How Old Do You Need to Be to Apply for Credit Cards?

August 17, 2012 by Sarah, BSN, RN

How old do you need to be to apply for credit cards? What are the age requirements?This question isn’t so easy to answer, for several reasons. First, states may vary on age requirements (although most all are 18 years of age). Also, you can apply for a credit card below the legal age–IF–you can get a parent or older person to “co-sign” for you. I will cover this topic in more detail below:

If you are considering applying for a credit card alone, then you will generally need to be considered an adult in the eyes of the government and credit card company. In most states and countries, this means you must be at least 18 years of age. Every single credit card application will ask for (and verify) your age when applying. This is because if you are not an adult, they cannot hold you accountable to any fraud or problems that may arise legally.

So you generally need to be 18 years old. However, if you are wanting to get your own credit card to start building your credit and financial savvy at a younger age, you still have a few options.

How to Get a Credit Card if You Are Below 18 Years Old (or age requirements)

I got my very first credit card when I was at the tender age of 17 years old. Yes, that is correct, 17! I certainly looked like a big shot to my friends at school. And contrary to what you may be thinking, I didn’t run out and max it out either. I was a little smarter than that! But how did I pull it off? A credit card at age 17? What gives?

The answer is that I received an application for a credit card. They were dubbing it some fancy name like, “Student credit card” or something. It was through Capital one. I still remember my cool beach theme on the card (although I have long since closed that account).

But on the application it stressed that I could get the card even if I wasn’t 18. All I had to do was to get a parent to fill out an application too (as a co-signor). After some persuasion about how it will build my responsibility and credit, my mother caved in.

So at the edge of only 17 (sounds like a Stevie Nicks song), I had my first credit card. This was mine and mine only. My mother didn’t get one, just me. She just had to sign to say she would be responsible if I did something stupid (I never did).

How to Get a Credit Card On Your Parents/Spouse’s Account

If you don’t want your own credit card, and would prefer to not apply for a credit card online, then you can always be added to another account. Anyone with a credit card can easily add you as an ”authorized user.” This means that you will share the same account as the person who adds you. You will have one bill and each of you will have a card (with the same account number, just different names). So it is basically like having a joint checking account. You both use it, and you get billed for all items purchased using either card.

This is easy if you don’t want to go through the hassle of an online application, and don’t mind letting the other person (usually a parent or spouse) to use your account. This can also be a good strategy to help build your credit worthiness for future credit card applications and mortgage loans.

How to Apply for a Credit Card (and Actually Get Approved)

We all know that credit cards offer one of the easiest ways to build a solid credit history that will last a lifetime. Still, getting approved for a credit card isn’t always as easy as it sounds.

If you’ve never had a credit card before or have a severely limited credit history, it can be difficult to find a bank that will give you a shot. And if you have bad credit or a poor credit history, your chances of being approved for the credit card you want may be even worse.

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What you need to apply for a credit card

But with some planning and a little forethought, you can drastically improve your chances of getting approved. Before you apply, read these tips and consider a few of these moves:

Before you apply for a new credit card, it helps tremendously to know your actual FICO score – or at least get an estimate of it. If you don’t have a credit card at all, websites like CreditKarma and CreditSesame will let you view an estimate of your credit score for free. While the “free scores” you get through these sites are only estimates, they can give you a good idea of where you stand.

Some credit cards also offer their cardholders a free look at their FICO score on their monthly statements. If you have a credit card already, you can check to see if your card offers this benefit.

Knowing your credit score or an estimate of it is one thing — but you also need to know what your score means and whether it’s high enough to qualify you for a credit card. We recently looked at what constitutes a good credit score, and, according to credit expert John Ulzheimer, here’s how credit score ranges tend to stack up from top to bottom:

  • A credit score of 760 or higher is considered excellent credit.
  • A score between 701 and 759 is considered good credit.
  • A score of 651 to 700 is considered fair credit (695 is the national average).
  • Under 650 is considered poor credit.

