Despite what some people may think, having a credit card is a must once you become an adult. After all, you can’t even reserve a hotel room without a credit card, and it’s a good thing to have for emergencies, for building credit, developing good credit habits, and cultivating a positive credit history (required for large purchases like a home mortgage). For things such as these, a debit card, a PayPal account, and a wad of cash just won’t do. If you’ve recently celebrated your 18th birthday and have decided you’d like to get your very first credit card, there are things you need to know before applying for one, in addition to the best credit card for an 18 year old a high school student. However, before we dive into those options, let’s discuss the difference between secured and unsecured cards.
Secured vs. Unsecured Credit Cards
The difference between a secured and an unsecured credit card is simple to understand. A credit card is essentially a type of loan, and loans need to be secured with an asset. With an unsecured card, no security deposit is required because your income or your past history is enough for the bank to trust that you’ll pay the bill each month. Young adults often have neither of these things, which is why their first credit card often needs to be a secured credit card.
Secured credit cards need some type of deposit that is used as an asset. This deposit is often equal to the amount you’ve been approved for, so if your credit limit is $200, you’ll be required to put down a $200 deposit. Some secured cards, however, require a deposit that’s less than the amount of credit they’ve given to you. In all cases, secured credit cards require a deposit, and they might even require an annual fee that you’ll have to pay every year. Yearly fees can apply to unsecured credit cards as well.
What Do You Need to Qualify for a Credit Card?
If you’re in high school or even college, your income may not be enough to qualify you for a credit card, but you do have two other options. The first is to find someone to cosign for the loan. The cosigner will need an income that qualifies for the card and is ultimately responsible for the bill being paid. Both the cosigner and the person who wants the card need to trust one another. If you have a cosigner and can’t pay the bill one month, that cosigner will have to pay it.
The second good option is to become an authorized user on another person’s account. When this happens, you’ll get your own card with your name on it, and you can use it as you please. Either of these options provides the best way to establish credit when you have none on your own. These are often great options for both high school students and even college students. Once you finally get your credit card, you can use it to start building up your credit so your credit score will increase.
Once you apply for a credit card, it’s good to know what credit card companies look for when deciding who to give a card to, as well as what you should do once you receive your card. These things include:
- If you’re under 18 years of age, you likely won’t be able to get a credit card
- If you’re under 21 years of age, they take an even closer look at your finances and income
- You must pay at least the minimum payment each and every month
- That amount must reach credit card issuers on or before the due date
To be sure, making the minimum monthly payments and paying on time are crucial and always affect your credit score in the end. If you want to keep a good credit score, you’ll need to do both of these things every month. Paying less than the minimum amount and not making on-time payments always affect your credit score in a negative way. If you request a copy of your credit report every year, you’ll be able to see how the score will go up regularly, as long as you’re paying on time.
Another smart decision for teens and young adults is to use the card responsibly. Don’t go overboard and consistently use it for groceries and other everyday purchases. Try to use it only for emergencies, and then make sure you get your monthly payments in on time. With each payment you make, the credit card company will submit the information to all three major credit bureaus, and that’s what will determine your credit score, which changes daily.
What Are the Best Credit Cards for 18-Year-Olds?
There are certain credit cards with looser requirements and which are made for young people to more easily qualify for them. They often have low credit limits such as $300 or maybe slightly more, but they’re a great place to start if you don’t have any credit at all. You can even include a mobile app on your phone so you can make your payments and check your balance more easily. Below are 15 credit cards all teens should consider.
The reason this is such a great card for “beginners” is because there is no deposit, no credit history, and no cosigner required to get one. It is also a great card for international students because it doesn’t require a Social Security number. You also get some perks you don’t get with other cards, such as a one-year membership in Amazon Prime for Students if you spend $500 in the first three billing cycles, and 1% cash back on all of your purchases, which can add up quickly.
Even better, if you travel a lot this is a great card because the foreign transaction fees are 0. This makes it a great card for any student who intends to study abroad some day. And the cash-back option rewards you as a statement credit, paid out in $25 increments.
