December 17, 2023

Is a 22-Year-Old Student Eligible to Apply for a Credit Card?

Discover if a 22-year-old student is eligible to apply for a credit card and explore income requirements, options, and strategies for responsible credit-building.


Building a credit history begins with owning your first credit card. Generational differences in credit practices highlight distinct financial approaches. The average Generation X score is about 676, which represents their adaptive and resilient nature. Millennials and Generation Z, representing tech-savvy young adults, fall within the 650-670 range. These scores paint a dynamic picture of how different age groups navigate their credit journeys. Millennials and young adults have unique financial needs, which require tailored financial solutions designed specifically for them.


Visit Bright Money to learn more about credit cards for students and their eligibility.

Minimum Age to Get a Credit Card

While the minimum age to get a credit card is 18, individuals aged 21 and above stand a better chance of securing a credit card with enticing rewards, provided they already possess a credit history. Nevertheless, some card issuers permit parents to include teenagers as authorized users. Individuals aged between 18 and 20, securing their first credit card need a co-signer or proof of income.


There are federal laws that govern credit card eligibility in the USA. Federal laws such as the Credit CARD Act of 2009 have been enacted to provide consumers with greater protection and transparency in their credit card dealings. This Act mitigated some perceived unfair and deceptive practices in the credit card industry. It mandated that individuals under 21 needed to show proof of income or have a co-signer to qualify for a credit card. This was aimed at preventing young adults from accumulating high levels of credit card debt without the means to repay.[1] 


Pay off your credit card debt by refinancing high-interest credit card debt and pave the way for a debt-free future through Bright Money. 

How Can Students Use Credit Cards Responsibly to Build Their Credit?


Read more: What's a good credit score? 

Secured Credit Cards: Building Credit Responsibly

Secured credit cards offer a viable option when no co-signer is available. Applicants are required to submit a security deposit, typically starting at $200. This deposit becomes the card's credit limit. Functioning similarly to a regular credit card, users can make purchases up to the credit limit and must settle the balance each month. With responsible usage, individuals may transition to an unsecured card, reclaiming their initial deposit.


A secured credit card provides several benefits to young adults who are just beginning to build their credit. These include:

  1. Credit History Establishment: Secured credit cards offer individuals with limited or no credit history an opportunity to initiate a credit profile. This is crucial for future financial endeavors, such as applying for loans or unsecured credit cards.
  2. Credit Score Improvement: Responsible use of a secured credit card, including timely payments and maintaining a low credit utilization ratio, contributes positively to the individual's credit score. Over time, this can lead to an improved credit rating.
  3. Transition to Unsecured Credit: With consistent and reliable payment behavior, users may qualify for an unsecured credit card. This transition is significant as it often means the return of the initial security deposit.
  4. Financial Responsibility: Using a secured credit card encourages financial discipline. Cardholders must manage their expenses within the credit limit and ensure timely repayment, fostering responsible financial habits.
  5. Access to Credit: Secured credit cards are a pathway to access credit for those who may not qualify for unsecured cards due to a low credit score or a lack of credit history.


Students can often get entrapped by the lure of multiple credit cards offered by banks which can lead to unmanageable financial burdens. Bright Money offers solutions to refinance multiple cards up to your credit limit, tailored to your unique financial situation.

Becoming an Authorized User: A Quick Entry

Becoming an authorized user provides a swift avenue to acquiring a credit card without undergoing a lengthy application process. Typically, authorized users receive a card in their name, and the primary cardholder bears the responsibility of paying off both cards. Coordination with the primary cardholder is crucial to avoid overspending and late payments.[3]


Student Credit Cards: Tailored for the Younger Demographic

Designed for those aged 18 to 22 with limited credit history, student credit cards offer a strategic entry point. The Discover it® Student Cash Back card, for example, provides a 0% intro APR on purchases for the first 6 months, followed by a standard variable purchase APR of 18.24% - 27.24%. With cash-back rewards in various categories, these cards aim to cater to the specific needs of college students.[3]


Seeking a Co-signer: Ensuring Approval

Individuals aged 18 to 20 must fulfill one of two criteria for credit card approval: either enlist a co-signer, such as a parent or guardian, or demonstrate proof of employment or income. This information assures the issuer of the cardholder's ability to meet financial obligations. Choosing a co-signer with a solid credit history is crucial, as both parties share legal and financial responsibility for the card's balance.[3]

The Gateway to Credit at 21 and Beyond

Upon reaching the age of 21, prospective cardholders can independently apply for a credit card, irrespective of their income status. Those who have spent their formative years building credit, whether through a student credit card or as an authorized user on a parent's account, have enhanced options. While co-signers are not mandatory, they can still bolster an application, especially for those eyeing premium cards with added benefits and rewards.[3]

Initiating Credit Early: A Parental Approach

Parents inclined to instill financial responsibility early on can add their teenagers as authorized users. This proactive approach equips young individuals with an emergency card and encourages responsible spending under parental guidance.[3]

Nurturing Credit: Best Practices for First-Time Cardholders

While a first credit card symbolizes financial empowerment, it also demands a heightened sense of responsibility. Initial cardholders should exercise caution in their spending, comprehending the intricacies of the card's terms. The first credit card is a stepping stone toward future financial benefits, better terms, and enhanced rewards.


Key Strategies for Building Credit[3]

Financial Prudence: Avoid purchases exceeding your cash capacity. Pay off the entire balance monthly to evade interest charges.

Timely Payments: Ensure prompt payment of bills every month to sidestep late fees and fortify your credit history.

Avoid Excessive Applications: Restrict credit card applications, sticking with your initial card for at least six months to a year.

Clear Financial Goals: Define your financial and credit objectives before applying for additional cards.

Read more: Understanding Credit Card Interest


Building Credit: A Journey, Not a Destination

In conclusion, acquiring a first credit card marks an important moment in a young adult’s financial journey. While age requirements vary, the responsibility that accompanies credit usage remains constant. Taking control of your finances has never been easier with the Bright Money app. Whether your goal is to pay off debt or save, Bright Money's app can help you develop a financial plan.


1. Can a 22-year-old student get a credit card independently without a co-signer?

Yes, many credit cards allow students to apply independently without a co-signer.

2. Are there specific credit cards designed for students aged 22?

Yes, there are student credit cards tailored to the needs of young adults, offering benefits like lower interest rates.

3. Is having a credit history necessary for a 22-year-old to get a credit card?

It is not absolutely necessary to have a credit history as some credit cards are designed for individuals building their credit for the first time.

4. Can a 22-year-old with no credit history get a credit card?

Yes, Options such as secured credit cards are accessible to individuals with limited or no credit history.

5. Are there age-related restrictions on premium credit cards for 22-year-olds?

Premium cards may have age-related criteria, but having a good credit history can increase eligibility.

6. Is it advisable for a 22-year-old to possess more than one credit card?

Generally, it is advisable to start with one card and build a good credit history before considering additional cards.

7. How can a 22-year-old use a credit card to build credit?

To build a positive credit history, you must make timely credit card payments, be responsible by staying within your credit limit, and avoid carrying a high balance.

8. Can a 22-year-old with a part-time job qualify for a credit card?

Yes, having a part-time job can contribute to your income, making you eligible for certain credit cards.


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