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Can You Get a Credit Card at 16: Is It Possible?

Can You Get a Credit Card at 16? How to Do It
Jason Steele
Jason SteeleUpdated August 4, 2022
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Editor’s note: Lantern by SoFi seeks to provide content that is objective, independent and accurate. Writers are separate from our business operation and do not receive direct compensation from advertisers or partners. Read more about our Editorial Guidelines and How We Make Money.
For most people, opening their first credit card is a rite of passage. And many teens are eager to take that step. But there are age limits that apply. Generally, credit card companies require you to be at least 18 to get a credit card of your own. However, if a teen is wondering, "can I get a credit card at 16?" there is a way to do it. They can become an authorized user on a parent or guardian’s account, which will enable them to make purchases on the card and start building their own credit. Read on to learn how to get a credit card at 16.

What Is the Youngest You Can Get a Credit Card?

Under the age of 18, a person’s only option for a credit card is to be added as an authorized user to someone else’s card, like a parent’s. But credit card issuers have different terms regarding age. Most of them require you to be between 13 and 16 to be an authorized user. Some card issuers don’t have any minimum age for authorized users, though, so be sure to check the specifics with your credit card company.Between the ages of 18 and 21, you will need to have either proof of income or a cosigner over the age of 21 in order to get your own credit card. This rule was created as part of the Card Act of 2009 to prevent card issuers from granting credit to young adults who couldn’t afford to make their payments. Recommended: How Credit Cards Work

What Is an Authorized User?

An authorized user is a person who has been added to someone else’s credit card — typically a parent’s card if they are under 18. They have their own card, and they can use it to make purchases, but they share the credit limit with the account owner, and they are not legally responsible for making payments. An authorized user can check the credit card statement balance and the credit card interest rate. However, they can’t request changes to the credit limit.To add an authorized user to a credit card, the account holder can log in to their online account or call the credit card issuer to make the request. They will need to provide information about the authorized user, including their name, date of birth, and Social Security number. In most cases, a credit check will not be done, so the authorized user’s credit score will not be affected. Since the account holder is responsible for paying the balance on the account, it’s important for them to be sure that they trust the authorized user to be responsible with the card.

What Credit Cards Can a 16-Year-Old Get?

If you are 16, you can be added as an authorized user to most credit cards. Some card issuers have a minimum age requirement, usually between 13 and 16, while others do not. Check with the credit card company.

Pros and Cons of Getting a Credit Card at 16

Getting a credit card as an authorized user is an important financial decision. Before deciding whether to get a credit card at age 16, you should weigh the pros and cons in order to make the decision that’s best for you.
Builds credit and boosts credit score.Credit score can be damaged if payments are late or missed.
Teaches money management and good financial habits.Having a credit card makes it easy to overspend.

Other Payment Alternatives for 16-Year-Olds

If you decide you are not ready to become an authorized user on a credit card, or your parent or guardian is not willing to add you to their account, there are other alternatives to consider. For instance, you could get a debit card or a prepaid card. Debit cards are connected directly to your bank account and allow you to spend money that’s in your account. However, they don’t help you build credit like credit cards do. Prepaid cards can be purchased at grocery stores, gas stations, and other retail locations. They are loaded with a set amount of money on them, and you can refill them as needed. But they often have fees attached to them. Another option is to use a payment app. The drawback is that most of these apps require you to be at least 18 to open an account, so your parent would have to open it for you. The two of you would need to share a bank account, and the payment app account would not be in your name. The advantage to debit cards, prepaid cards, and payment apps is that you can only make purchases up to the amount available in the account or on the card, so you can’t incur debt. 

Understanding How Credit Cards Work Before Getting One 

Before you get a credit card as an authorized user or otherwise, it is important to understand exactly how to use them. This means learning things like essential credit card terms and the way credit card payments workIt is also important to be aware of the factors that affect your credit score and how using your credit card factors into that. If your score is low, you can take steps to improve your credit score, like paying your bills on time and in full. 

The Takeaway

If you are younger than 18, your options to get a credit card in your own name are limited. However, you can be added as an authorized user to a parent or guardian’s credit card at age 16 or even younger. This will allow you to make purchases on the card and help you start to build your own credit. Just make sure that you are prepared to be financially responsible before you take that step.  If you’re interested in learning more about credit cards as you work to build your credit history, Lantern by SoFi can help. You can compare different cards and explore the options.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can a 16-year-old have their own credit card?
What cards can you get at 16?
Can a 16-year-old get a credit card with a co-signer?
What is the minimum age for a credit card?
Photo credit: iStock/LightFieldStudios

About the Author

Jason Steele

Jason Steele

Jason Steele has been writing about credit cards and award travel since 2008. One of the nation's leading experts in this field, he has contributed to dozens of personal finance and travel outlets and has been widely quoted in the mainstream media.
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