Best Credit Cards for Teens: 7 Smart Options for Building Credit

CREDIT CARDS - STUDENT CREDIT CARDS
If you are looking into credit cards for your teen, here are some great options — and some helpful credit-building tips.
Updated April 12, 2024
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Worrying about your child’s health and safety is part of being a parent, but what about their financial future? In a society where credit scores have so much influence, helping your child establish healthy financial habits early on can make a huge difference when it comes time to send them off into the world.

While you might be reluctant to slap a credit card in your teen’s hand, teaching them how to be a responsible borrower now can help prep them for financial independence as they get older. Here are some of the best credit cards for students, even younger ones.

The best credit cards for teens

In this article

Best cards for 13- to 17-year-olds

APR Important feature(s)
Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express
19.24% - 29.99% Variable Ability to set spending alerts and limits
Chase Freedom Unlimited®
20.49% - 29.24% Variable Offers 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Travel, 3% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery service and unlimited 1.5% cash back on all other purchases
Citi Simplicity® Card(Rates and fees)
19.24% - 29.99% (Variable) Offers 0% intro APR (annual percentage rate) on purchases for 12 months (then 19.24% - 29.99% (Variable)) and a 0% intro APR on balance transfers for 21 months (then 19.24% - 29.99% (Variable))

Legally, your child can’t get a credit card in their name until they’re 18 years old and no longer a minor — but they don’t need their own credit card to get the ball rolling. By adding your teen as an authorized user to a credit card account in your name, your child can start the process of building their credit history before they actually need it.

Assuming your credit habits are sound, your child’s credit record will get a bit of a head start. Exactly how much of a bump their credit will receive depends on the scoring model, as different models weigh credit factors differently.

But before you add your child to your line of credit, keep in mind that, at the end of the day, you’re solely responsible for the account. Teaching your child proper spending habits shouldn’t come at the cost of your own credit. Even if you don’t give them a physical credit card to use just yet, they can still benefit from being on your account.

If and when you decide to drop some more responsibility in their lap, you’ll be able to monitor their spending, and, with some credit cards, you can even set limits on how much they can spend altogether. The best part? You’ll not only be helping your child build their credit history but they’ll also be helping you earn perks such as points, miles, or cash back every time they swipe their card — with your approval, of course.

Not all credit cards are created equally, though, so here are a few options that stand out as good choices for adding your kid as an authorized user:

Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express

With the Amex Blue Cash EveryDay Credit Card, you get rewarded for the spending you do all day, every day — no matter the purchase. This can be a good option for earning rewards on your kid’s spending, regardless of what they’re spending on, though it won’t give you the highest earnings rate available.

You can set spending alerts and limits as low as $200 to help you keep track of their spending, and charges for each additional cardmember are separated on your monthly statement for easy expense tracking. Additionally, there’s no fee for authorized users, and while you can add your children to your account once they’re 13 years old, credit isn't reported under their name until they turn 18.

Learn how to apply or find out more in our Amex Blue Cash EveryDay Credit Card review

Chase Freedom Unlimited®

The Chase Freedom Unlimited may be as close as it gets to a perfect credit card for authorized users. This card offers 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Travel, 3% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery service and unlimited 1.5% cash back on all other purchases.

While you don’t have the ability to set spending limits, there’s no age requirement for authorized users, and adding an additional cardmember doesn’t cost a thing.

Apply now or check out more details in our Chase Freedom Unlimited review

Citi Simplicity® Card

There may not be any rewards with this card, but the Citi Simplicity Card boasts a 0% intro APR (annual percentage rate) on purchases for 12 months (then 19.24% - 29.99% (Variable)) and a 0% intro APR on balance transfers for 21 months (then 19.24% - 29.99% (Variable)) — as well as no late fees, no penalty rate, and a $0 annual fee.

If you’re looking to take advantage of the lack of fees and the generous intro APRs while also teaching responsible spending habits, this may be a great option. Like the Chase Freedom Unlimited, the Citi Simplicity® Card(Rates and fees) has no age requirement for authorized users and no fees for adding them to your account.