With this card, they prefer a minimum credit score of 580, but that’s considered “fair” and shouldn’t be difficult for most people. There is no annual fee and the annual percentage rate (APR) starts at 17.24%. You get 5% cash back on most purchases (some are only 1%), and there is no foreign transaction fee. When you first receive your card, you get to enjoy a 0% APR for the first six months, which makes a big difference if you’re a high school or college student.
You need no specific credit score to apply for the card, but your APR is usually determined by that score so if you have one, it benefits you to list it. You can also check your credit score for free on their website at any time.
- Capital One SavorOne Student Credit Card
This card has no deposit or yearly fee required, and you get from 1% to 8% cash back on purchases such as dining, streaming services, entertainment, and groceries. The minimum credit score required is 580, and the APR starts at 19.24%. If you spend $300 or more in your first three months, you receive a $50 bonus. You also get a full 10% cash back when you order from Uber or Uber Eats, in addition to a free Uber One membership through November 14, 2024.
This is a great card for numerous reasons, one of which is the fact that you’re never held responsible for unauthorized purchases. This is a huge perk for college students for many reasons.
This credit card really means it when they claim to have no fees, so you can save your bank account for something else. There are no foreign transaction fees or annual fee, and you don’t even get charged when your payment is late. Even better, you don’t need a credit score to apply, and even a security deposit is not required. These things make it super-easy for students of all ages because most of them will qualify for the card.
You also get a few ways to make even more money with this card. You get 1% cash back on most of your purchases, and up to 1.5% for making your payments on time. It even comes with money management tools that will help teens tremendously.
One of the biggest advantages of choosing this card is that you can enjoy an APR of 0% for the first 18 billing cycles, which saves you a lot of money in the long run. You can earn up to 3% cash back on dozens of purchases, and after the 18 billing cycles, the APR starts at 18.24%, which isn’t bad for a credit card. If you charge a minimum of $1,000 in the first 90 days, you can earn an online cash reward bonus of $200. Even better, it is super-easy to use the card thanks to the chip and the ability to pay with just a tap.
There is no annual fee with this card, but you do need a fairly good credit score to apply. Other than that, it is the perfect credit card for both high school and college students.
There is a security deposit for this card, but it starts at just $49, which is affordable for most young people. The APR is a little higher than some other cards and starts at 29.74%; however, the initial limit starts at $200, which isn’t bad. Even better, if you remain in good standing, you might be able to increase your credit limit in just six months. Unfortunately, there are no rewards for any of your purchases, but your payments are reported to the credit bureaus so that your credit score can rise.
You can also make higher initial deposits if you like, which allows you to have a higher credit limit. A lot of students and young people like this feature.
- Capital One Journey Student Rewards Card
You don’t need a super-high credit score to apply for this card because it is designed for students, and you can earn up to 5% cash back on purchases of rental cars, grocery stores, hotels, and so much more. There is no annual fee and no fees for foreign transactions, making it perfect for teens studying abroad. If you have no late payments and pay on time, your cash back number can increase, and you can even make money by referring your friends.
You can choose your due date, pay online with a virtual card so your regular credit card number is hidden, and be notified through email or text if anything that looks suspicious shows up on your account.
This student card is unlike traditional credit cards because you can earn 1.5 points for every $1 you spend, which adds up quickly. In fact, you can get up to 25,000 points for spending $1,000 or more in the first 90 days. This translates into $250 that you can use toward travel purchases, saving you tons of money over time. With the Travel Rewards card, the annual fee is 0 and the APR starts at 18.24%. Even better, when making travel purchases, you can use any site you like without any blackout periods. For students who travel and who still need to build up credit, this is a great card to have.
While there is no annual fee with this card, you do need a fair credit score of 580 to qualify. The APR starts at 17.24%, and you get up to 2% cash back with most of your purchases. You’ll pay 0% interest for the first six months, and the Discover Company will even remove much of your personal information automatically when you use certain websites, which keeps confidential information harder for hackers to find. The rewards you get are a dollar-for-dollar match and do not come with any limits or maximums, and you can redeem your rewards nearly any way you wish, including online stores such as Amazon.
