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Credit cards are an excellent financial tool that help you make the most out of your everyday spending. They offer convenience, monetary perks and other rewards, allow you to build a credit history and improve low credit scores.

And while many people wait until they’re in their 20s to get their first credit cards, teenagers can benefit from getting a card a little earlier than that.

Credit cards can get a bad reputation, but used properly, they’ll improve your financial health. Teenagers who use credit cards responsibly have an advantage over their peers who don’t use plastic until later in life.

Parents who want to give their teens a head start on credit histories, teach them valuable financial skills, and provide them with other monetary perks, should consider the best credit cards for teens, which we’ve detailed below. The top credit cards for teenagers provide numerous perks, only charge high annual fees if they have benefits to make up for them, and avoid high foreign transaction fees, among other advantages.

Let’s dig in! We’re going to examine several of the best credit cards for teens, explaining what makes them stand out so you can determine which top-tier card best fits your needs. After we’re done with that, we’ll answer other commonly asked questions about teen credit cards.

Best Credit Cards for Teens—Our Top Picks

Best Credit Card for Teens Under 18
Best Card for Teens With Fair to Good Credit
Best Card for Teens With Low to Fair Credit
Best Credit Card for Teens Under 18
Best Card for Teens With Fair to Good Credit
Best Card for Teens With Low to Fair Credit

Best Credit Cards for Teens (Under 18)

As it stands, honest-to-goodness credit cards for teens under the age of 18 are exceedingly rare. The only one that merits inclusion on this list is the Step Visa Card, which provides an all-around excellent financial experience with teens.

1. Step (Best Secured Credit Card for Teens)

Step signup new nocode

  • Available: Sign up here
  • Type of credit card: Secured
  • Builds credit: Yes

The Step Visa Card is a unique “hybrid” secured credit card that’s tailor-made for kids and teens. It functions just like a Visa credit card, but it offers the safety features of a debit card—and most importantly, it can help build your child’s credit history.

Parents, who sponsor the card, can opt to have Step report the past two years’ worth of information—transactions, payment history, and more—to the credit bureaus when their child turns 18. Credit scores are assigned once someone turns 18, and most teens will begin with a score of under 600. But based on a Step survey, 18-year-olds who used Step for at least seven months had an average credit score of 725.

How much of a difference could that better credit make? Step says that an 18-year-old user with a score of 725 could expect these kinds of savings compared to users with lower credit scores:

  • Car insurance: $147 per month instead of $250 per month
  • Student loan: 6.24% interest rate instead of 10.46%
  • Security deposit: 1 month’s rent instead of two months’ rent

Step also provides a seamless experience for teens who “graduate” into young adulthood. When they turn 18, Step allows cardholders to keep their old credit card number and account, doing the legal heavy lifting in the background to get them appointed as the legal owner of their account, and transitioning them to an independent account. Everything—from how they access the app to their account numbers to their investments—stays the same from their perspective, and Step continues reporting credit on the same “credit line,” which allows them to keep building their credit history.

In other ways, Step acts like a debit card.

Parents can add money directly into their child’s FDIC-insured Step account. A regular Step account allows a child to have both a physical spending card as well as a virtual card in the Step app, while a Parent Managed Account only allows the child to spend via a physical card. Children can use both the virtual and physical cards to spend anywhere Visa is accepted, and they can use the physical card to withdraw money for free at more than 30,000 ATMs.

And parents needn’t fear their child overdrafting—they can’t spend any money they don’t have.

Other features include Savings Roundup, where purchases are rounded up to the nearest dollar and the overage is put toward a savings goal; an “invest” function that allows users age 13 and older to buy and sell Bitcoin; and opt-in cash or Bitcoin rewards from companies including Hulu, Chick-Fil-A, CVS, and the New York Times.

The Step Card is protected by Visa’s Fraud Protection and Zero Liability guarantee. That means if your teen’s card gets lost or stolen, or misplaced and fraudulent charges crop up, you can dispute the charges within a certain time frame to avoid liability for paying.

Visit Step to learn more or sign up today.

Read more in our Step review.


Best Credit Cards for Teens (18 and Older)

You have to be 18 or older (or be designated an authorized user) to use practically all credit cards. Technically, then, teens over 18 can try to apply for any credit card under the sun. But some starter credit cards stand out among the crowd if you’re a young person trying to build up your credit.

