Under 21? Getting a Credit Card is No Easy Task

You probably know that the Credit CARD Act of 2009 changed the rules for college students and others who are under the age of 21.

Prior to that law, credit card issuers were doing all in their power to lure in college students. They even set up tables on college campuses, offering free gifts to any and all who would make application. Back in the late 60’s they were even mailing pre-approved credit cards to students at their college dormitories.

As of February 22, 2010, card issuers are no longer allowed to target college students. In fact, they’re not allowed to issue credit cards to consumers under 21 unless they meet some strict guidelines.

The most obvious, and easiest route for many is to show proof of income. Those who have left school and who are working full time will be qualified based on their income and credit history, just like older consumers.

And, those college students who hold part time jobs during the school year and/or full-time jobs during the summer break will also qualify.

However, the amount they’ll qualify for will be limited by the amount of verifiable income. Thus, their credit cards may have limits as low as $200 or $300. That can be a problem for students who need to pay over time for high-priced items such as textbooks.

The second way students can carry a credit card is to be added as an additional user on a card owned by a parent, grandparent or sibling. The family member can set up the account and keep it for the student’s exclusive use. This, of course, means that the family member is solely responsible for payment, and if the college student gets behind it’s their family member’s credit that gets the damage.

Finally, a student can get a family member to co-sign for a card in their own name. Again, this is a risk for the family member, because he or she will be jointly responsible for payment. A late or missed payment will show on both credit reports.

If you’re a student and need to obtain a card with a co-signer, read the card issuers rules before making application. Extra inquiries bring your credit scores down, so make sure your application won’t be denied outright before you apply.

Some credit card issuers, such as American Express, Citi, and Capital One don’t want to be bothered with joint accounts, so will deny the application no matter how strong your co-signer may be.


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Disclaimer: This information has been compiled and provided by CreditScoreQuick.com as an informational service to the public. While our goal is to provide information that will help consumers to manage their credit and debt, this information should not be considered legal advice. Such advice must be specific to the various circumstances of each person's situation, and the general information provided on these pages should not be used as a substitute for the advice of competent legal counsel.