Apply now or find out more in our Citi Simplicity Card review

Best cards for 18- to 20-year-olds

APR Important feature(s)
Capital One SavorOne Student Cash Rewards Credit Card
19.99%, 26.24% or 29.99% (variable) Earn 10% cash back on purchases made through Uber & Uber Eats (through 11/14/2024); 8% cash back on Capital One Entertainment; 5% on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel; 3% on dining, entertainment, streaming services, and grocery stores (excluding superstores such as Walmart® and Target®); and 1% on all other purchases
Capital One Quicksilver Student Cash Rewards Credit Card
19.99%, 26.24% or 29.99% (variable) Low credit score requirement and earn unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day; 10% cash back on purchases made through Uber & Uber Eats (through 11/14/2024); plus unlimited 5% cash back on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card
25.64% (variable) Secured card with a refundable deposit
Discover it® Student Cash Back
18.24% - 27.24% Variable Earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places you shop each quarter like grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations, and more, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases—automatically.

Once your kid becomes a legal adult, everything changes. They’re now able to take on credit products in their own name, though there are still requirements they’ll need to meet in order to get approved. If your child is under 21, credit card issuers likely won’t approve them for a card unless they have proof of income or, at the very least, a cosigner with income that can be verified.

Getting your first credit card at this age is a great way to start building your credit history and FICO score. While there are plenty of opportunities to utilize the many benefits of a credit card, mishandling and abusing credit can take a toll very quickly, especially since your child is just starting out.

Now that your kid’s options for credit cards are expanding, here are some of the best cards for young adults:

Capital One SavorOne Student Cash Rewards Credit Card

The Capital One SavorOne Student Cash Rewards Credit Card has a $0 annual fee and impressive rewards for students. Earn 10% cash back on purchases made through Uber & Uber Eats (through 11/14/2024); 8% cash back on Capital One Entertainment; 5% on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel; 3% on dining, entertainment, streaming services, and grocery stores (excluding superstores such as Walmart® and Target®); and 1% on all other purchases. 

Capital One will consider you for a credit line increase after six months. It has no foreign transaction fees and includes complimentary concierge service for dining, entertainment, and travel. 

Learn more in our Capital One SavorOne Rewards for Students review

Capital One Quicksilver Student Cash Rewards Credit Card

The Capital One Quicksilver Student Cash Rewards Credit Card has a low credit score requirement and a steady cashback rate of unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day; 10% cash back on purchases made through Uber & Uber Eats (through 11/14/2024); plus unlimited 5% cash back on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel. Like the other Capital One student cards, it has a $0 annual fee and no foreign transaction fees. 

Find out more in our Capital One Quicksilver Student Cash Rewards review

OpenSky® Secured Visa® Credit Card

No credit check needed for this one. Since the OpenSky Secured Visa is a secured credit card, you set your credit line with an initial refundable security deposit — as low as $200 and up to $3,000. To ensure you’re building your credit, all activity is reported to the three major credit bureaus.

Get the details in our OpenSky Secured Visa review

Discover it® Student Cash Back

The Discover it® Student Cash Back allows you to earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places you shop each quarter like grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations, and more, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases—automatically. It also has a generous sign-up bonus. Discover will match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year.

Get more details in our Discover it Student Cash Back review, or see our full list of recommendations for the best credit cards from Discover.

5 quick tips for building your teen's credit (even while they're a minor)

1. Open a bank account first

Before you venture into credit cards, consider opening a checking account for your teen and getting them a debit card or prepaid card so they can get comfortable with reviewing their balances and tracking their transactions.

2. Consider making them an authorized user on your credit card

While your teen is under 18, adding them as an authorized user to your credit card account can help them build credit at an early age. As long as they use the card responsibly, holding a credit card as an authorized user can help minors build a positive credit history.