These are our top choices.

2. Petal® 2 “Cash Back, No Fees” Visa® (Best Cash-Back Unsecured Credit Card for Teens With Fair to Good Credit)

Petal 2 signup

  • Available: Sign up here
  • Type of credit card: Unsecured
  • Builds credit: Yes

The Petal® 2 “Cash Back, No Fees” Visa® starter credit card wants to take to heart people’s thoughts on it being time for a card company to help people succeed financially.

To heed this call, Petal® has used modern technology to design credit cards that help you budget, control your spending, and build credit.

The Petal® 2 “Cash Back, No Fees” Visa® is best for those with thin credit files or no credit records at all (and thus no credit score) because Petal® can accept applicants based on cash flow underwriting alone—meaning no credit history is required.

However, if you do have a credit score, they will consider it when determining whether to accept your application. You must have a minimum credit score of 600 to be approved, and anyone with a credit score of 720 or better will be instantly approved.

The Petal® 2 features credit limits as low as $300 and as high as $10,000. And Petal helps you build credit by reporting your payment history to all three major credit bureaus.

The card also offers varying levels of cash back rewards:

  • You receive 1% cash back as soon as you start using the card.
  • You can get up to 1.5% cash back on eligible purchases after making 12 on-time monthly payments.
  • And you can receive between 2% to 10% cash back when you spend with select merchants.

The Petal® 2 credit card charges no fees whatsoever, so if you wanted, you could just hold the card in your wallet, never use it, and still build a credit history.


3. Petal® 1 “No Annual Fee” Visa® (Best Unsecured Credit Card for Teens With Low to Fair Credit)

Petal 1 signup

  • Available: Sign up here
  • Type of credit card: Unsecured
  • Builds credit: Yes

Like the first Petal® starter credit card above, this alternative uses modern technology to design credit card products that help you budget, control your spending, and build credit.

The Petal® 1 “No Annual Fee” Visa® card is also best for those with no credit or a thin credit file because Petal accepts applicants based on cash flow underwriting alone.

Whereas Petal® 2 requires a minimum credit score of 600 to be approved, people with a credit score as low as 550 can be approved for Petal® 1. But like Petal® 2, anyone with a credit score of 720 or better will be instantly approved for a Petal® 1 card.

However, while Petal® 1 is more accessible to those with lower credit, it also has some shortcomings compared to the Petal® 2 card. Among them:

  • While Petal® 1 does offer 2% to 10% cash back at select merchants, it doesn’t have base cash-back rewards like Petal® 2.
  • Petal® 1 cardholders are subject to late and returned payment fees. (Petal® 2 cardholders are not.)
  • All Petal cards have a minimum credit limit of $300. However, the Petal® 1 card has a maximum credit limit of $5,000, versus $10,000 for Petal® 2.
  • The Petal® 1 charges a higher annual percentage rate (APR) range than the Petal® 2.

Still, the Petal® 1 is a great unsecured credit card choice for teens with low to fair credit who want to build their histories.


4. Deserve® EDU Mastercard (Best Credit Card for International Students)

Deserve EDU signup

  • Available: Sign up here
  • Type of credit card: Unsecured
  • Builds credit: Yes

The Deserve® EDU Mastercard for Students is an award-winning student credit card for all college students—both from the U.S. and visiting from abroad. (International students don’t need a Social Security number to apply.)

Signing up nets you a number of perks, including up to 1% cash back on all purchases, cell phone protection of up to $600 per claim, and no international transaction fees on purchases made abroad.

You also receive one year of Amazon Prime Student (lifetime value of $69) after you make $500 in purchases within the first three billing cycles.


5. Discover it® Secured Credit Card (Best for Free FICO Score Access)

Discover It Signup

  • Type of credit card: Secured
  • Builds credit: Yes

The Discover It® Secured Credit Card is a way to build or rebuild your credit history through the Discover® network.

To open a Discover it® card, you must put down a refundable deposit that’s equal to your credit limit, with deposits ranging from $200 to $2,500. Your credit limit will be determined by your income and ability to pay.

When you’re accepted, you’ll receive a physical card that charges no annual fee. You can use this card to build good habits, like responsibly paying back what you owe each month and never going into debt. And unlike most debit cards or prepaid cards, Discover® will report your credit history to the three major credit bureaus, helping you to build up your score. And Discover helps you monitor your progress by allowing you to see your FICO Credit Score for free.

