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.
How to apply for a student credit card

Rates last updated June 19th, 2018
Name Product Product Description APR for Purchases ( Purchase Rate ) Bonus Points Interest Free Period
Deserve® Edu Card
Designed for college students to build credit history and earn rewards.
20.24% variable
Up to 23 days
Apply now Read review
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.
12.65% to 22.65% variable
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.
15.99% to 25.99% variable
2,500 bonus points
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 June 19th, 2018
Name Product APR for Purchases ( Purchase Rate ) Intro APR for Balance Transfer Annual fee Product Description
Amex EveryDay® Credit Card
14.74% to 25.74% variable
0% Intro APR for 15 months
$0
Earn 15000 Membership Rewards® Points after you use your new Card to make $1,000 in purchases in your first 3 months.
Deserve® Classic Card
24.49% variable
$39
Designed to help build credit history with no deposit required and access to benefits.
Apply now Read review
Bank of America® Cash Rewards Credit Card
14.74% to 24.74% variable
0% Intro APR for 12 statement closing dates (with whichever is greater, $10 or 3% balance transfer fee)
$0
Earn more cash back for the things you buy most.
Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express
14.74% to 25.74% variable
0% Intro APR for 15 months (with whichever is greater, $5 or 3% balance transfer fee)
$0
Earn $150 back after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. You will receive the $150 back in the form of a statement credit.
Luxury Card Mastercard® Black Card™
16.49% variable
0% Intro APR for first 15 billing cycles (with whichever is greater, $5 or 3% balance transfer fee)
$495
Mastercard Black Card members receive an annual $100 air travel credit toward flight-related purchases including airline tickets, baggage fees, upgrades and more.
Apply now Read review
Chase Sapphire Preferred® credit card
17.49% to 24.49% variable
$0 annual fee for the first year ($95 thereafter)
Earn 50000 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.
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.
Apply now Read review
The First Access VISA® Credit Card
29.99% variable
$75 annual fee for the first year ($48 thereafter)
Access credit even if you have poor or limited credit history.
Apply now Read review
Luxury Card Mastercard® Gold Card™
16.49% variable
0% Intro APR for 15 billing cycles (with the amount of each transfer, $5 or 3% balance transfer fee)
$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.
Apply now Read review
Chase Sapphire Reserve®
17.49% to 24.49% variable
$450
Earn 50000 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®.
Credit One Bank® Visa® with Free Credit Score Tracking
17.49% to 25.49% 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.
Apply now Read review
Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card
14.74% to 24.74% variable
0% Intro APR for 12 months (with whichever is greater, $5 or 3% balance transfer fee)
$95
Earn 15000 Membership Rewards Points after you use your new Card to make $1,000 in purchases in your first 3 months.
Chase Freedom Unlimited® credit card
16.49% to 25.24% variable
$0
Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase – it's automatic. No minimum to redeem for cash back.
Bank of America® Premium Rewards® Credit Card
17.49% to 24.49% 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.
Quicksilver® from Capital One®
14.24%, 19.24% or 24.24% variable
0% Intro APR for 15 months (with 3% balance transfer fee)
$0
Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day
Chase Freedom® credit card
16.49% to 25.24% variable
0% Intro APR for 15 months (with whichever is greater, $5 or 5% balance transfer fee)
$0
Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate and unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.
Bank of America® Travel Rewards Credit Card
16.49% to 24.49% variable
$0
20,000 online bonus points offer. Ditch the restrictions of typical airline rewards cards. Any airline, any hotel, anytime. No blackout dates.
Chase Slate® Credit Card
16.49% to 25.24% variable
0% Intro APR for 15 months (with $0 for transfers in first 60 days. Then $5 or 5% balance transfer fee)
$0
Jumpstart your financial fitness! 60 day introductory balance transfer offer, save on interest, and get your free monthly credit score.
Venture® from Capital One®
14.49%, 20.49% or 24.49% variable
$0 annual fee for the first year ($95 thereafter)
Earn 50000 bonus miles once after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening.
HSBC Cash Rewards Mastercard® credit card
14.49%, 18.49% or 24.49% variable
0% Intro APR for 15 months (with whichever is greater: $10 or 4% balance transfer fee)
$0
Earn unlimited 1.5% cash rewards on purchases.

Compare up to 4 providers

Rates last updated June 19th, 2018
Name Product Product Description APR for Purchases ( Purchase Rate ) Bonus Points Interest Free Period
Green Dot primor® Mastercard® Gold Secured Credit Card
Low fixed interest rates with no penalty rate.
9.99% fixed
Up to 25 days
Apply now Read review
Platinum Prestige MasterCard® Secured Credit Card
You can increase your credit limit by adding funds to the initial deposit.
9.99% variable
Up to 25 days
Apply now Read review
OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card
A secured Visa® credit card that helps you build your credit quickly.
18.64% variable
Up to 25 days
Apply now Read review
 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
0 interest free days
Apply now Read review
Platinum Elite MasterCard® Secured Credit Card
With just a security deposit and 19.99% variable APR, start building or rebuilding your credit history.
19.99% variable
Up to 25 days
Apply now Read review
UNITY Visa® Secured Credit Card
Borrow up to $10000 and get your credit score back on track.
17.99% fixed
Up to 25 days
Apply now Read review
SDFCU Savings Secured Visa Platinum Card
Created to help you establish or rebuild credit.
13.49% variable
Up to 21 days
SKYPASS Visa® Secured Card
Earn SKYPASS miles while building your credit history in the United States.
17.99% variable
5,000 bonus points
Up to 24 days
First Latitude Platinum MasterCard® Secured Credit Card
First Latitude Platinum MasterCard® Secured Credit Card
Enjoy no annual fees while building your credit
25.99% variable
Up to 25 days
Apply now

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 June 19th, 2018
Name Product APR for Purchases ( Purchase Rate ) Annual fee Product Description
Target REDcard™ Credit Card
24.15% variable
$0
A no annual fee credit card and discounts when you shop at Target.
Apply now Read review
Fingerhut Credit Account
29.99% fixed
$0
The Fingerhut Credit Account is store-specific, and used to finance purchases made from Fingerhut.com or Fingerhut FreshStart’s catalogue.
Apply now Read review
Fingerhut Advantage Revolving credit account
29.99% fixed
$0
Helps you keep building your credit as you buy great name brand products.
Apply now Read review
Fingerhut FreshStart® Credit Account
29.99%
$0
Get instant access to purchase items in the Fingerhut store with no overlimit fees.
Apply now Read review
Horizon Gold Card
0%
Get a 500 credit limit to make purchases on the Horizon Outlet website.
Apply now Read review
NetFirst Platinum (shop.thehorizonoutlet.com)
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!
Apply now Read review
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.
Apply now Read review
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
24.40% variable
$0
Overstock Store Credit Card
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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