Credit card options for teens under 18 years old | finder.com
Credit card options for teens under 18 years old

Credit card options for teens under 18 years old

We know that everyone's situation is unique and we aim to help you find the right product for you. We may receive compensation when you visit our partners' sites or are approved for their products. You can read more about how we maintain editorial independence and how we make money here.

It’s a common question on parents’ minds: How young is too young to get a credit card? Legally, no one can get a credit card on their own unless they’re at least 18 years old. Anyone under 18 can only be an authorized user on someone else’s — for example, their parents’ — account. Here’s how to teach your teen solid financial habits and your best options to start them on solid footing.

Credit card or no credit card?

You might think your teen is far too young to use a credit card. But you’ll find two big reasons it could be a good idea for them to have one.

1. Teach your teen how to use a credit card responsibly.

After adding your teen as an authorized user, you have control over their account and can see how they use their card. With insight into their spending, you can more effectively teach them solid financial habits. It’s better for them to learn from you now than figure everything out on their own later.

2. Help your teen build credit early.

Most people start with a brand-new credit history when they’re ready to get a credit card. This usually means they’re limited to student cards and secured cards, both of which typically come with limited features. You can help your teen build an impressive credit history before they reach adulthood. Just add them as an authorized user on your account and consistently make payments on time. When they turn 18, their credit may be strong enough to expand their card options considerably.

Be careful about bringing your teen aboard

Before adding your teen as an authorized user, consider how responsible you are as a cardholder. Why? Because your teen’s fortunes will rise and fall with yours. If you pay on time, your teen’s credit will improve. If you consistently miss payments, you’ll damage your teen’s credit. Bring your son or daughter for the ride if you’re on top of your credit card payments. But if you have trouble keeping up, it’s probably better not to add authorized users at all.
The “under 21” user’s guide to credit cards

Debit and prepaid cards first — then credit cards

Though your teen could benefit from a credit card, you don’t have to give them one right away. In fact, it might be a good idea not to: A credit card can be a powerful financial tool, but only if it’s used responsibly. Teach your teen solid financial habits as early as possible. When you’re confident your child has the skills to manage their money, consider letting them graduate to a credit card.

Credit cards for different age groups

Tweens: 11–13 years old

This age range is a good time to introduce your tween to debit and prepaid cards. These cards are a relatively safe way to teach your child how to spend responsibly. They don’t accrue interest, and they draw from preloaded money through a bank account or other source.

Teach your tween about the concept of a credit limit. Load the card with more money than your tween actually needs, and make that amount the “credit limit.” Then instruct them to keep spending well below that limit. The point is to teach your tween how to keep their credit utilization ratio low. For prepaid cards, consider options like FamZoo and TD Go, which allow you to monitor your child’s spending.

Teens: 14–17 years old

If your teen proves they’re able to responsibly use a debit or prepaid card, consider letting them graduate to a credit card. After you add them as an authorized user, you can monitor their spending. At the same time, you can teach them how to manage credit before they get their own card.

Teach your teen how to make card payments on time. Set up automatic payments so that you never miss a payment on your teen’s card account. Meanwhile, ask your teen to repay you monthly by a certain date. This helps them learn how to make card payments on time. If they miss a due date, neither their nor your credit score will drop — your automatic payments have you covered.

Encourage your teen to pay off their full balance each month. This is a great habit that will keep them out of debt later. While you’re at it, praise your teen for keeping their credit utilization ratio low.

Is there a minimum age to become an authorized user?

Many card issuers — Bank of America, Capital One and Chase — have no minimum age for authorized users. Others have minimum ages of 13 to 16.

Know the risks of having a credit card

While you still have them under your wing, teach your teen how to avoid trouble with a credit card. Here are a few common pitfalls they should know about.

  • Making only the minimum payment. A cardholder is allowed to make only the minimum monthly payment on their credit card. However, that’s arguably the worst thing to do behind paying late. Paying the minimum allows interest to snowball and debt to accumulate.
    Here’s what to do: Show your teen why it’s smart to pay off their balance in full each month. Teach them how credit card interest accumulates, and how it can be avoided.
  • Overspending. Teach your teen that they should avoid spending close to their credit limit. Carrying a high balance puts one in danger of incurring overlimit fees, on top of accumulating high debt. Many experts recommend keeping spending under 30% of one’s credit limit.
    Here’s what to do: Encourage your teen to spend less than they receive from their allowance or job. Teach them how their credit utilization ratio affects their credit score. And explain why it’s smart to keep their ratio under 30%.
  • Paying late. This is a sure path to decreasing a credit score. Because your teen is an authorized user on your account, you can protect them by paying your card bill as usual. But if you see signs your teen may pay late in the future, it’s best to nip the problem in the bud.
    Here’s what to do: Set up automatic payments on your card account so that you never miss a payment on your teen’s card account. Meanwhile, ask your teen to repay you by a certain date each month. Encourage them to set up phone or calendar reminders so they don’t forget.

How does my credit utilization ratio affect my credit score?

Provider rules and recommended credit cards

BanksWhich banks offer authorized users under 21
American Expresscross-icons
Bank of Americatransparent-green-tick
Capital Onetransparent-green-tick
Chasetransparent-green-tick
Cititransparent-green-tick
Discovercross-icons
Wells Fargotransparent-green-tick

Frequently asked questions

Compare credit cards

Rates last updated June 25th, 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®
14.49%, 20.49% or 24.49% 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 all purchases. See Rates and Fees
Apply now Read review

Compare up to 4 providers

Rates last updated June 25th, 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

Rates last updated June 25th, 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
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

Kevin Joey Chen

Kevin Chen is a world-travelin', copy-writin', Game of Thrones-watchin' credit cards writer for finder.com. When he's not crunching the numbers on bonus points and comparing APRs, you can find him flying around the world in search of the perfect beer.

Was this content helpful to you? No  Yes

Ask an Expert

You are about to post a question on finder.com:

  • Do not enter personal information (eg. surname, phone number, bank details) as your question will be made public
  • finder.com is a financial comparison and information service, not a bank or product provider
  • We cannot provide you with personal advice or recommendations
  • Your answer might already be waiting – check previous questions below to see if yours has already been asked

Finder only provides general advice and factual information, so consider your own circumstances, or seek advice before you decide to act on our content. By submitting a question, you're accepting our Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy.

US Credit Card Offers

Important Information*
Deserve® Classic Card
Deserve® Classic Card

APR

24.49
variable

Annual fee

0 For the first year
More info
Luxury Card Mastercard® Gold Card™
Luxury Card Mastercard® Gold Card™

APR

16.49
variable

Annual fee

995 For the first year
More info
The First Access VISA® Credit Card
The First Access VISA® Credit Card

APR

29.99
variable

Annual fee

75 For the first year
More info
Indigo® Platinum Mastercard® Credit Card
Indigo® Platinum Mastercard® Credit Card

APR

23.9
variable

Annual fee

75 For the first year
More info
Go to site