Getting a credit card when you’re under 21

It’s easier to get approved for credit cards at 21 or over, but if you're 18-20 you're eligible to apply.

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Credit card providers will require you to be at least 18 years old to qualify for a credit card. However, even if you meet this age requirement, your eligibility will be considered on a case-by-case basis, with providers looking at your credit report and income to determine whether or not you should be allowed credit.

If you’re under the age of 21, it’s unlikely you’ll have borrowed before and you won’t have much of a credit history as a result. This means lenders won’t be able to see whether you’re good at managing and repaying credit and they may be more reluctant to offer you a credit card.

Aqua Classic Credit Card

Aqua Classic Credit Card

  • An Initial credit limit of £250-£1,200
  • Receive text alerts when you’re approaching your credit limit
  • Choose your repayment date
  • No annual fee

Representative 32.9% APR (variable)

Credit provided by NewDay Ltd. 18+, subject to status, UK only. T&Cs apply.
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Can an 18 year old get a credit card?

Although it’s harder to get a credit card if you’re under the age of 21, it’s not impossible. Before applying, there are a number of steps that are worth carrying out to increase your chances of success.

How do I get a credit card if I’m between 18 and 21 years old?

Once you turn 18, you start to build a credit history, which is recorded in your credit file (AKA credit record or credit report). So a smart first step is to get visibility of your credit record through a free online service. Your credit record is essentially your financial history and will indicate to lenders how reliable you are as a borrower. Whenever you apply to open a credit card or store card or take out a loan or mortgage, the bank or provider will check your credit report to determine if you’re a good candidate to lend money to.

If you’ve never borrowed before, your credit score is likely to be low. This will also be the case for someone who has borrowed in the past but has missed repayments or defaulted on their debt.

By checking your credit report yourself, you’ll be able to see where your credit score sits and how likely you are to be accepted for a credit card. If your credit score is low, don’t panic, there are steps you can take to improve it. These include correcting any mistakes on your report and making sure you’re registered on the electoral roll.

The second step is to use an “eligibility checker” before applying for a credit card. Most banks or card providers now use eligibility checkers which will give you an indication of how likely you are to get accepted for a particular credit card.

Because they use a “soft search”, this won’t leave a mark on your credit file for other lenders to see and it won’t impact your credit score. This means you’ve got nothing to lose by using one. You’ll simply get a better idea of the cards you are likely to get accepted for.

In comparison, if you apply for a credit card without using an eligibility checker, a “hard search” will be carried out and this can affect your credit history.

Comparison sites can check your eligibility with multiple card issuers in one go – so that can save a lot of hassle.

Check eligibility for a range of cards

What’s the best credit card to get at 18-21?

The simple answer to this is the cheapest credit card you can get accepted for. If you can get accepted for a credit card with a low interest rate or even one that offers an interest-free period for a number of months, this is likely to be the best credit card for you.

If you’re struggling to get accepted for a mainstream credit card, and you’re in further education, you could consider a student credit card instead. These are credit cards for young adults in part-time or full-time education who are unlikely to have a sizeable credit history. However, they will often require you to have a student bank account with the same provider.

All you need to know about student credit cards

Alternatively, credit builder credit cards are designed for those looking to improve their credit score over time. Generally, these types of cards have a low credit limit and a high interest rate to encourage you to pay off your bill in full every month. Your provider will regularly monitor your payment history and your credit limit may be raised over time if you prove you’re a responsible cardholder.

These cards rarely have many benefits or extras, but could pave the way for you to progress to a mainstream or low-rate credit card in the future if your credit score improves.

Full guide to credit building cards

Another option is to become an additional cardholder on a family member or partner’s credit card.

Crucially, if you do get yourself added as an additional cardholder, the principal credit card holder will be responsible for repaying all debt on the card. This means that while you’ll be able to spend on the card as if it were your own, there will be no benefit to your credit score.

You can generally contact the card issuer over the phone, online or in its app to request the addition of a cardholder. Most banks and providers usually require the person to be 18 or over and live at the same UK address as the primary cardholder.

Beginner’s guide to credit cards

What age should I get a credit card?

The best age to get a credit card is when you fully understand how they work and can use one responsibly. This means only ever spending what you can afford to pay back, and doing your best to pay off your balance in full each month to avoid building up debt.

Building up a credit score sensibly and carefully over time can stand you in good stead later on in life when you apply for additional credit products including a mortgage.

