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

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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

Banks Which banks offer authorized users under 21
American Express cross-icons
Bank of America transparent-green-tick
Capital One transparent-green-tick
Chase transparent-green-tick
Citi transparent-green-tick
Discover cross-icons
Wells Fargo transparent-green-tick

Frequently asked questions

Compare credit cards

Name Product APR for Purchases (Purchase Rate) Intro APR for Balance Transfer Annual Fee
14.74%, 18.74% or 24.74% variable
0% for the first 15 months (then 14.74%, 18.74% or 24.74% variable)
$0
Earn unlimited 1.5% cash rewards on purchases. See Rates and Fees
12.74%, 16.74% or 20.74% variable
0% for the first 18 months from account opening (then 12.74%, 16.74% or 20.74% variable)
$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. See Rates and Fees
16.74% variable
0% for the first 15 billing cycles (then 16.74% variable)
$495
Mastercard Black Card members receive an annual $100 air travel credit toward flight-related purchases including airline tickets, baggage fees, upgrades and more.
16.74% variable
0% for the first 15 billing cycles (then 16.74% variable)
$195
Enjoy unique excursions, privileged access to exclusive events and insider opportunities.
16.74% variable
0% for the first 15 billing cycles (then 16.74% variable)
$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.
24.74% variable
$39
Designed to help build credit history with no deposit required and access to benefits.
23.9% variable
$75 annual fee for the first year ($99 thereafter)
With this card you get a 23.9% Variable APR.
19.74% to 25.74% variable
$0 to $99
Get 1% cash back rewards on eligible purchases including gas, groceries, and services such as mobile phone, internet, cable and satellite TV, terms apply.
14.74% to 25.74% variable
0% for the first 15 months (then 14.74% to 25.74% variable)
$0
Earn 10,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you use your new Card to make $1,000 in purchases in your first 3 months.
14.99% to 24.99% variable
0% for the first 12 statement closing dates (then 14.99% to 24.99% variable)
$0
Earn more cash back for the things you buy most.
14.74% to 25.74% variable
0% for the first 15 months (then 14.74% to 25.74% variable)
$0
Earn $200 back after you spend $1,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. You will receive the $200 back in the form of a statement credit.
17.74% to 24.74% variable
$0 annual fee for the first year ($95 thereafter)
Earn 50,000 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.
17.74% to 24.74% variable
$450
Earn 50,000 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®.
14.74% to 24.74% variable
0% for the first 12 months (then 14.74% to 24.74% variable)
$95
15,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $1,000 in the first 3 months of opening your account
16.74% to 25.49% variable
0% for the first 15 months (then 16.74% to 25.49% variable)
$0
Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase - it's automatic. No minimum to redeem for cash back.
17.74% to 24.74% 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.
14.74%, 20.74% or 24.74% variable
0% for the first 15 months (then 14.74%, 20.74% or 24.74% variable)
$0
Earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day
16.74% to 25.49% variable
0% for the first 15 months (then 16.74% to 25.49% variable)
$0
Earn 5% Cash back in bonus categories up to $1,500 every quarter. Earn 1% Cash back on all other purchases.
16.74% to 24.74% variable
$0
20,000 online bonus points offer. Ditch the restrictions of typical airline rewards cards. Any airline, any hotel, anytime. No blackout dates.
16.74% to 25.49% variable
0% for the first 15 months (then 16.74% to 25.49% variable)
$0
Jumpstart your financial fitness! 60 day introductory balance transfer offer, save on interest, and get your free monthly credit score.
14.74%, 21.24% or 24.74% variable
$0 annual fee for the first year ($95 thereafter)
Earn 50,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening.

Compare up to 4 providers

Name Product APR (Annual Percentage Rate) for Purchases Welcome Bonus Interest Free Period
9.99% fixed
Up to 25 days
Low fixed interest rates with no penalty rate.
10.24% variable
Up to 25 days
19.14% variable
Up to 25 days
A secured Visa® credit card that helps you build your credit quickly.
9.99% fixed
None
This secured card can help you rebuild your credit with an initial deposit of $200 to $1,000.
20.24% variable
Up to 25 days
17.99% fixed
Up to 25 days
Borrow up to $10,000 and get your credit score back on track.
14.24% variable
Up to 25 days
The First Latitude MasterCard® Secured Credit Card
The First Latitude MasterCard® Secured Credit Card
26.24% variable
Up to 25 days
13.99% fixed
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
Up to 25 days
Fast, easy application process. No processing or application fees!
13.99% fixed
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.
17.99% variable
Earn 5,000 miles after your first purchase
Up to 24 days
Earn SKYPASS miles while building your credit history in the United States.
13.74% variable
Up to 21 days
Created to help you establish or rebuild credit.

Compare up to 4 providers

Name Product APR (Annual Percentage Rate) for Purchases Annual Fee
24.4% fixed
$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
$0
Helps you keep building your credit as you buy great name brand products.
See issuer's website
$0
Get instant access to purchase items in the Fingerhut store with no overlimit fees.
$0
Get a $500 credit limit to make purchases on the Horizon Outlet website.
$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!
$0
Shop the items you need at myuniqueoutlet.com with up to a $1,000 credit.
$0
Get a $300 to $5,000 instantly to shop 100,000+ items at Emporium.
24.4% variable
$0
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.

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