How old do you have to be to apply for a credit card?

Learn the requirements for obtaining a credit card, and some alternatives for under-18s.

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In New Zealand, you must be at least 18 years old to apply for a credit card in your name, as this is the age you are legally considered an adult. Minors can’t be held liable for contracts, and only adults can apply for credit products. This policy is part of the strict lending rules that protect young Kiwis from accumulating debt they are not yet mature enough to take on.

Other credit card application requirements

In addition to being at least 18 years old, there are several other key application criteria you have to consider when applying for a credit card. Requirements vary between providers and individual products, but the following are some of the most common conditions:

  • Residency status. The majority of cards require you to be an New Zealand citizen or permanent resident, but some cards cater to temporary residents.
  • Credit history. Credit history is very important when applying for a credit card, and your credit report and credit score should be very good or excellent.
  • Minimum income. Your minimum yearly income must exceed $15,000 for basic cards. Lenders want to know your income is sufficient to repay the debt, after your household expenses have been met.
  • Employment details. You should have permanent, full-time work, but there are cards you can apply for while working part-time, casually or when you’re retired or receiving government payments.
  • Personal details. You will need to provide personal information as well as documentary proof of identification and income.

What are the credit card options available for people under 18?

Although you can’t apply for a credit card in your name while under 18, you can consider the following options:

  • Request to be an additional cardholder on your parents’ credit card. The age for this varies according to lenders; at BNZ they will consider making you an additional cardholder from the age of 14, whereas at ASB it is 15. Your parents can add you as a supplementary cardholder to their credit card account, which means you will receive a credit card linked to their account, but they remain legally responsible for all expenses incurred on your card.
  • Get a prepaid credit card. A prepaid credit card lets you preload the card with money. It’s technically not a “credit” card, because you are responsible for providing the money you spend, but it can be useful for convenience, flexibility and learning about budgeting. With this card, you won’t fall into debt, and shopping is convenient since the card is accepted in the same manner as Visa or Mastercard.
  • Use a debit card. A debit card is similar to a prepaid card, except it is linked to a bank account. When you use this type of card, you are spending money that you have in your account. The difference between a debit card and a prepaid credit card is that the debit card is limited by your bank account balance, while a prepaid card is limited by the amount of money you preload on it.
  • Focus on saving. The importance of saving throughout your life is often underrated. Learning to save is a critical focus, especially before you get a credit card. This ensures you have funds to use when necessary , but can also help prevent unmanageable credit card debt in the future.

Before applying for a credit card, make sure you’ve researched your chosen card and understood the terms, conditions and eligibility requirements. Rather than thinking of these requirements as restrictive, understand that credit card application requirements help uphold responsible lending practices and protect consumers.

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