I got my first credit card when I was about twenty years old, in my junior year of college. At the time, I had a part-time job and wanted to build credit. I made sure I never carried an interest balance (or at least I tried!).
When it comes to finance, we all hit key milestones at different times, and that’s totally fine. While there’s no fixed age for getting a credit card, I would say that the following questions give clues as to whether or not you’re ready for a credit card:
Credit is a tool, not a toy.
One sign that you’re handling a credit card poorly is if your spending jumps up after you get it, particularly on unnecessary items like devices, trips, and nights on the town. Credit cards are a powerful tool to build credit and protect you from emergency expenses. They are not, by any means, free money. Remember that most of the time, you will end up paying high interest if you carry a balance. Don’t let that introductory 0% rate leave you digging yourself out of a $3,000 hole!
1) You’re too young.
If you’re under age 21, you’ll likely need to verify income in order to get a card, particularly if your parents aren’t helping you.
2) You have bad (or no) credit history.
If you’ve already hit some bumps in the road, such as bankruptcy or a low credit score, you’re going to have a tough time getting credit. If your score seems lower than it should be, get a free credit report to make sure there are no surprises in your profile.
In all likelihood, you’re considered an unacceptable credit risk for the card issuer. The primary reasons for this are that you have no job or you have bad credit. Working hard to save money, pay off debts, and build a credit score will empower your future beyond a credit card, but will certainly make it easier to get one.
If you need to build credit, consider taking on a different type of (manageable) debt. Small student and personal loans are an option to start building your credit history. Credit builder loans are designed specifically to build or rebuild credit, and can go a long way in getting you ready for a card, both in terms of building your credit score and that monthly payment muscle.