The Discover it® Secured Credit Card offers unlimited 1% cash back on all purchases, 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants for up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter, and an automatic, unlimited 2x “Cashback Match” on all the cash-back rewards earned in your first year.

It’s also risk-free to see if you qualify. You can see if you’re pre-approved for the Discover it® Secured Credit Card without any credit check implications for your credit score.


Can a Teenager Have a Credit Card?

smiling teenager with card and computer

Yes, older teenagers can have credit cards. Specifically, teenagers who are at least 18 years old can get credit cards on their own. (But they might have to start with a low credit limit.)

Teenagers age 17 and younger cannot get their own credit card unless it’s one designed specifically for teens and their parents or guardians sponsor them.

Children of any age can become an authorized user on a parent’s credit card. The parent can then choose to give the authorized user a card for spending, or they can have their teen merely listed to help build a credit history but not permit the teen to make any purchases with the card.

Should a Teenager Have a Credit Card?

Yes, it’s wise for a teenager to have a credit card—as long as the teen can be trusted to use it responsibly or the card has enough controls to limit reckless spending. But owning a credit card helps build a credit history and develops money management skills. Plus, some teen credit cards include financial perks they otherwise wouldn’t enjoy.

What Credit Card Should I Get as a Teenager?

The ideal credit card, if you can qualify for it, is an unsecured credit card. This is what most people think of when they think of a credit card—you simply receive a card if you’re approved, no deposit is required, then you simply spend and are billed for whatever you buy.

Try to avoid cards that charge a high annual fee. If you plan to use your card when you travel, get one without foreign transaction fees. And the best credit cards for teens offer perks, such as cash back in the form of a statement credit.

However, some teenagers don’t qualify for any unsecured credit cards because they have no credit history when they reach adulthood. These teens should apply for the other type of credit card: a secured credit card, which is substantially easier to get approved for (though it’s still no guarantee).

Secured credit cards are similar to traditional credit cards in that you spend, then you receive a bill each month. However, with secured credit cards, you’re required to pay a deposit upfront to protect the card issuer if you don’t pay your balance. It’s similar to how apartments ask for a security deposit. The deposit is usually the same amount as your credit limit, which is typically low—often between $200 and $500. Also note that your payments don’t come out of your security deposit like how purchases come out of your balance with a debit or prepaid card.

Payments are generally reported to at least one of the three major credit bureaus, so assuming you make timely payments each month, you’ll develop a credit score or improve a low score. You’ll want to confirm your card reports your credit history before applying if that is your goal for obtaining the card.

Once you have an established credit history and a good score, you should qualify for unsecured cards. At that point, you can make any remaining payments and then close the account for your secured credit card. They will return your initial deposit.

Related Questions on Credit Cards for Teens (Credit Cards for Minors Under 18)

question and answer faq

How can a teenager start building credit?

Teenagers can build credit by taking on debt and making timely repayments every month. Those who are at least age 18 might take out loans (like a student loan or an auto loan) or get their own credit card.

If a teen has no credit at all, a credit card issuer might be hesitant to approve them for an unsecured card. If that’s the case, the teen might have to get a secured credit card first, which means dealing with a security deposit and (likely) a low credit limit.

Teenagers under age 18 will need assistance from a parent or guardian. One option is to put the young adult down as an authorized user on an adult’s credit card. Authorized users can build credit even if they don’t make purchases with the card.

Alternatively, there are cards designed specifically to help teens build credit. Parents are sponsors for these cards if the teen is a minor. These types of cards are explained in detail in earlier sections.

How can parents help their teen build their credit history?

One of the easiest ways to help your teen build credit is to put them down as an authorized user on one of your credit cards.

To add authorized users, you must contact the appropriate credit card issuers and make your request. Ensure you have the authorized users’ personal information, such as date of birth and Social Security number, before you reach out.

Parents can also help their children open cards designed specifically to help teens build credit if they are willing to act as sponsors. Some of the best credit cards for teens are detailed in previous sections.

Which type of credit card should a teen start with?

The idea credit card, if you’re a teen that’s younger than 18, is one that you can actually apply for and use—and that’s a rare breed. Currently, the Step Visa Card is the only card that qualifies; fortunately, it’s a perk-heavy card that will even help you build credit before you’re old enough to have a credit score.

