Q: I am a 19 year old freshman in college and want to start building credit, but my dad refuses to cosign for me. Not for any particular reason, it’s just that he and I are not that close. Can I apply for a student credit card by myself?
A: You’ll be happy to hear that you actually do not need a cosigner. That was a myth that sprung up a few years ago when lawmakers passed the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009 (CARD Act for short).
It’s true that the law says those under 21 need to have a cosigner, but not under every circumstance.
In a nutshell, you can apply independently by yourself if you have the means to pay back the credit card charges on your own. In other words, if you have income then you probably won’t need mom or dad to cosign.
What counts as income? And how much?
The CARD Act was pretty vague on this. As a result, banks have largely came up with their own definition/requirements as to what constitutes “ability to pay” for a student. As of 2013, most will let you include the following in the amount of your income:
- Your job
- Financial support from parents
I’m not sure why the last two on the list are viewed as income, but nonetheless, most student cards allow it to be included. However keep in mind the rules may vary by issuer.
It’s also surprising just how little income it takes to be approved. I’ve heard from many college students who make as little as $2k per year, yet that was enough income to get approved without a cosigner.
The bottom line: it’s possible to apply on your own
Unless you have no job and no other qualified sources of income, getting a student credit card with no cosigner won’t be a problem for you.