What is the best credit card for 19 year olds?

How you look to a lender isn’t likely to be wildly different at 19 compared to 18, unless you’ve perhaps registered to vote, started occasionally using an overdraft facility responsibly and/or settled into a steady new financial routine.

Your credit history isn’t the only factor at play. Prospective lenders want to see a dependable, steady income and fairly predictable outgoings. That can allow them to run some numbers and say “Yes, based on their recent financial routines, it’s likely that this individual could manage a credit card”.

The answer as to which type of card really depends on your situation. If you now have some level of credit history, you may qualify for a mainstream credit card – in which case you want a card with a low interest rate or perhaps one that offers 0% interest on purchases for several months.

You can check your eligibility for a selection of cards using a comparison site. This won’t impact your credit score and can save you time and hassle.

If you don’t qualify for a mainstream credit card, you might get offered a credit builder credit card, or could apply for a student credit card if you’re in further education (this would be from the same bank that provides your student current account).

Compare cards by type

Table: sorted by representative APR, promoted deals first
Name Product Annual/monthly fees Initial credit limits Minimum income Representative APR Incentive Link
Bip Credit
£0
Min. limit £250, max. limit not specified.
Not specified
29.9%
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 29.95% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 29.9% APR (variable).
Check eligibility
HSBC Classic Credit Card
£0
Min. limit £250, max. limit £1,000.
£6800
29.9%
Discounts and exclusive offers for dining experiences, leisure activities and shopping available through HSBC Home and Away.
Representative example: When you spend £1,000 at a purchase rate of 29.9% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 29.9% APR (variable).
Check eligibility
Aqua Classic Credit Card
£0
Min. limit £250, max. limit £1,200.
Not specified
32.9%
Representative example: Assumed credit limit £1,200, representative 32.9% APR (variable), purchase rate 32.94% p.a. (variable).
Please note: you can’t have two Aqua accounts or open an Aqua account within 12 months of opening a Marbles, Fluid or Opus account, issued by New Day
Check eligibility
Aqua Classic Balance Transfer Card
£0
Min. limit £250, max. limit £1,200.
Not specified
34.9%
Representative example: Assumed credit limit £1,200, representative 34.9% APR (variable), purchase rate 34.95% p.a. (variable).
Please note: you can’t have two Aqua accounts or open an Aqua account within 12 months of opening a Marbles, Fluid or Opus account, issued by New Day
Check eligibility
Tesco Bank Foundation Card
£0
Min. limit £100, max. limit not specified.
£5000
27.5%
Collect 1 Tesco Clubcard point per £4 spent (£4 minimum) in Tesco and 1 Clubcard point per £8 spent (£8 minimum) outside Tesco in each purchase transaction.  Must have available credit to collect Clubcard points. Clubcard points are turned into Clubcard vouchers every 3 months or sooner using Faster Vouchers. Clubcard vouchers can be used in Tesco or with Clubcard Reward Partners to get even more value on dining out, hotel stays and travel.
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 27.542% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 27.5% APR (variable).
TSB Classic Credit Card Mastercard
£0
Min. limit £500, max. limit not specified.
Not specified
27.9%
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 27.95% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 27.9% APR (variable).
Vanquis Bank Chrome Credit Card
£0
Min. limit £250, max. limit £1,500.
Not specified
29.5%
Representative example: When you spend £250 at a purchase rate of 29.5% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 29.5% APR (variable).
Vanquis Bank Aquis Visa
£0
Min. limit £250, max. limit £1,000.
Not specified
29.8%
You could get a credit limit increase after your 5th statement and further increases every 5 months, up to £4,000.
Representative example: When you spend £1,000 at a purchase rate of 29.84% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 29.8% APR (variable).
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Compare up to 4 providers

Name Product Purchases Annual/monthly fees Initial credit limits Representative APR Link Incentive Representative example
AIB Student Credit Card
12.9%
£0
Min. limit £300, max. limit not specified.
12.9% APR (variable)
Representative example: When you spend £1,200 at a purchase rate of 12.9% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 12.9% APR (variable).
HSBC Student Credit Card Visa
18.9%
£0
Min. limit £250, max. limit £500.
18.9% APR (variable)
Discounts and exclusive offers for dining experiences, leisure activities and shopping available through HSBC Home and Away.
Representative example: When you spend £500 at a purchase rate of 18.9% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 18.9% APR (variable).
TSB Student Credit Card
21.95%
£0
Min. limit £500, max. limit £1,000.
21.9% APR (variable)
Representative example: When you spend £1,000 at a purchase rate of 21.95% (variable) p.a., your representative rate is 21.9% APR (variable).
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Compare up to 4 providers

How can I build credit at 18-21?

