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Credit card options for teens under 18 years old

If you want to get your teen a credit card, you'll have to add them as an authorized user.

Legally, no one can get a credit card on their own unless they’re at least 18 years old. However, a minor can be an authorized user on someone else’s account. Here are some credit card options that allow teens under 18 as authorized users, along with a few tips for teaching them financial habits.

5 credit cards that allow authorized users under 18

Many card issuers — Bank of America, Capital One and Chase — have no minimum age for authorized users. This means you can get your kid a credit card as soon as you think they are ready. However, some card providers have minimum age requirements, usually 13 to 16. Before adding your teen as an authorized user, consider how responsible you are as a cardholder as your teen’s fortunes will rise and fall with yours.

CardAge limitAnnual fee
Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express13+$0 (Terms apply, see rates & fees)
Apply now
Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express13+$0 intro annual fee (then $95, see Terms apply, see rates & fees)
Apply now
Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit CardNone$0
Apply now
Chase Freedom Flex℠None$0
See offer
Chase Freedom Unlimited®None$0
See offer

7 best credit cards for teens

If you’re adding your child as an authorized user, these cards can offer a lot of extra value to your account thanks to your kid’s card purchases.

Best for no annual fee, everyday purchases:

Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express

Finder rating 4.6 / 5 ★★★★★

Apply now
on American Express's secure site
Terms apply, see rates & fees
Like the name suggests, the Blue Cash Everyday is an excellent choice for letting your teen earn rewards on everyday purchases, including stuff they're likely purchasing anyway, such as groceries or gas. The card's lack of annual fee means that even if your teen ends up not using it much, it won't burden your finances to leave the account open.
Terms apply to American Express benefits and offers.
Cash Back is received in the form of Reward Dollars that can be redeemed as a statement credit.

Best for easy-to-earn signup bonus

Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card

Finder rating 4.2 / 5 ★★★★★

Apply now
on Capital One Bank®'s secure site
The Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card is a leading flat rate cashback card thanks to its simple rewards structure. Your kid can earn 1.5% back on all purchases to your account without needing to worry about categories or earning limits.

Best for the whole family

Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express

Finder rating 4.3 / 5 ★★★★★

Apply now
on American Express's secure site
Terms apply, see rates & fees
The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express is next step up from the Blue Cash Everyday and carries a $95 annual fee after your first year. But this fee is balanced out by much larger earning potential on everyday purchases. In fact, both you and your teen will want to hold on to this card even after they can apply for their own thanks to the card's top notch earning rates.
Terms apply to American Express benefits and offers.
Cash Back is received in the form of Reward Dollars that can be redeemed as a statement credit.

Best for rotating category rewards

Chase Freedom Flex℠

Finder rating 4.7 / 5 ★★★★★

See offer
on Creditcards.com's secure site
Terms apply, see rates & fees
The Chase Freedom Flex℠ is our current favorite pick for earning big rewards in rotating categories throughout the year and the fact that you can add your teen as an authorized user is icing on the cake. The card is a point earning powerhouse for travel, dining, and rotating categories, and it doesn't even require an annual fee. Let your teen in on the purchasing action and you can max out your quarterly earning categories in no time.

Best for unlimited cash back

Chase Freedom Unlimited®

Finder rating 4.7 / 5 ★★★★★

See offer
on Creditcards.com's secure site
Terms apply, see rates & fees
Like the Chase Freedom Flex, the Chase Freedom Unlimited® is terribly powerful cash back card, earning a flat 1.5% back on all purchases in addition to the new unlimited categories introduced to the Flex. This card is also an excellent introduction to the Chase Ultimate Rewards program and can educate your teen on the ins and outs of credit card points.

Best for building credit

Capital One Quicksilver Secured Cash Rewards Credit Card

Apply now
on Capital One Bank®'s secure site
Capital One's new secured card is a surprisingly generous credit building option for teens if you want to give them their own card account, but still keep the training wheels on. It requires no annual fee, offers respectable cash back and allows for a security deposit of up to $3,000 depending on creditworthiness.

Best for introductory APRs

Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card

Finder rating 4.6 / 5 ★★★★★

Your teen likely (hopefully) doesn't have need for a balance transfer to wipe out some debt. However, the Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card as an excellent opportunity to settle some of your own debt and then open the floodgates to your teen so they can start building good credit habits. The card also comes with an intro APR on purchases, but it's unwise to make purchases on the card if you've performed a balance transfer, so hatch out a plan before you apply.

