What are the best credit cards for teens?

Teenager leaning against a blue wall while listening to music on headphones, thinking about when and how her parents might find a good credit card for teens Image: Teenager leaning against a blue wall while listening to music on headphones, thinking about when and how her parents might find a good credit card for teens

In a Nutshell

Teens can apply for their own credit cards when they turn 18. The best credit cards for teens have low credit requirements and keep costs to a minimum. You can help teens under 18 build credit by adding them as an authorized user on one of your credit cards.

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Some may scoff at the idea of credit cards for teens. But there are a few reasons why you may want to consider allowing your teen to use one.

First, using a credit card could help your teen learn how to handle credit responsibly. What better time for your teen to get their first credit card than when you’re still around to offer supervision and advice?

Second, using a credit card with care can help your teen begin to build credit. That way when the time comes to apply for a car loan or other financing, they may be able to do so without a co-signer.

Teens can begin building credit at a young age by becoming authorized users on their parents’ credit cards. At 18, teens can apply for a credit card in their own name.

The best teen credit cards have low credit requirements and keep costs to a minimum. Here’s our take on the best four credit cards for teens to help you find the right one for your situation.



Best for low credit requirements: Deserve® EDU Mastercard

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Deserve® EDU Mastercard

From cardholders in the last year

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Here’s why: Students don’t need a credit history to qualify for the Deserve® EDU Mastercard. And they won’t be required to make a security deposit or find a co-signer either.

The Deserve® EDU Mastercard is one of the best credit cards for international students since it doesn’t require them to have a Social Security number to apply. But any teen who’s in college could find value in this card. It offers some nice card member perks in addition to its low credit requirements.

First, the Deserve® EDU Mastercard offers cardholders a year of Amazon Prime Student membership (a lifetime value of $59) when they spend $500 in the first three billing cycles using the card. Second, this credit card offers 1% cash back on all purchases.

Any cash back you earn will be automatically redeemed as statement credit in $25 increments. The Deserve® EDU Mastercard has a $0 annual fee. And it can be useful if you’re planning on studying abroad: Its foreign transaction fees? None.

Read our editorial review of the Deserve® EDU Mastercard.

Best for a low deposit: Capital One® Secured Mastercard®

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Capital One® Secured Mastercard®

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Here’s why: With the Capital One® Secured Mastercard®, your teen can get an initial credit limit of $200 with a security deposit as low as $49.

If your teen doesn’t qualify for the $49 security deposit, they could be required to deposit $99 or the full $200 instead. Teens who would like a higher credit line can deposit more.

The Capital One® Secured Mastercard® is great for teens who are trying to build their credit. Credit activity will be reported to all three major credit bureaus. And your teen may be considered for a higher credit limit in as little as six months.

The Capital One® Secured Mastercard® also comes with Platinum Mastercard benefits, which gives cardholders extra perks like travel accident insurance, 24-hour travel assistance services, extended warranty protection and car rental collision insurance.

One of the only downsides to this card is that it doesn’t offer any ongoing rewards. But if your teen is looking for a secured card that has reasonable deposit requirements and a $0 annual fee, the Capital One® Secured Mastercard® is hard to beat.

Read our editorial review of the Capital One® Secured Mastercard®.

Best for low fees: Petal Visa Credit Card

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Petal Visa Credit Card

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Here’s why: It’s hard to get more low-cost than the Petal Visa Credit Card. It charges no fees.

That means the Petal Visa Credit Card doesn’t charge an annual fee, a late payment fee or foreign transaction fees. That’s great, especially for a credit card that doesn’t require a credit history or a security deposit.

The Petal Visa Credit Card does offer rewards. Cardholders begin by receiving 1% cash back on all purchases, but can earn up to 1.5% cash back after making 12 on-time payments.

The Petal Visa Credit Card also comes with a money-management tool to help your teen track their spending.

Read our editorial review of the Petal Visa Credit Card.


What you need to know before you get a credit card for your teen

If you’re thinking about getting a credit card for your teen, here are a few things you’ll want to keep in mind.

Opening a credit card for a minor

If your teen is under 18, they won’t usually be allowed to have their own credit card. And even after they turn 18, it may be difficult for them to qualify for a credit card on their own.

But that doesn’t mean they can’t begin to build credit. There are two main ways to get credit cards for teens.

Authorized users

Until they turn 18, becoming an authorized user is typically the only way your teen will be able to get access to a credit card.

Most credit card issuers allow cardholders to add their teens as authorized users. In fact, depending on the terms of the credit card, you can add your children as authorized users before they even enter high school. In its “Parents, Kids & Money Survey” published in 2019, asset management firm T. Rowe Price found that 17% of children age 8 to 14 had a credit card.

Worried about your teen having access to your full credit limit? You could apply for a new credit card and ask the issuer to set a low credit limit on the card. Then you could make your teen an authorized user on the low-limit credit card instead of your daily-use card.

As an authorized user, they can begin to establish a credit history. And this could help them qualify for a student credit card — or any other kind of financing that requires a credit check — down the road.

But if your teen doesn’t handle their credit card responsibly, you can remove them as an authorized user at any time.

Co-signers

Once your teen turns 18, they can apply for a credit card in their own name. But the Credit CARD Act of 2009 requires everybody under 21 to provide proof of income in order to qualify for a card on their own.

Ultimately, this law is in place for your teen’s own good. It’s supposed to protect young people from piling up debt that they have no way to repay. But it could make it more difficult for your teen to qualify for a student card if they’re not working when they’re in college.

If your child is under 21 and can’t provide proof of income, they’ll need a co-signer on a credit card application.

Before co-signing on your teen’s credit card, keep in mind that the account payment history will appear on your credit report as well as your child’s. And late payments will have a negative effect on your credit scores. You’ll want to consider the co-signing pros and cons carefully before making a decision.

Secured cards

Student credit cards, which you can shop for on Credit Karma, can be a convenient choice for teens. But if your teen isn’t enrolled as a college student, they won’t qualify. In this case, a secured credit card could be a good option.

With secured credit cards, you or your teen will need to put up a security deposit as collateral. The deposit is often the card’s credit limit.

Secured credit cards, like unsecured credit cards, can help your teen build credit. But you’ll want to make sure that the credit issuer reports card activity to all three major credit bureaus.

After a certain number of on-time payments, the card issuer may automatically graduate your teen’s secured card to a partial or fully unsecured version of the card. And once they’ve built up their credit scores, your child can apply for unsecured credit cards that may offer higher credit limits or better rewards. Just keep in mind that every application likely counts as a hard inquiry, which could affect their credit scores.


Next steps

If your teen gets a credit card, you’ll want to take every opportunity to teach them good credit habits. Stress the importance of making on-time payments, keeping a low credit utilization rate and avoiding unnecessary credit inquiries.

These are just a few tips that can help your teen build their credit now and handle credit responsibly throughout their lives. For more ideas, check out our guide on how to build credit from scratch.


About the author: Clint Proctor is a freelance writer and founder of WalletWiseGuy.com, where he writes about how students and m… Read more.