The higher your credit score, the more likely you are to get approved for a credit card. So is your score high enough? In 2013, only 39.1% of all applicants were approved for general purpose credit cards, according to a study by the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau. However, 58.7% of Americans with “prime” credit scores — those in the 660 to 720 range — were approved, and 85.5% of applicants with “superprime” credit scores (720 or above) were approved.

There are other variables that may determine whether you’re ultimately approved for a credit card or denied, but once you know your credit score you’ll have a better sense of your chances. And if your score is on the lower end of that spectrum, you’ll know it’s time to make some changes — paying down balances and paying bills on time — to get that number moving in the right direction before applying for a credit card.

In addition to your credit score, it can be helpful to get a copy of your actual credit report. Fortunately, you can get a free copy of your credit report from all three major credit reporting agencies – Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion – for free, once per year.

All it takes is a visit to to get a copy of your credit report for free. Simply visit the website and enter all of your information, and you’ll soon see all of the information shared on your report.

If everything reported there is accurate, you have nothing to worry about. If you find a mistake, however, you should do what you can to have it fixed right away. If you spot a mistake, here’s a post on how to dispute credit report errors.

If you take a close look at how your FICO score is determined, you’ll notice that the biggest factor playing into your credit score is your payment history. In fact, your payment history makes up a whopping 35% of your credit score.

If you need to improve your credit before applying for a rewards credit card — or simply want to keep it in perfect shape for the long haul — paying all of your bills on time is the best and easiest way to do it. Conversely, missing a payment or paying your bills late can wreak havoc on your credit score in a hurry. You should avoid making late payments on any of your bills if you can.

Another big factor in your credit score is your credit utilization. This term, utilization, is used to describe how much money you owe in relation to your credit limits. While utilizing some of your available credit is generally a good thing, running up too many large balances is frowned upon and reflects negatively on your credit score.

Most experts suggest keeping your credit utilization below 30% — meaning, if your credit limit is $1,000, you shouldn’t carry a balance larger than $300. When you’ve used up more than 30% of your overall credit limit, it makes you appear riskier to lenders and can cause your credit score to drop.

When you pay off debt and get your utilization below 30%, on the other hand, your credit score will have the best chance to surge — and it does so right away. So if your credit score is borderline, pay down any outstanding balances before applying for a credit card to give yourself the best chance of getting approved.

While you might be anxious to get any type of credit card, it’s important to take some time to search for the best offer and find one that suits your needs.

If you want a credit card to consolidate your debt, for example, you can start by looking at balance transfer credit cards that will let you pay zero interest for a limited time. If you’d rather earn rewards, there are dozens of great rewards credit cards to consider that offer everything from cash back to airline miles. What’s more, some cards offer lucrative signup bonuses if you spend a certain amount on your card in the first three or four months.

Once you find a card that seems like a good match for your spending habits, applying is as simple as filling out an application online, including your personal information and details about your income. Most credit card issuers will give you a response in minutes.

Just remember that the best credit cards and offers generally go to those with good or excellent credit. If your credit needs some work, you might need to consider a different type of credit card to get started.

6. Consider a secured credit card as your last resort.

If your credit score isn’t high enough to qualify you for a traditional credit card, you should consider a secured credit card to get the ball rolling. Unlike unsecured credit cards that actually extend you a line of credit, secured cards offer credit that is tied to a cash deposit you put down.

For example, many secured credit cards offer a $500 credit limit but require a $500 deposit to get started. While this may not seem beneficial at first, secured credit cards are often the only way for people with bad credit or no credit to raise their credit score.

Once you begin using your secured card responsibly, paying it off each month, your credit score will improve, and you’ll typically be able to upgrade your card to an unsecured credit card and get your deposit back. If your credit score improves dramatically, you may even be able to qualify for a top rewards credit card after a stretch using a secured card. It really depends on your situation, your goals, and how much your score improves.

If you aren’t able to qualify for a credit card right now, the best thing you can do is give yourself some time. By using the credit you do have responsibly — paying utilities, car payments, and student loan bills on time, every time — you’ll put yourself in the best position to boost your score over time. And if you have bills in default, a lot of debt, or other negative marks on your credit report, you should focus on repairing that damage before you take on more credit anyway.

