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This article was last updated Sep 30, 2019. Terms and conditions may have changed. For the most accurate information, please consult the issuer website.
Building credit at an early age is important, since we rely on credit for so many life activities, such as qualifying for a car loan, obtaining an apartment and sometimes even applying for a job. If you’re a parent who wants to help your teenager get a jump-start on establishing credit, or simply want your child to have access to a line of credit for everyday purchases or emergencies, signing up for a credit card is a great option.
In this post:
- Best secured credit cards for teens
- Best student credit cards
- Other card options for teens
- The bottom line
“The best card for a teen is typically a secured credit card. They work just like regular credit cards except that you have to put a small deposit down to get the card,” said Matt Schulz, chief industry analyst for CompareCards.com. “Secured cards are great training-wheels cards for teens because they’re really low-risk for everyone involved.”
Student credit cards are also a great option for teens 18 or older in college who can prove a source of steady income. But perhaps the easiest way to help a teen build a strong credit profile is to add your child as an authorized user to your credit card.
Before deciding which type of card is right for your teen, there are several factors to consider. Schulz explained, “Whether you go the secured route or not, it’s important that teens and parents understand the key fees and rates associated with the card. Is there an annual fee? What’s the APR for the card? Getting a card without knowing those and other key details is asking for trouble.”
We’ll highlight the top secured credit cards and students credit cards for your teen, as well as show other options if a credit card isn’t the best fit.
Secured credit cards
Secured credit cards are designed for individuals 18 or older with limited or poor credit history. These cards require a security deposit — which serves as a line of credit — and typically report to the major credit bureaus. “They’re great for parents because the worst thing that can happen is that generally you’d lose the small security deposit. And issuers love them because if the cardholder defaults, the bank is covered, thanks to the deposit,” said Schulz.
See which secured credit cards we recommend below.
Capital One® Secured Mastercard®
Build Credit When Used Responsibly
$49, $99, or $200
- No annual fee, and all the credit building benefits with responsible card use
- Unlike a prepaid card, it builds credit when used responsibly, with regular reporting to the 3 major credit bureaus
- You will get an initial $200 credit line after making a security deposit of $49, $99, or $200
- Get access to a higher credit line after making your first 5 monthly payments on time with no additional deposit needed
- Easily manage your account 24/7 with online access, by phone or using our mobile app
- It's a credit card accepted at millions of locations worldwide
See additional details for Capital One® Secured Mastercard®
With the Capital One® Secured Mastercard®, cardholders receive an initial credit line of $200 after making a refundable security deposit of $49, $99 or $200. The card comes with a $0 annual fee and an APR of 26.99% (Variable) on purchases.
The Capital One® Secured Mastercard® gives you access to a higher credit line when you make your first five monthly payments on time.
What to look out for: The Capital One® Secured Mastercard® does not come with a rewards program. While this is typical for a secured credit card, it is possible to find a secured card that offers points or cash back on purchases.
Discover it® Secured
2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases every quarter, automatically. 1% unlimited cash back on all other purchases.
Credit line will equal your security deposit of $200 or more*
No annual fee, no late fee on your first late payment. No penalty APR*
- No Annual Fee, earn cash back, and build your credit with responsible use.
- It's a real credit card. You can build a credit history with the three major credit bureaus. Generally, debit and prepaid cards can't help you build a credit history.
- Establish your credit line by providing a refundable security deposit of at least $200 after being approved. Bank information must be provided when submitting your deposit.
- Automatic reviews starting at 8 months to see if we can transition you to an unsecured line of credit and return your deposit.
- 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases every quarter, automatically. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.
- Get 100% U.S. based customer service & get your free Credit Scorecard with your FICO® Credit Score
- INTRO OFFER: We automatically match all the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year.
- Get an alert if we find your Social Security number on any of thousands of Dark Web sites.* Activate for free.