3 alternatives to credit cards for teens

Although your teen could benefit from a credit card, they might not be ready for one just yet. Fortunately, debit cards for teens can teach your teen healthy financial habits without any risk of damaging their credit. And when you’re confident your kid can manage their money, you can graduate them into a full-fledged credit card.

Greenlight

Finder rating 4.4 / 5 ★★★★★

Go to site
on Greenlight's secure site
Greenlight is among the best debit cards for teens because it includes a broad set of features and parental controls, including the ability to restrict when and where your teen uses their card. The Greenlight app includes the ability to assign chores and automate allowance payments. Plus, it encourages your teen to invest some of their balance and donate money to charity. But there's a $4.99 monthly fee, and you'll pay more to access some of Greenlight's features.

Best for families with multiple kids

BusyKid

Finder rating 4.8 / 5 ★★★★★

Go to site
on BusyKid's secure site
BusyKid is the best debit card for families with multiple kids because you can have up to five different debit cards for one competitive fee. Like Greenlight, BusyKid features chore assignments and automated allowance payments. But you can't restrict spending at certain retailers. BusyKid costs $3.99 per month, which is less costly than other cards with similar features. Plus you can have up to five BusyKid cards for no additional fee.

Step banking

Finder rating 4.3 / 5 ★★★★★

Step leverages secured loans to help your child develop a strong credit score. The account combines aspects of a debit card and a credit card to help your child build credit. But you won't have to worry about paying overdraft fees because Step won't allow your kid to spend more money than is in their account.

You must be 18 years old to apply for a credit card

You can’t get a credit card until you’re at least 18 years old. If you’re under 18, however, you can be an authorized user on someone else’s account. This can be a good option for a minor as it helps them build a credit score and history. Having a strong credit history can help a minor be eligible for better credit card options — such as a rewards or travel card — once they’re old enough to apply.

Here’s an example of a typical journey a teen might have with credit cards

Teens: 11–13 years old

This age range is a good time to introduce your tween to a debit or prepaid card designed for kids. 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. These cards don’t build credit, however, so only rely on them until you think your kid has picked up on the fundamentals of card usage.

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.

Teens: 18+ years old

Once your child hits 18 years of age, they can legally apply for a credit card with certain providers. This is where the training wheels can come off and your child can open an account in their own name. While you could encourage your child to apply for a strong rewards or travel card right away, a student credit card is one of the safer options available. These cards tend to have some built in forgiveness for missed payments and few fees, which is perfect for a kid still coming to grips with a credit card.

4 reasons your teen should get a credit card

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

1. It can teach your teen how to use a credit card responsibly for the future.

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. It can 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.

3. It’s convenient for parents and kids.

Sometimes you could forget to give your kid cash for meals at school, transportation or supplies. Getting your kid a credit card can help you avoid unpleasant situations and avoid cash theft. And for some cards, you can set spending limits to ensure your child doesn’t spend over their budget.

4. You can earn more rewards.

Why not get something in return for helping your teen build credit? Most credit cards let you earn rewards on purchases made by authorized users. Consider a credit card geared toward families as adding your teen as an authorized user on one of these cards could help you earn additional rewards on common purchases.

4 credit card mistakes to teach your kids to avoid

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.

1. Just paying 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.

2. Overspending.

Teach your teen 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%.

3. 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.

4. Credit card fraud.

Teach your kids how to keep their credit card information safe. Although credit card fraud can happen even if you take all necessary precautions, it’s a good starting point for your kid to learn how to protect their credit cards.

  • Here’s what to do: Explain to your kids that the credit card information can be copied and used illegally. Also, teach them how to recognize which sites are safe and which aren’t for online use.

Which card issuers allow authorized users?

Each of these card issuers allows authorized users under 21 years old, though the minimum age varies. These issuers also report authorized user activity to credit bureaus, which can help the authorized user build a healthy credit score and history.

BanksAllows authorized users under age 21Minimum age of authorized usersReports authorized users to credit bureausCards that allow authorized users
American ExpressYes13 years oldYes, if at least 18 years oldAll
BarclaycardYes13 years oldYes, if at least 16 years oldAll
Bank of AmericaYesNoneYesAll
Capital OneYesNoneYesAll
ChaseYesNoneYesAll
CitiYesNoneYesAll
DiscoverYes15 years oldYesAll
HSBCYesNoneYesAll except HSBC Cash Rewards Mastercard® credit card student accounts
US BankYes16 years oldYesAll
Wells FargoYesNoneYes, if at least 18 years oldAll

Bottom line

Getting your teen on the path to a credit card can be a great way to help them financially prepare for the future. Before you make them an authorized user on an account, however, be sure they have proper financial supervision and that they understand the basics of how credit cards work.

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