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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.

Our pick for authorized teen users: Chase Freedom Flex℠

Up to 5%

Cash back

  • 5% back in rotating categories on up to $1,500 quarterly, then 1%
  • New rewards on travel, dining and drugstores
  • No annual fee
Apply now
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.

Credit cards that allow authorized users under 18

CardAge limitAnnual fee
Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express15+$0 (Terms apply, see rates & fees)
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American Express Cash Magnet® Card15+$0 (Terms apply, see rates & fees)
Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express15+$0 intro annual fee (then $95, see Terms apply, see rates & fees)
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Chase Freedom Flex℠13+$0
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Chase Freedom Unlimited®15+$0
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Citi® Diamond Preferred® CardNone listed$0
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Credit cards for different age groups

Tweens: 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. The downside to debit and prepaid cards is twofold:

  • Using prepaid cards in particular often incurs fees. Even a simple visit to the ATM can result in a charge. These fees can add up and are counter-intuitive to your goal of teaching your child about responsible spending.
  • Neither prepaid cards nor debit cards will help your child build credit.

During this time, teach your tween about the concept of a credit limit. Load the card with more money than your kid 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. At this point, you’ll want to start stressing a few additional credit card spending habits:

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. This means you can get your kid a credit card as soon as you think they are ready. However, some card providers have minimum ages of 13 to 16.

Should my teenager 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 a convenience 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.

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.

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.

Consider these cards for teen authorized users

Name Product Filter values Rewards Purchase APR Annual fee
Chase Freedom Unlimited®
5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase, 5% on Lyft, 3% on dining and drugstores and 1.5% on all other purchases
0% intro for the first 15 months (then 14.99% to 23.74% variable)
This solid 1.5% cashback card gets even better with the addition of up to 5% back in categories like travel, drug stores and dining.
Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express
6% on select US streaming services, 3% on transit and US gas stations, 6% at US supermarkets on up to $6,000 annually, then 1% after that and on all other purchases (redeem as statement credit)
0% intro for the first 12 months (then 13.99% to 23.99% variable)
$0 intro annual fee for the first year ($95 thereafter)
Perfect for families: Earn up to 6% cashback as statement credit on everyday purchases and a big welcome offer for a cashback card. This heavy-hitter rewards card has uncontested value. Terms apply, see rates & fees
Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express
2% at US gas stations and select US department stores, 3% at US supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year, then 1% after that and on all other purchases (redeem as statement credit)
0% intro for the first 15 months (then 13.99% to 23.99% variable)
This everyday cashback card offers a higher than average welcome offer for no annual fee, letting you earn 20% back on purchases in the first 6 months for up to $150 back, plus $100 after you spend $2,000 in the first 6 months. Terms apply, see rates & fees

Compare up to 4 providers

Teach your teenager 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.

  • 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.
  • 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%.
  • 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.
  • 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 or 15 years old, depends on the cardYes, if at least 18 years oldAll
BarclaycardYes13 years oldYes, if at least 16 years oldAll
Bank of AmericaYesNoneYesAll
Capital OneYesNoneYesAll
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

Alternatives to giving a minor a credit card

Though your teen could benefit from a credit card, you don’t have to give them one right away. You can start with a debit card and teach your teen solid financial habits as early as possible. When you’re confident your kid has the skills to manage their money, consider letting them graduate to a credit card.

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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