This card is great for students because new accounts get tons of perks. This includes a $50 bonus when you make a purchase within the first three months, 1% cash back on every purchase you make, an anniversary bonus of $20 per year for the first five years for remaining in good standing, and the ability to check your credit score any time you like. Like many student cards, you don’t need a cosigner and therefore you can be the primary account holder for this credit card account. And you’ll never be held responsible for any unauthorized charges.
- Capital One QuickSilver Cash Rewards Card for Students
The cash back rewards for this credit card are very generous, at 1.5% for all purchases and up to 5% for some travel purchases such as hotels and rental cars. The APR starts at 19.24% and there is no annual fee required. Even better, you earn a whopping 10% cash back when you use Uber and Uber Eats, and you even get a free Uber One membership that lasts until November 14, 2024. Plus, if you spend $100 or more in your first three months, you get a $50 bonus. Because of these things, you can use this credit card to earn some money that you can put into your checking account or even your savings account.
Whether you’re attending a state college or community college, a credit card is good for those extra expenses that seem to pop up regularly. This is a basic credit card for students that is easy to get and easy to use. You can use the tap feature or the magnetic chip to pay for things, and you don’t have to worry about your APR getting higher if your payment is late because that won’t happen. The APR starts at 16.24%, which isn’t bad for a credit card, and you won’t pay any interest for the first 21 billing cycles, which saves you a lot of money in the long run.
This card has great benefits that all students will love. You’ll earn $200 worth of cash rewards if you charge a minimum of $1,000 in your first 90 days, and you even get 0% interest on any purchases you make during the first 18 billing cycles. The 18.24% APR is a lot more generous than many other student cards, and there is also no annual fee. Whether you bank with a prepaid card or a bank or credit union, you can have the payments come out automatically every month, and best of all, you’ll be earning 1.5% on every single purchase you make, with no limits to the amount you’ll get back – ever.
This card offers a $200 sign-on bonus, which you can receive after you charge a minimum of $1,000 in the first 90 days. You can get up to 3% cash back for nearly all purchases, which adds up quickly, and you’ll pay no interest for your first 18 billing cycles, which is a huge perk. No annual fee is required. When you decide to use your rewards, you don’t have to worry about those rewards expiring or disappearing because they are always available. The only thing to remember is that you have to have good or excellent credit to qualify for the card, which some students might not have.
This card doesn’t have a lot of the perks other student cards have, but it is a great credit card for everyday use. There is no way to earn cash-back rewards and you have to pay from $59 to $99 for the annual fee, but it does report all of your activity to the three credit bureaus, which you need in order to increase your credit score. The APR is a little higher than other cards at 24.9%, but you can pre-qualify without affecting your credit score, which is a good thing. Best of all, it provides you with great peace of mind knowing that you’ll never have the responsibility to pay for any charges that you didn’t make.
Things to Look for in a Student Credit Card
If this is going to be your very first credit card, you need to know how to compare the different options so you make the best decision in the end. You need credit to take out any type of loan – even a car loan – so building up your credit is important. One of the easiest ways to do this is to get a credit card and use it responsibly so that your credit score continues to rise. Because of cards such as the ones mentioned above, it’s easier than you think to do this, and here are some things to look for when doing this:
- If you have a savings account, check with the credit card company to see if they can give you a limit equal to that amount
- Don’t apply if you’re under the age of 18
- Make sure you get the details from your school so you can qualify for a student card
- Compare APRs, annual fees, and cash-back options or rewards
- Consider the reputation of the card company and if you don’t recognize them, make sure you research them thoroughly before applying
- Never sign anything until you read all of the fine print in the agreement.
If you’re a student without a credit card or a recent graduate with a lot of student loans, improving your credit should be a priority, and you can start by getting a credit card in your name so that all of your purchases afterwards will count towards improving your score. Hopefully among the above options, you’ve understood what a suitable credit card for an 18 year old high school student looks like and are equipped to apply for your card of choice.