Q: Is getting a credit card at the age of 18 even possible? I have no credit history.
A: Can you get a card at 18? Yes, it’s possible and I will tell you how in a moment. But please make sure you read my tips below… they will tell you some things about credit cards you probably don’t know. It’s important to know this stuff in 2013 given the state of the economy.
Are you a college student?
If you’re 18 and in college, then a student credit card would probably be the easiest to obtain.
The banks make it quite easy for college students as young as 18 to get a credit card, even without a credit history. Of course it’s quite obvious why they do this… they hope you get a credit card and rake up debt and pay interest on it!
But you can beat the banks at their own game. Pay off the amount in full each and every month and on-time. That way you will avoid interest charges. Contrary to popular belief, having debt on your card won’t help your credit score (the following link explains why). To compare student cards and learn more about them, check out this section.
Are you not in college?
If you’re 18 and won’t be going to college (or maybe you will be but you’re still in high school right now) then student cards won’t be available to you. Here’s how to get one at 18 in those circumstances…
Look into secured cards
The easiest credit cards to get with no credit history are secured. Here’s how they work:
Security deposit – As the name implies these cards are “secured” which means you need to put up a security deposit to get one. The amount of your security deposit becomes your credit line. Later on when you close or upgrade your secured card, the security deposit will be refunded.
Using the card – Other than the security deposit, a secured card basically works like a “normal” unsecured credit card does. You get a bill each month that can be paid in full, or pay the minimum and carry the rest forward (but that’s not recommended!).
Building Credit – All the legitimate secured cards will report your account history to the credit bureau. That means if you manage your card properly and responsibly, you can build up your history and score. Once you do that, it should be easier to be approved for one that’s unsecured.
So if you want to know how to get a credit card at 18 with no credit history, then secured accounts offer the best odds.
Getting an unsecured card isn’t impossible but it’s certainly a challenge if you’re not a student, and frankly, I can’t think of any right now for 18 year olds with no credit history. (Update for 2013: Quite a few 18 year old members on the forum have reported getting approved for some of these cards but I can’t say for sure whether they accept absolutely no credit history for them).
Now the downside of secured is that they almost always charge fees. Typically these might average around $10 per month or so for the first year. That’s why 9 or 12 months after having one, you may want to consider applying for an entry level starter credit card that’s unsecured (and then cancelling the secured card).
Alternately, try this tool out. Who knows, maybe you will be pre-qualified for something better than expected?
Written or last updated November 13, 2013