- See Rates & Fees
See additional details for Discover it® Secured
The Discover it® Secured card offers cash back on every purchase — which is rare for a secured credit card. The $0 annual fee card lets cardholders earn 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases every quarter, automatically. 1% unlimited cash back on all other purchases. Also, for new cardmembers, Discover will automatically match ALL the cash back you earn at the end of your first year.
What to look out for: The Discover it® Secured card requires a minimum security deposit of $200 and a maximum of $2,500. Your credit line will be equal to the amount of your security deposit.
Green Dot primor® Visa® Gold Secured Credit Card
Reports to the Three Major Credit Bureaus
No Penalty Rate or Application Fees*
- Credit lines available from $200 to $5,000! Super Low Fixed 9.99% interest rate on purchases - with no penalty rate!
- No minimum credit score requirements! We invite all credit types to apply! No processing or application fees!
- Helps strengthen your credit with responsible card use. Reports to three national bureaus
- Fast, easy application process. Choose your credit line and open your Personal Savings Deposit Account to secure your line.
- See additional Green Dot primor® Visa® Gold Secured Credit Card details
See additional details for Green Dot primor® Visa® Gold Secured Credit Card
The Green Dot primor® Visa® Gold Secured Credit Card is a great option if you plan to carry a balance, since it offers a very low APR of 9.99% (F) on purchases (although we recommend paying your balance off in full each month whenever possible).
The card also comes with credit lines ranging from $200 to $5,000.
What to look out for: Unlike the other secured cards in this post, the Green Dot primor® Visa® Gold Secured Credit Card charges an annual fee of $49.
Student credit cards
If your teen is enrolled in college, they may want to opt for a student credit card. Similar to secured cards, student cards are designed for individuals with little or no credit; however, they do not require a security deposit. Student cards also typically offer rewards, and sometimes even provide special incentives for good grades. Your student will have to be at least 18 to apply and the application will ask to list a source of income as well.
See which student cards we recommend below.
Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One®
Earn 1% cash back on all purchases
Earn 25% bonus on cash back you earn each month you pay on time
Higher credit line after 5 on-time monthly payments
- Earn 1% cash back on all your purchases. Pay on time to boost your cash back to a total of 1.25% for that month
- Enjoy no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees
- Get a head start and build your credit with responsible use
- Get Eno®, your Capital One® assistant, to manage your account via text, receive alerts, and shop safer online
- Pick the monthly due date that works best for you
- Get access to a higher credit line after making your first 5 monthly payments on time
- $0 fraud liability if your card is ever lost or stolen
- Monitor your credit profile with the CreditWise® app, free for everyone
See additional details for Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One®
The Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One® card honors cardholders for responsible card usage. Cardholders earn 1% cash back on all purchases; 0.25% cash back bonus on the cash back you earn each month you pay on time — for a total of 1.25% for that month. The $0 annual fee card also lets you access a higher credit line when you make your first five monthly payments on time.
What to look out for: Because the Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One® card does not offer an introductory APR on purchases, it’s important that your balance is paid in full each month. Otherwise, interest charges will be assessed at 26.99% (variable).
Discover it® Student chrome
0% for 6 Months*
2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter. 1% unlimited cash back on all other purchases - automatically.
14.49% - 23.49% Variable*
- INTRO OFFER: Discover will match ALL the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically. There's no signing up. And no limit to how much is matched.
- Earn 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - automatically.
- Good Grades Rewards: $20 statement credit each school year your GPA is 3.0 or higher for up to the next 5 years.
- No annual fee. No late fee on first late payment. No APR change for paying late.
- Get 100% U.S. based customer service & get your free Credit Scorecard with your FICO® Credit Score, number of recent inquiries and more.
- Freeze It® on/off switch for your account that prevents new purchases, cash advances & balance transfers in seconds.
- Get an alert if we find your Social Security number on any of thousands of Dark Web sites.* Activate for free.
- 0% intro APR on purchases for 6 months, then the standard variable purchase APR of 14.49% - 23.49%.