Pay all of your bills on time, refuse new debts and pay down old ones, and monitor small changes in your credit report for signs of progress. Over time, your score will inevitably rise as long as you treat it with the respect it deserves.

Having a credit card is hardly a luxury these days. If you want to rent a car or a hotel room, for example, you’ll usually need one in your wallet. And if you ever want to buy a home or finance a car, you’ll need a good credit history and a solid credit score standing in your corner.

Still, it’s not always easy to get approved when you have poor credit or a limited credit history. The best thing you can do now is to take a step back and look at your credit for what it really is. And with the steps listed here, you can be on your way to a better credit score in less time than you think.

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wiseGEEK: What is Required on a Credit Card Application?

The information required on a credit card application is dependent upon several factors, one of which is the credit history of the person that is applying for the card. If you have little or no credit history, for example, you will probably have to have a good deal of information ready before applying. At the other end of the spectrum, you may have a large and detailed credit history. If it is good, an application for a new card may be “pre-approved” and require little or no additional information in order to open up a new account. For the average person with a typical credit history, however, you will generally need to provide some common pieces of information about yourself when applying for a credit card.

Typically, a credit card application will already have some information about you that the company already knows, such as your address, through which you were mailed the application in the first place. This is common, but is not always the case, as in a situation where you use the Internet and apply for a credit card online and must fill in all the data from scratch. It is of utmost priority for you to be sure that you are giving your private information to a legitimate business and to take the necessary precautions to be sure that you are doing so, no matter how you are applying. If you feel that there is even a remote chance that you are being scammed, be sure not to give out any personal information until you have verified the authenticity of the business through which you are applying.

The first items that are usually required on a credit card application are basic pieces of information about you, including your name, telephone number, physical address and email address. Next, many applications will require your Social Security number. Your Social Security number is one of the most sensitive pieces of information about you; you should therefore take precautions against sharing it with a fraudulent source. Still, you'll need to provide your Social Security number on legitimate credit card applications because federal law requires that credit card companies take steps to verify identifying information about each account holder. Your Social Security number is a good way to do this, and is therefore used by credit card companies for identification purposes. If you are new to credit cards or have bad credit, the credit card application may also require that you have a cosigner as well as his or her personal information.

The next line of questioning on a credit card application is also rather personal, and is used to determine the some of the terms of service of the credit card for which you are applying. These can include the annual percentage rate, late fees, annual fees, and credit limit, to name a few. Some of these questions you will be required to answer include your monthly rent or mortgage payment, annual household income, job description, balances you may hold on other credit cards, total value of your investment accounts, outstanding debts, alimony payments and more. Another very important note about these items is that you answer them honestly, since the company can penalize you in the future if they find out that you gave them false information, or simply decline your application when the information doesn’t match your credit history.

4) Is a social security number required when a business is first applying for a credit card and do additional users need to have their SS numbers provided as well?

3) I received a letter from Sears refusing my credit application because I already had a card. Strange thing: I never applied for credit. Sears told me where and when the application was submitted and suggested I contact Experian to have a credit fraud alert started.

My question: why would someone attempt the application and use my home address? Wouldn't the card just be sent to me, not them?

2) A signature is often required, but not always. A paper application will usually require a signature, while an online app will often only require personal information and a "digital" signature. Many times this is simply clicking a box to confirm that you are who you claim to be. Other times, after applying online you will receive paperwork in the mail that must be physically signed and returned before you receive your card.

1) Is a signature required in order to apply for a credit card?

Cash Advance on Your Credit Card? Here’s What You Need to Know.

There are days when you need cash on the double and most (if not all) credit cards have this option. But before you run to your ATM ; here are some things to think about.

First up on the checklist is the need factor. Cash advances have notoriously high fees and interest charges so before you even think of taking out cash from your credit card, consider if you’ve tried every other avenue. Personal loans are an option, and some can be cheaper than taking a credit card cash advance, but processing time can take from 3-14 days so if you really need to pay for something quickly with cash (although this situation is usually unlikely as most hospitals, etc accept credit cards) you may have to consider a cash advance.

