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What Age Do You Need to Be to Get a Credit Card?

Janine DeVault

Jun 30, 2022 6 min read

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What Age Do You Need to Be to Get a Credit Card?

A strong credit score is a powerful asset that can help you on your path to buying a home, financing a vehicle, or securing favourable interest rates on personal loans. Even if these goals are still a long way off, the earlier you begin building credit, the better. 

One of the simplest ways to start building credit is by opening a credit card, which you can do at 18. 

If you're keen to begin building credit, this guide will outline precisely how old you must be to get a credit card, what to consider before opening an account, and the best way to get your first credit card. 

What is the Minimum Age Required for a Credit Card in Canada?

The minimum age to open a credit card depends on the age of majority in your province. In Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, and Quebec, you can open a credit card when you are 18. In all other provinces and territories, you must be 19 before you can open a credit account. 

Things to Consider Before Applying for a Credit Card.

Before you apply for a credit card, it's essential to understand how credit works and how to use it responsibly. Credit cards are a powerful tool for building your creditworthiness and setting yourself up for financial success. Paying your credit card on time every month shows lenders that you're financially responsible and opens the door for more favourable interest rates and increased borrowing power. But credit cards can also be very detrimental if you don't use them strategically. 

Credit Card Debt

Make sure you understand the terms of your credit card contract, including the interest rate and any fees associated with using your card. There may be an annual fee and additional charges for cash advances, late payments, foreign transactions, spending more than your credit limit, etc. 

Credit cards aren't free money. You have to pay back what you spend with interest on top. If you fail to stay on top of your monthly payments, the interest can quickly add up and cause undue financial strain. Don't open a credit card unless you're capable of paying your bill each month.

As long as you use your card responsibly and keep up with your payments, it will help you build your credit rating. If you fall behind on payments, a credit card will have the opposite effect, causing your credit rating to fall.  

How to Get a Credit Card if You're 18?

When you reach the minimum age to obtain a credit card (18 or 19, depending on where you live in Canada), you can apply for a credit card. However, just because you're old enough to be eligible for credit doesn't mean you'll be approved.

Traditional Credit Card

Lenders typically approve credit applications based on an individual's income and credit history. Since you've never had a credit card before, you probably don't have a credit history, making it harder to secure a credit card. 

Here are some tips for opening your first credit card when you have no credit history.

Get a Secured Credit Card

Secured Credit Card

Secured credit cards are a fantastic way to begin building credit when you have no credit history and nobody to cosign on a credit card account. Secured cards are so named because you back them with your own money. As such, they do not require a credit check. Generally, you must put down a deposit of around $500 to secure your card, and your credit limit will be equal to the amount you put down. 

Even though you're backing a secure card with your own funds, they still report to the credit bureaus. As long as you pay your bill on time each month, you'll be building credit, and eventually, you'll be able to qualify for a standard unsecured credit card.

When you close your secured credit card account (usually upon upgrading to an unsecured card), the deposit you paid to secure the account will be returned. 

Get a Student Credit Card

Student Credit Cards

Many credit card companies offer special credit cards for students. These are typically low-limit credit cards (usually between $500 and $1,000) with high interest rates. Students are typically just beginning to build credit, so the application requirements are much looser for these cards than for a typical credit card.

Student cards are not secured (you don't have to put down a deposit), but the interest rates are very high, so it's essential to be mindful of how much you spend. These cards are a fantastic way to begin building credit so you can qualify for more favourable interest rates and a higher credit limit down the road. 

Get a Cosigner

Credit Card Company

Using a cosigner is a clever strategy to qualify for a credit card when you have no credit history and are just starting out in the workforce. If you have a friend or relative with a strong credit rating, having them cosign on your new credit card can help you get approved when you wouldn't be able to on your own. 

Because the cosigner is attached to your account, they are liable for the money you owe if you fail to pay. If you mismanage the account, their credit rating will take a hit. So, if you use a cosigner, it's imperative to pay your bill on time every month.

Become an Authorized User

Authorized Users

Becoming an authorized user on someone else's credit card account can help you build your credit rating and eventually qualify for your own credit card. This is a strategy that many parents use to help their kids build credit as they enter college or the workforce. 

As an authorized user, your credit history will piggyback off of the main account holder's strong credit data. The account holder can have a credit card issued in your name, but the card is still linked to their account. So, even though your association with their account is helping you build credit, the primary account holder is still ultimately responsible for any charges you incur with your card. 

Some parents will add their kids as authorized users without issuing them a credit card. This helps the authorized user build credit without running the risk of racking up excessive charges. If you're beginning your credit journey but not yet earning a steady income, this is a strategic way to build credit without the risk of going into debt. 

What are Other Requirements for Getting a Credit Card?

To open a credit card in Canada, you must first meet the following requirements:

  • Meet the minimum age requirement in your province (18 or 19, depending on where you live)

  • Be a permanent resident of Canada

  • Have a social insurance number

  • Demonstrate proof of income

  • Have an acceptable credit rating or a cosigner

Credit Card Application

The specific requirements for minimum income and credit score will vary depending on the type of credit card you apply for. Some cards are very exclusive, accepting only those who can prove a high income and an excellent credit score. Typically, entry-level credit cards, such as those aimed at students, are much less strict about the income and credit score needed for approval.

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The Bottom Line

Having a low income and a limited (or non-existent) credit history doesn't have to prohibit you from opening a credit card to begin building your credit score. There are many options for those with a limited credit history, from secured credit cards, taking on a cosigner, or applying for a student credit card. Since the length of your credit history makes up 15% of your overall credit score, it's wise to begin building credit as early as possible! 

Janine DeVault
Janine DeVault

Janine is a writer who focuses on topics such as credit education, money management, and renting best practices for tenants and landlords. Janine loves to travel and has lived in Canada, the US, and Mexico.

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