3. Look into secured credit card offers

Unlike unsecured cards, secured cards use a security deposit as collateral, which means that if your teen stops paying their monthly payments, the card issuer can pay off their balance with the security deposit. Once your teen is old enough, you might consider looking into a secured credit card that reports payment history to the big three credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and Transunion. The right secured credit card could also help your teen build credit with responsible card use.

4. Teach your teen the dos and don'ts of credit card use

Talk to your teen about responsible card usage, the importance of building credit, how credit utilization and credit limits work, and how to establish a good credit score. Walk them through the issuer's mobile app to ensure they know how to review their credit card bill and make payments or set up automatic payments. Once they understand the basics, consider discussing more advanced concepts like points and other rewards programs. Also discuss important things to avoid with a credit card, like overspending or making late payments.

5. Check in with them about their finances

Once your teen has a credit card, checking in with them regularly about their finances can help ensure they stay on track. This will give them an opportunity to ask questions, learn from you, and discuss progress toward their financial goals.

FAQs

What is the best credit card for a teenager?

The best credit card for a teenager is one that will help them learn how to establish healthy financial habits for their future like making on-time payments. Certain credit cards make this easier than others. For example, American Express credit cards allow you to add authorized users to your account once they’re at least 13 years old. They can benefit from being added to your account and may earn cashback rewards or travel rewards, but you can track their purchases and set spending limits for them.

How old does your teenager need to be to get a credit card?

You typically have to be 18 years of age to apply for your own credit card. However, you’ll need a cosigner who’s over 21 years old if you’re younger than 21 years old, according to the Credit Card Act of 2009.

Still, many credit card companies make it easy for young people and children under 18 years old to get a credit card as an authorized user on someone else’s account. This allows teenagers an opportunity to use credit cards and learn important financial habits, but the primary account holder is still responsible for the credit card account.

How do you build credit for your teenager?

Your teenager won’t have the option to apply for their own credit card before they’re 18 years old, but you can add them as an authorized user on one of your credit card accounts. As you responsibly manage your account and don’t have late payments, your teen’s credit score could improve.

You don’t have to give your teen a physical credit card to use, but it can be helpful for them to learn how building credit works. In addition, if your teen uses a rewards credit card to make purchases, you’ll earn those rewards on your account.

Should you give your teenager a credit card?

Your teenager can’t apply for any credit cards before they’re 18 years old, and they’ll still need a cosigner until they’re 21 years old. These restrictions can make it hard for your teen to build credit, so giving your teenager a credit card after adding them as an authorized user on one of your accounts can be helpful. This method can help your teen learn how budgeting works so they can use and pay off their card purchases each month.

If you don’t feel comfortable giving your teen a credit card, you can still add them as an authorized user without giving them a physical card to use. Your responsible use of the account will still count as activity on your teen’s credit report and can help them build credit.

Bottom line

The groundwork for maintaining good credit can start at a young age. As an authorized user, your child can benefit not only from being able to practice proper spending habits but also lengthier credit history. 

Once they turn 18, they can leverage their very own credit card and continue their record as a responsible borrower. A strong credit history and a good credit score can open up opportunities for them down the line, including better loan terms and interest rates. Learn more about how to build credit

Methodology

To select the best credit cards for teens, we compared cards from multiple issuers. We assessed features like APRs, rewards rates, and control functions like spending alerts to recommend the best credit cards for teenagers. We did not include all cards available.

Great for Building Credit

Chase Freedom Rise℠
5.0

Chase Freedom Rise℠

Current Offer

$25 statement credit for enrolling in automatic payments within the first three months of account opening

Annual Fee

$0

Rewards Rate

1.5% cash back on all purchases

Benefits and Drawbacks
Card Details

Author Details

Matt Miczulski Matt Miczulski is a personal finance writer specializing in financial news, budget travel, banking, and debt. His interest in personal finance took off after eliminating $30,000 in debt in just over a year, and his goal is to help others learn how to get ahead with better money management strategies. A lover of history, Matt hopes to use his passion for storytelling to shine a new light on how people think about money. His work has also been featured on MoneyDoneRight and Recruiter.com.

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