Past that, teens should start with either unsecured credit cards designed for building credit, or a secured card.

Remember: Secured cards require a security deposit, but they’re different from a prepaid card. With secured cards, you still pay a statement balance every month. And when you close your account, if you’ve paid your balance in full, you’ll get your security deposit back. Payments are reported to at least one of the three major credit bureaus; cardholders who make on-time payments each month benefit from this reporting.

Unsecured credit cards don’t require a deposit, typically have a higher credit limit, and often provide other perks.

Whatever type of first credit card you get, you’ll want to find a card with a low (or no) annual fee. Also try to avoid a card with foreign transaction fees if you plan to use the card abroad.

How can credit cards teach good money habits for teens?

Having a credit card account can teach teens the importance of not spending more money each month than they can afford to pay off. They will need to regularly check their card balances and bank account to ensure they’re well within their means. That will teach them how to get an idea of their overall financial picture.

Also, credit card companies report payments to credit bureaus. Thus, the teenager will be able to see how making on-time payments builds credit and improves credit scores. This can also be used to teach your teen the process for getting a higher credit limit.

Can I put my 13-year-old on my credit card?

Yes, you can put your 13-year-old down as an authorized user on your credit card. You can also give your child access to the card, but you’re not required to do so. Either way, you remain responsible for any purchases made with the card.

Can a 14-year-old own a credit card?

A 14-year-old cannot own a credit card by themselves. However, an adult can put the 14-year-old down as an authorized user on a credit they own. They also can sponsor their teen for certain cards designed specifically for teenagers that function like credit cards.

Can I give my 15-year-old a credit card?

Your 15-year-old can use one of your credit cards, but only if you add the teen as an authorized user. Even then, the adult who opened the credit card remains responsible for any charges incurred, so be sure to set strict rules with your teenager and closely monitor card activity.

Alternatively, you can act as a sponsor and open a teen credit card for them. Great options are detailed above.

Is there a credit card for a 16-year-old?

Some credit cards are designed for teenagers, but parents must be on the account.

They also have some differentiating features. For example, parents could get their 16-year-old a secured credit card, such as the Step Visa Card. It works like a standard credit card, but with built-in safety features. Parents put money into the child’s account and the child can’t spend more money than the amount parents added.

Parents can also add 16-year-olds as authorized users to the parents’ credit card accounts.

What credit card can a 17-year-old have?

You can’t have your own credit card at 17 years old—but you’ll be able to soon!

However, until you turn 18, you’ll need to use a credit card created specifically for teens (like those listed above), and you’ll need the help of a parent or guardian to open that card.

Alternatively, parents can add 17-year-olds as authorized users on credit cards they own.

Can an 18-year-old have a credit card?

Yes, an 18-year-old can have a credit card.

Now, the teen is unlikely to qualify for premium cards right away because they’ll likely have a low (or no) credit score. But that’s OK—they still might be able to qualify for a regular unsecured card that might or might not have an annual fee or foreign transaction fees.

If they have no credit history at all, however, an 18-year-old is more likely to have success if they apply for a secured card first. Once they have proven they can use a credit card responsibly, and build their credit history, they can qualify for an unsecured card.

Alternatively, an 18-year-old can get a cosigner for an unsecured credit card. Just understand that a cosigner is also responsible for any credit card debt accrued.

About the Author

Riley Adams is the Founder and CEO of Young and the Invested. He is a licensed CPA who worked at Google as a Senior Financial Analyst overseeing advertising incentive programs for the company’s largest advertising partners and agencies. Previously, he worked as a utility regulatory strategy analyst at Entergy Corporation for six years in New Orleans.

His work has appeared in major publications like Kiplinger, MarketWatch, MSN, TurboTax, Nasdaq, Yahoo! Finance, The Globe and Mail, and CNBC’s Acorns. Riley currently holds areas of expertise in investing, taxes, real estate, cryptocurrencies and personal finance where he has been cited as an authoritative source in outlets like CNBC, Time, NBC News, APM’s Marketplace, HuffPost, Business Insider, Slate, NerdWallet, Investopedia, The Balance and Fast Company.

Riley holds a Masters of Science in Applied Economics and Demography from Pennsylvania State University and a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Bachelor of Science in Business Administration and Finance from Centenary College of Louisiana.