Under 21? Credit cards for 18 to 21-year-olds | finder.com
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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.

Our pick: Deserve® Edu Card

Designed for college students to build credit history and earn rewards.

  • 1% cash back on all purchases
  • $0 annual fee
  • Amazon Prime Student subscription offer
  • No co-signer required
Promoted

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 Filter values APR (Annual Percentage Rate) for Purchases Annual Fee Interest Free Period
20.74% variable
$0
Up to 23 days
Designed for college students to build credit history and earn rewards.
24.99% variable
$39
Up to 23 days
Designed to help build credit history with no deposit required and access to benefits.
16.49% to 26.49% variable
$0
Up to 23 days
Earn 2,500 bonus points after spending $500 within the first 3 months of account opening.
13.15% to 23.15% variable
$0
Up to 25 days
Earn 3% back on gas and groceries for the first 6 months. Then earn 1% on those purchases and on everything else.
26.99% variable
$0
Up to 25 days
Earn 1% cash back on all your purchases. Pay on time to boost your cash back to a total of 1.25% for that month.
14.99% to 23.99% variable
$0
Up to 25 days
Earn5 cash back at different places each quarter like gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, Amazon.com, or wholesale clubs up to the quarterly maximum each time you activate. Plus unlimited 1 cash back on all other purchases.
14.99% to 23.99% variable
$0
Up to 25 days
Earn 2% cash back on gas and dining on your first $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter. After that earn 1% in these categories and on all other purchases.

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 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 Card® 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® 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

Name Product Filter values Annual Fee APR for Purchases (Purchase Rate) Intro APR for Balance Transfer
$95
14.99% to 25.99% variable
0% for the first 12 months (then 14.99% to 25.99% variable)
Earn $200 bonus cash back after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. Rates & Fees
$0
14.99% to 25.99% variable
0% for the first 15 months (then 14.99% to 25.99% variable)
Earn a $150 bonus statement credit after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. Rates & Fees
$0
14.99% to 25.99% variable
0% for the first 15 months (then 14.99% to 25.99% variable)
Earn up to $250 back. Earn $150 back after you spend $1,000 or more in purchases with your new card within the first 3 months of card membership. Plus, earn an additional $100 back after you spend an additional $6,500 in purchases within your first 12 months. Rates & Fees
$0
16.99% to 25.74% variable
0% for the first 15 months (then 16.99% to 25.74% variable)
0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers.
$0
16.99% to 25.74% variable
0% for the first 15 months (then 16.99% to 25.74% variable)
0% intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers.
$0 annual fee for the first year ($95 thereafter)
17.99% to 24.99% variable
Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.
$550
None (Charge Card)
Get 5x Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel and 5x points on eligible hotels booked on amextravel.com. Rates & Fees
$450
17.99% to 24.99% variable
Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.
$0
13.99% variable
0% for the first 15 billing cycles (then 13.99% variable)
A low, variable APR on purchases, balance transfers and cash advances.
$0 annual fee for the first year ($89 thereafter)
17.99%, 21.99% or 24.99% variable
0% for the first 12 months (then 17.99%, 21.99% or 24.99% variable)
Enjoy 70,000 bonus miles after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first 90 days.
$0
14.99%, 18.99% or 24.99% variable
0% for the first 15 months (then 14.99%, 18.99% or 24.99% variable)
Earn unlimited 1.5% cash rewards on purchases. See Rates and Fees.
$0
12.99%, 16.99% or 20.99% variable
0% for the first 18 months (then 12.99%, 16.99% or 20.99% variable)
An 18 months 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
$0
16.24% to 22.24% variable
1.99% for the first 6 monthly billing cycles (then 16.24% to 22.24% variable)
1% cash back to the nonprofits, K-12 schools, colleges and religious organizations of your choice.
$0
17.74% to 26.74% 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 annual fee for the first year ($95 thereafter)
17.74% to 26.74% variable
30,000 bonus miles after you use your new card to make $1,000 on purchases within the first 3 months. Rates & Fees
$0 annual fee for the first year ($95 thereafter)
17.74% to 26.74% variable
Enjoy a $0 annual fee on the first year and earn up to 2 Starpoints® for every dollar of eligible purchases. Rates & Fees
$95
17.74% to 26.74% variable
Earn 125,000 Hilton Honors™ Bonus Points after you spend $2,000 or more in purchases with your new card within the first 3 months of card membership. Rates & Fees
$0
17.74% to 26.74% 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
$495
16.99% variable
0% for the first 15 billing cycles (then 16.99% variable)
Mastercard Black Card members receive an annual $100 air travel credit toward flight-related purchases including airline tickets, baggage fees, upgrades and more.
$195
16.99% variable
0% for the first 15 billing cycles (then 16.99% variable)
Enjoy unique excursions, privileged access to exclusive events and insider opportunities.
$995
16.99% variable
0% for the first 15 billing cycles (then 16.99% variable)
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.
$39
24.99% variable
Designed to help build credit history with no deposit required and access to benefits.
$75 annual fee for the first year ($99 thereafter)
23.9% variable
The Indigo® Platinum Mastercard® Credit Card is specifically designed for those with less than perfect credit.
$75 annual fee for the first year ($48 thereafter)
29.99% fixed
The First Access Card is a true VISA® credit card that does not require perfect credit for approval.
Up to
19.99% to 25.99% variable
Get 1% cash back rewards on eligible purchases including gas, groceries, and services such as mobile phone, internet, cable and satellite TV, terms apply.
$0
20.74% variable
Designed for college students to build credit history and earn rewards.
$35
19.39% variable
A secured Visa® credit card that helps you build your credit quickly.

Compare up to 4 providers

Name Product Filter values APR (Annual Percentage Rate) for Purchases Annual Fee Interest Free Period
19.39% variable
$35
Up to 25 days
A secured Visa® credit card that helps you build your credit quickly.
9.99% fixed
$49
Up to 25 days
Low fixed interest rates with no penalty rate.
10.49% variable
$49
Up to 25 days
9.99% fixed
$48
This secured card can help you rebuild your credit with an initial deposit of $200 to $1,000.
20.49% variable
$29
Up to 25 days
17.99% fixed
$39
Up to 25 days
Borrow up to $10,000 and get your credit score back on track.
14.49% variable
$39
Up to 25 days
26.49% variable
$0
Up to 25 days
13.99% fixed
$39
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
$49
Up to 25 days
Fast, easy application process. No processing or application fees!
13.99% fixed
$39
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.

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 Filter values APR (Annual Percentage Rate) for Purchases Annual Fee
24.9% variable
$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
Apply Today, Buy Today

Build your credit history with us

Low monthly payments

Trusted brand names

See issuer's website
Get instant access to purchase items in the Fingerhut store with no overlimit fees.
$299
Get a $500 credit limit to make purchases on the Horizon Outlet website.
$299
Build your credit history with Horizon Card Services. Get an unsecured line of credit and the best customer service.
Shop the items you need at myuniqueoutlet.com with up to a $1,000 credit.
24.65% variable
$0
28.74% variable
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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