If you want to build up a credit history and improve your credit score, there are several steps you can take:

  • Get on the electoral roll. This is important even if you live at home or in a shared house as the information is used by lenders to confirm your name and address.
  • Open a bank account. If you don’t already have one, opening an account and managing it well can help to improve your credit score, particularly if you have an overdraft. If you use an overdraft, try not to use the full amount and pay it off whenever you can.
  • Add your name to bills such as an energy bill or mobile phone contract. These are classed as a form of credit and, providing you pay them on time, can help to improve your credit score.
  • Use a credit card (responsibly). As mentioned above, any credit card you can get accepted for will help you improve your credit score, providing you use it sensibly.

Alternatively, some prepaid cards can also help you to build your credit score. The big advantage of prepaid cards is that no credit checks are carried out, making them easier to get accepted for. If you choose a credit builder service on your prepaid card, the provider will effectively lend you a year’s worth of monthly fees for you to repay over 12 months. If you do this on time, your credit score will go up.

Another option is to use a credit building service such as LOQBOX or Pave. With LOQBOX, you set up a direct debit to save a regular amount each month. These are then treated as finance repayments which are reported to a credit reference agency.

Similarly, Pave is a personal finance management app that connects your bank accounts and, for a monthly fee, works with you to improve your credit score.

CreditLadderTips for managing your credit card

If you do qualify for a credit card, it’s crucial that you use it sensibly to ensure your credit score improves over time. To do this, follow the tips below:

  • Set up a monthly direct debit to ensure you never miss a payment.
  • Always pay more than the minimum monthly repayment if you can – these are set at low levels and can result in you paying out a lot in interest. Only paying the minimum will also take you much longer to clear your debt.
  • If you can afford to, pay off your balance in full each month to avoid paying any interest.
  • Always stay within your credit limit.
  • Never use your credit card for cash withdrawals – you’ll be charged a fee for doing so and interest will accrue from the date of the withdrawal, even if you pay off your balance in full that month.

How to get a credit card if you’re under 18 years old

If you’re under 18, you’re not allowed to get a credit card. Credit agencies only start building a person’s history from the age of 18, hence why you’re unable to get credit.

As an under 18 year old, your two options are:

  • Prepaid cards. Reloadable cards that act like a debit card.
  • Debit cards. Linked to your bank account.

Credit card options for teens under 18 years old

Pros and cons of credit cards for 18-21-year olds

Pros
  • Build or rebuild your credit. A credit card isn’t the only way to build credit, but it’s an excellent choice. When you use your card and consistently pay your bills on time, your credit score will increase which could help you when you come to apply for a mortgage for example.
  • Safe and convenient. Instead of carrying a lot of cash, you can simply use your card. Most cards have contactless technology to pay for purchases of £100 or under which don’t require a PIN.
  • Payment protection. Credit cards give you more protection than debit cards when things go wrong thanks to Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974. On purchases worth between £100 and £30,000, the provider is jointly liable with the retailer if you don’t get what you paid for.
  • Spreads the cost of a large purchase. Credit cards can buy you more time if you need a large sum to pay for an expensive item, holiday or repair. You usually have up to 56 days’ interest free on items purchased on your credit card, which gives you time to pay it off. Some purchase credit cards also offer 0% deals for a set time.
Cons
  • Encourages spending. If you’re prone to spending beyond your means, consider holding off on a credit card. You risk accruing huge amounts of debt that will be difficult to repay. Work on solving your spending problem, or stick to prepaid/debit cards.
  • Extra fees. While debit cards take the money straight out of your account, credit cards are borrowing. As well as interest rates, you could also have to stump up for annual fees, penalty charges for late payments, among other fees. Do your research before opening a credit card and aim to pay off your bill in full every month if possible to avoid high interest charges.
  • Cash withdrawals are expensive and bad for your credit record. Nearly every provider charges instant interest on any cash withdrawals or other cash advance transactions, along with hefty fees. It’s better to stick to your debit card and withdraw your actual money from your bank account. These charges rise even higher once you go abroad so if you travel often, it may be worth considering a no foreign transaction fees credit card.

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