Score Tracking
17.24% to 25.24% variable
$0 to $75 first year annual fee for the first year ($0 to $99 thereafter)
Get 1% cash back rewards on eligible purchases including gas, groceries, and services such as mobile phone, internet, cable and satellite TV, terms apply.
Credit One Bank® Unsecured Platinum Visa®
19.15% - 25.24% variable
$0 to $75 first year annual fee for the first year ($0 to $99 thereafter)
Give your credit a boost with credit line increase opportunities, a fee may apply.
The First Access VISA® Credit Card
29.99% variable
$75.00 for first year. After that, $48.00 annually.
Access credit even if you have poor or limited credit history.
Simmons Bank Visa® Platinum
9.25% variable
$0
The Simmons Bank Visa® Platinum Card offers multiple perks, including one of the lowest available APRs on the market.
Credit One Bank® Unsecured Visa® with Free Credit Score Tracking
19.15% - 25.24% variable
$0 to $75 first year annual fee for the first year ($0 to $99 thereafter)
Get 1% cash back rewards on eligible purchase, terms apply.
Simmons Bank Visa® Platinum Rewards
11.25% variable
$0
Excellent Credit Required - Applicants that do not have excellent credit will not be approved

Compare up to 4 providers

Rates last updated February 25th, 2018
Name Product Product Description APR for Purchases ( Purchase Rate ) Annual fee Interest Free Period
primor® Secured Mastercard® Gold Card
Low fixed interest rates with no penalty rate.
9.99% variable
$49
Up to 25 days
First Progress Platinum Prestige Mastercard® Secured Credit Card
You can increase your credit limit by adding funds to the initial deposit.
9.99% variable
$49
Up to 25 days
OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card
A secured Visa® credit card that helps you build your credit quickly.
18.64% variable
$35
Up to 25 days
First Progress Platinum Elite Mastercard® Secured
With just a security deposit and 19.99% variable APR, start building or rebuilding your credit history.
19.99% variable
$29
Up to 25 days
UNITY Visa Secured Credit Card
Borrow up to $10000 and get your credit score back on track.
17.99% fixed
$39
Up to 25 days
Applied Bank Secured Visa Gold Preferred Credit Card
This secured card can help you rebuild your credit with an initial deposit of $200 to $1,000.
9.99% fixed
$48
0 interest free days
State Department Federal Credit Union (SDFCU) Savings Secured Visa Platinum Card
Created to help you establish or rebuild credit.
13.24% variable
$0
Up to 21 days
SKYPASS Visa® Secured Card
Earn SKYPASS miles while building your credit history in the United States.
17.49% variable
$50
Up to 24 days

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.
Rates last updated February 25th, 2018
Name Product APR for Purchases ( Purchase Rate ) Annual fee Product Description
Target REDcard Credit Card
23.90% variable
$0
A no annual fee credit card and discounts when you shop at Target.
Fingerhut Credit Account
25.90% variable
$0
The Fingerhut Credit Account is store-specific, and used to finance purchases made from Fingerhut.com or Fingerhut FreshStart’s catalogue.
Fingerhut Advantage Revolving credit account
25.90% variable
$0
Helps you keep building your credit as you buy great name brand products.
Fingerhut FreshStart® credit account
25.90% variable
$0
Get instant access to purchase items in the Fingerhut store with no overlimit fees.
Horizon Gold Card
0%
Get a 500 credit limit to make purchases on the Horizon Outlet website.
NetFirst Platinum
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!
Luxe Signature Card
0%
$0
For purchases on HuttonChase.com with a maximum credit limit of $1500.00.
Next Millennium Card
0%
Shop the items you need at myuniqueoutlet.com with up to a $1000 credit.
Emporium Card
Varies by balance. See website for details*
$0
Get a $300 to $5000 instantly to shop 100,000+ items at Emporium.
WALMART® credit card
23.90% variable
$0
Overstock Store Credit Card
27.99% variable
$0
6, 12, 18, and 24-month financing options available and special promotions just for cardmembers.

Compare up to 4 providers

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