By law, you must be at least 18 years old to open your first credit card. However, age is not the only factor to consider before deciding you’re ready for this new responsibility. Here’s an overview of a few signs that may indicate you are ready to apply for a credit card and the credit options that may be available to you.
Signs you’re ready to open a credit card
Having a credit card comes with great responsibility. If used appropriately, they can be a tool to build a credit report than can help you obtain additional loans in the future. If used irresponsibly, they can harm your credit, cost you money on interest you could have otherwise avoided, create problems for obtaining credit in the future, and more. An important sign you’re ready to apply for a credit card is that you understand these benefits and risks.
In addition to being aware of the risks, signs you’re ready include:
- You have a regular stream of income to help pay off credit card debt
- You save money regularly and only spend responsibly
- You think before you buy and practice impulse purchase control
- You’re organized and can keep track of when you must make payments and how to avoid fees
Learn about the options available to you
Before you choose a credit card product, be sure to learn about all the options available to you and the interest rates and fees that come with each. Familiarize yourself with ways to avoid fees too, such as paying your balance on time or having a certain number of transactions each month.
Beware that most credit card options will require you to have a credit history first. Financial institutions often analyze credit histories to evaluate whether someone has a good history of paying back debt. If the credit card is the first form of credit you have ever had, you likely do not have a credit history. Luckily, many financial institutions offer credit cards specifically for those who do not have a credit history. These options are often called “student credit cards” or “credit builder credit cards.” Ideally, this kind of card is only used for things that you would typically use a debit card for, such as gas, groceries or going out to eat. As you use the card and pay the balance regularly, you will build credit and may qualify for a traditional credit card.
Check your credit report annually
Lastly, it is a good practice to request a free annual credit report. When you open a credit card, you open yourself up to risks related to credit fraud and identity theft. Checking your credit report annually for unauthorized access and quickly taking precautions if you notice suspicious activity can help protect the credit you’ve worked so hard to build. Additionally, you can see your work pay off as your score rises!