A credit card cash advance is available readily with use of your credit card through an ATM . However, a cash advance from an ATM will usually carry a fee of 5 % per transaction or a minimum of RM 15-25. On top of this fee, you will be charged the highest annual interest rate in the range the bank offers (usually 17-18%) (usually 17-18%). If you are withdrawing a large amount, the initial 5 % will be a hefty amount already and that is even prior to charging full interest. 

What you need to apply for a credit card

If you really need cash from your credit card, a new way of lending has been devised: enter the cash installment plan (CIP) against the credit balance/limit of your credit card, charged to you at a fixed installment payment amount. Most banks who offer this type of loan product remove the 5 % fee but you don’t get the convenience of using your credit card at an ATM .

Depending on your situation and amount required, you’ll be able to make the decision on which to pick. A smaller amount required uber urgently at an instant will justify a cash advance withdrawal but if you want a large amount and have a few moments to spare, better to choose the cash installment plan.

How to Apply for a Credit Card Cash Instalment Plan

For a CIP, you would usually have to either call a CIP designated phone line or fax a form in. Some banks occasionally accept forms via email or you can just apply at a bank branch. Once approved, funds will be transferred to your elected savings or current account and depending on your bank funds can be in your account as quick as the next working day or as long as 2 weeks (which in turn actually diminishes the truth in it being termed ‘quick’). Do check with your chosen bank before proceeding.

You would also have to be mindful to ask the bank officer if you first need to have a savings or current account with the bank. Whilst most banks offer Interbank Giro bank-ins (with a slight delay of 1-2 days and/or a nominal transfer fee of RM 2) or will send you a cheque; some will require you to first open a savings or current account with them. 

There are banks which offer attractive interest rates but some just match your standard credit card rates. Nonetheless, the savings on the initial cash advance fee, if your amount is large enough, makes the call or fax to the bank worth it.

It is always best to use an empty credit card  with no outstanding balance no matter which cash withdrawal product you choose. This will ensure you pay off your borrowed cash amount within the tenure stipulated and you avoid paying exorbitant amounts of interest should your bank settle your outstanding amounts based on date charged rather than highest interest first.

A cash advance is relatively simpler than a cash installment plan. At withdrawal from the ATM you are charged a fee of 5 % or a minimum of RM 15-25 depending on your bank. After which a 17-18% interest is charged on a daily rest basis until you pay off the full amount.

But cash installment plans are not so straightforward. Below are some of the lowest cash installment plans offered by different banks: 

What You Need to Know About Business Credit Cards Before Applying

What you need to apply for a credit card

Image source: Getty Images.

Business credit cards tend to be popular for full-time entrepreneurs and people with side hustles, mostly due to the fact that these cards tend to include lofty sign-up bonuses and good rewards on essential business purchases. But how do business credit cards differ from typical consumer cards, and what do you need to know before applying?

The Motley Fool analysts Michael Douglass and Nathan Hamilton answer a user-submitted question in the video below about what's required when applying for a business credit card. After tuning in, you may want to review The Motley Fool's picks of the best business credit cards to find a select few cards we like.

Michael Douglass: Tracy asks -- I'm trying to summarize here -- what's the difference between a business credit card and a personal credit card, and what things should you be aware of when thinking about a business credit card? Great question.

Nathan Hamilton: The difference between a business and a consumer card, there's really not a whole heck of a lot in terms of how they work. Essentially, using it for spending just as you would any other card, incurs debts, acts the same exact way. Fees are typically the same. The difference is, essentially, who can qualify for them, and what sort of you get with each card. Cashback business cards are going to be focused on categories that are related to business. Whether that's marketing spending, office supplies, travel, also, as well, those are common bonus categories for business credit cards. Now, going to what you need to qualify for a business credit card is looking at, most small businesses are considered sole proprietorships, and some may not have an EIN, which is a federal employee identification number. You don't need one to apply for business credit card. All that's needed is either an EIN or your social security number. But you can get away with that and use that approach. Otherwise, applying for a business card is no different than a consumer card. You're going to have to provide basic details about yourself -- income, existing debts, anything you typically come across with a personal card.