- See Rates & Fees
See additional details for Discover it® Student chrome
The $0 annual fee Discover it® Student chrome card offers a solid rewards rate for teens 18 or older who frequently dine out and who commute to and from school and work. Cardholders earn 2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants on up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter. 1% unlimited cash back on all other purchases - automatically. Additionally, for new cardmembers, Discover will match ALL the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically.
Cardholders will also receive a $20 statement credit each school year your GPA is 3.0 or higher for up to five years.
What to look out for: You are limited in the amount of bonus cash back you can earn on restaurant and gas station purchases. So even if you max out the $1,000 quarterly spend cap, you’ll only earn $20 back each quarter — for a total of $80 back at the end of the year. That said, that amount will boost to $160, since Discover will match ALL the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically.
Bank of America® Travel Rewards for Students
The Bank of America® Travel Rewards for Students provides a simple, straightforward approach to earning rewards. The $0 annual fee card lets cardholders earn unlimited 1.5 points for every $1 you spend on all purchases everywhere, every time and no expiration on points. Plus, cardholders earn 25,000 bonus points if you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of your account opening.
Points can be redeemed for a statement credit to pay for flights, hotels, vacation packages, rental cars, baggage fees and more — making it ideal for students who plan to travel home for the holidays or take a trip during summer break.
What to look out for: Because the Bank of America® Travel Rewards for Students offers a flat rewards rate, you’re not able to earn bonus points in popular spend categories, such as dining, gas or airfare.
The information related to the Bank of America® Travel Rewards for Students has been collected by CompareCards and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication. Terms apply.
If a secured credit card or student card is not the right fit for your teen, they can apply for a more traditional credit card, such as the Petal Visa® Credit Card.
Up to 1.5% cash back after making 12 on-time payments, 1% cash back on all purchases - right away
Build credit without having to put down a security deposit
No annual fee, no foreign transaction fees, and no late fees
- Up to 1.5% cash back after making 12 on-time monthly payments. 1% cash back on purchases right away
- No fees whatsoever. No late fee, international fee, annual fee, or any-other-kind-of-fee, fee
- Build credit alongside tens of thousands of Petal Card members
- Cash flow technology can help applicants without credit history get approved
- $500 - $10,000 credit limits
- Petal's mobile app makes it easy to manage your money, track your spending, and automate payments
- See if you're pre-approved within minutes without impacting your credit score
- Petal reports to all 3 major credit bureaus
- No deposits required
- Card issued by WebBank, Member FDIC
See additional details for Petal Visa® Credit Card
The Petal Visa® Credit Card, which doesn’t come with any fees, offers a credit limit of $500 to $10,000. Additionally, cardholders earn up to 1.5% cash back after making 12 on-time payments, 1% cash back on all purchases - right away .
You can also add your teen (especially those under 18 who can’t qualify for a card on their own) as an authorized user to one of the credit cards in your wallet. Along with building their credit, you will be able to earn rewards for the purchases they make. That said, your credit card company may charge additional fees for authorized users, and you will ultimately be responsible for any charges made by the user.
The best card to add your child to is one with a low or no balance that you’ve had a long time, as the history of that card will be reflected on your child’s credit report. If you tend to make late payments or max out your card, it’s better not to add an authorized user to that account.
As an alternative, your teen can sign up for a debit or prepaid card instead. While these cards will not help establish or build credit, they will provide funds for everyday purchases or emergencies without the liability of taking out a line of credit.
The bottom line
Opening a credit card account at an early age can be beneficial — but only if your teen uses the card responsibly. “Before anyone even applies for that first card, parents should sit down with their teens and help them understand what responsible card use looks like and what can happen if mistakes are made,” said Schulz.
This includes explaining the importance of paying your balance in full each month, or when that’s not possible, at least paying the minimum amount due. Additionally, parents should stress the seriousness of paying the credit card bill on time every month. According to Schulz, “A single late payment can knock 50 to 100 points off your credit score, and the damage can last for years. That mistake can then lead to you paying higher rates for car loans, credit cards and mortgages.”