Ways to Get a Credit Card for the First Time [Tips & Requirements]

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It’s hard to imagine your life without credit cards. They’re convenient, offer benefits and rewards, and help build your credit score. This article addresses how to get a credit card for the first time and which card best fits your needs.

How to Get a Credit Card for the First Time

Getting a credit card for the first time may seem difficult. But while there are specific credit card requirements to meet, finding a first-time credit card fit for your financial situation is just a matter of time.

Who Qualifies for a Credit Card?

First, you need to be at least 18 years of age to get a credit card, thus being responsible for any additional charges or repayments. If you’ve enrolled at a university, for example, you have an opportunity to obtain a student credit card.

Being authorized as a minor on one of your parent’s credit cards is another option for becoming a first time credit card user. Most major card issuers allow minors to become authorized users and, as such, can make purchases with a credit card but are not responsible for the payments. Some card issuers even allow children from 13 years of age to be authorized users.

Proof of Income

Even though income is not a part of your credit report, issuers tend to ask about it to make sure you have sufficient income to pay your credit bills and because they are required by law to obtain such information.

The income you present on your credit card application will be used to see if you qualify for credit and how much credit might be extended to you. Those over 21 years of age need to report their personal income and income of their spouses. Additionally, those aged 18 to 20 years old should provide card issuers with independent income, including wages from a part-time job or student loans.

At the age of 21, if you decide on opening a credit card account while married yet unemployed, you can use the household income of your spouse’s wages to qualify for a credit card.

Credit History

You need to provide your credit history to the card issuer because it serves to record your ability to pay your debts (student loans, mortgages) on time. But what about for the first time, no credit history users? It’s common for first-time users to have no credit history. In this case, you’ll need to limit your search to no-credit-history-friendly credit cards.

Before considering obtaining a credit card, you should find out how to improve your credit score by paying your bills on time and making frequent payments.

NOTE: Around 191 million Americans have credit cards, with two credit cards per person. 

How to Pick Your First Credit Card

When opening a credit card account for the first time, you’ll need to decide if a secured or unsecured credit card fits your financial needs.

You don’t need to put down a security deposit with an unsecured credit card, meaning you borrow money directly from the bank. When the card provider approves you for this type of card, it’s an indication that you have a good credit history—they are confident you’ll pay back the credit limit they offered you. To determine your card’s credit limit, the provider will look into your credit history, monthly payments (payment history) by which they assess your credit limit.

When opening a credit card account, people typically choose a secured credit card over an unsecured one because the security deposit acts as collateral if you default on payments. Furthermore, these cards have lower interest rates and rewards programs. The only downside is that it can damage your credit history if not properly managed.

A good secured credit card requires a one-time security deposit to use as collateral for your credit limit. For instance, if you give a minimum security deposit of $200.00, your spending limit would be $200.00. The bank holds the security deposit (think of it as insurance) if you’re unable to meet the payments on the account.

Since it’s your first time getting a credit card, you should consider the benefits of a secured credit card, one of which includes helping you build credit. Even though there’s no guarantee that you’ll be approved for a secured credit card, it’s likely for people with low or no credit scores to be approved.

Another reason to choose a secured credit card is that it’s a great learning tool. People (especially young adults) struggle with the whole process because they haven’t had the chance to use credit, which is why secured credit cards are the top credit cards for young adults.

But those with low to no credit might struggle with a required security deposit and be concerned with lots of fees.

Key Takeaways

The main requirement for obtaining a credit card is to be at least 18 years of age.
Need to show proof of income with a credit history.
A secured credit card requires a security deposit to use as collateral.
You borrow money from the bank with an unsecured credit card, but you need good credit history.

The lowest fees

When pondering how to choose a credit card for the first time, consider which one has the lowest fees and how annual percentage rates (APRs) vary among cards. Then, choose the cards with the lowest application, late, cash advance, and annual fees.

Unsecured credit cards have lower APRs, but the interest rate varies, depending on the applicant’s creditworthiness. Those who have better credit history can easily qualify for better interest rates with most unsecured cards.

Secured credit cards, however, have higher APRs, and the interest rate would be around 25%. (The average credit card APR is 16.28%.) The annual percentage rates are typically the same for all credit users.

Rewards Benefits 

When considering how to get your first credit card, you should check which card offers what kind of rewards. For example, unsecured credit cards offer a wide range of rewards, while secured ones lack rewards because their purpose is to help you build credit history.

Limit Number of Applications

Limit your number of applications. Hard checks—where lenders check your credit when deciding to lend you money—can damage your credit score by a few points if you apply for one or two credit cards.

It’s not advisable to apply for more than two cards every several months. Multiple hard inquiries within a short period could lead the credit issuer to reconsider your application. In addition, the more banks you apply to, the less are your chances of getting a credit card.

Regular and Student Credit Cards

Are you wondering how to open a credit card account for the first time? If you’re a student, consider choosing from the top student credit cards, which helps build credit from the beginning, allowing you to show card issuers that you can be trusted with a more significant sum of money in the future. But to obtain a regular credit card, you need to build enough credit to get a higher credit limit.

When applying for a student credit card, you must be 18 years old with a Social Security Number and enrolled in a college or university. And for a traditional one, you need to be over 18 years old with a Social Security Number.

Since students have little to no credit history, student credit cards tend to have lower credit limits as opposed to regular ones. Therefore, after several payments, you can have access to a higher credit score. Furthermore, student credit cards are strictly unsecured, while traditional ones can be either secured or unsecured.

Aside from the fact that student credit cards offer limited rewards, they also provide other benefits—such as annual credit to cardholders who maintain a certain GPA—which causes cardholders to improve their financial habits and generates more ambition.

NOTE: Your credit score can affect your interest ratethe higher the credit score, the lower the interest rate. 

Conclusion

When considering how to get a credit card for the first time, you need to know what requirements to meet, how to build credit, and how your credit limit is decided. Hopefully, this article has helped you in determining the card that best fits your needs.

FAQ

What do you need to open a credit card account?

When considering how to open a credit card account, you need to provide the card issuer with your full name, birth date, Social Security number, and annual income.

How do you get a credit card if you have no credit?

To get a credit card with no credit history, you need to be at least 18 years of age, provide proof of income, show financial responsibility, consider getting a secured credit card, do thorough research, and consider becoming an authorized user.

What is the best credit card to get for a beginner?

If you want to know how to get a credit card for the first time, try applying for a secured credit card. Such cards are a great learning tool for beginners and best for those with little to no credit history because of the security deposit used as collateral.

ABOUT AUTHOR

I learned a lot about finance after working for a digital marketing company specializing in investing and trading stocks, forex, etc. After that, I got exposed to other verticals such as wealth management and personal finance, which further improved my understanding of the financial world.

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