How To Apply For A Credit Card For The First Time

Applying for a credit card for the first time as a young adult can be intimidating, but don't worry! With the right knowledge and preparation, you can easily get started on your financial journey.

How To Apply For A Credit Card For The First Time

Credit cards are a widely used form of payment in today’s society, providing a convenient and flexible way to make purchases and manage expenses. As a tool, credit cards allow you to make purchases without using cash or a check, providing both convenience and financial flexibility, as well as safety and security when making purchases. Applying for your first credit card as a young adult can be an exciting yet daunting experience. With so many options available, it’s hard to know where to begin. This guide will take you through the entire process, from start to finish, providing information on what needs to be considered when selecting a card that meets your requirements. By the end of this article, you will have all the necessary information required to make a well-informed decision about which credit card is best for you.

Credit Card Benefits

As a young adult, having a credit card has benefits that can provide more access to capital in the future. Take a look at the following:

Building Credit 

A credit card is a great way for young adults to build their credit. This can help them qualify for loans and mortgages, as well as access better interest rates when they need the money down the line. 

Earning Rewards

Most credit cards come with cash-back or rewards points that can be redeemed for goods and services. This is a great way to get discounts or free items just by using your card responsibly.

Protecting Purchases

Having a credit card also helps you protect purchases made with it. Most cards come with built-in protection that allows you to dispute charges if there’s ever an issue. This can help you avoid unnecessary costs if something goes wrong. 

Increasing Financial Literacy

When used responsibly, a credit card has the ability to help increase your financial literacy. You’ll learn how to manage your expenses and make sound financial decisions that can set you up for long-term success. 

Emergency Funds

A credit card can also act as an emergency fund in times of need. You can use it to cover unexpected expenses or as a temporary loan until you’re able to pay off the balance. 

Travel Benefits

Many credit card companies offer additional travel benefits such as free airline miles, discounts on hotels, and access to exclusive airport lounges when you use your card. This can be a great way to save on vacation costs and take advantage of special offers. 

Now that you’re aware of the benefits, here are the steps to follow in order to get your first credit card.

Step 1: Determine Your Eligibility

As a young adult, it’s important to understand your eligibility when applying for a credit card. Knowing the criteria that lenders look for can help you determine if you qualify and apply confidently. Consider the following:

Age Requirement

Most credit card companies require young adult applicants to be at least 18 years old in order to apply. 

Income Requirement

When applying for your first credit card, it’s important for young adults to demonstrate that they have a steady income from work, part-time work, or other sources of income such as Social Security payments. 

Credit Score Check 

Your credit score is an important factor in determining whether young adults qualify for a credit card and what kind of terms they may receive. If you were added to your parent or guardian’s credit card as an authorized user, then you may already have a credit score.  

Step 2: Research and Compare Credit Cards

When it comes to choosing a credit card, there are many things for young adults to consider. Researching and comparing different cards can help you find the one that best suits your needs and goals. 

Types of Credit Cards 

When researching credit cards, make sure that you’re aware of the different types that are available. For young adults, the most common types of credit cards include cash-back cards, rewards cards, and low-interest cards. Cash-back cards provide a certain percentage of cash back on purchases while rewards cards offer points or miles that can be redeemed for goods or services. Low-interest cards have lower interest rates than other types of credit cards. Familiarize yourself with the features each type of card offers in order to find one that suits your needs.

How to Choose the Best Credit Card 

In order to choose your ideal credit card, consider your spending habits and what kind of rewards you wish to receive. It’s also important to compare different cards in terms of fees, rates, and other features.

Understanding Credit Card Terms and Conditions

Make sure to read the terms and conditions of any credit card that you’re considering. This will provide important information such as annual fees, grace periods, interest rates, and other details that may affect your decision.

Step 3: Gather Required Information and Documents

Before applying for a credit card, young adults should gather all of the necessary information and documents. This includes personal information such as your name, address, and date of birth, as well as financial information like bank statements and proof of income.

Personal Information

When applying for a credit card, young adults you’ll need to provide an accepted form of identification. This can include personal information such as your name, address, date of birth, and Social Security number, as well as a driver’s license or passport to verify identity. This information helps verify identity and can be found on government-issued identification documents. 

Financial Information 

Applicants should also have financial information such as bank statements and proof of income handy. This helps the credit card issuer assess an applicant’s ability to pay back debt. 

Employment Information 

When applying for a credit card for the first time, you’ll need to provide any employment information you may have, such as your current job title (part-time or otherwise), employer name, and contact information. This helps to verify that you can make regular payments on the credit card.  

Step 4: Submitting Your Application

Once you’ve gathered all of the required information and documents, you can submit your credit card application. This process is typically done online or over the phone.

Applying Online or In-Person 

When applying for a credit card, young adults can choose to apply online or in person at a local bank branch. Applying online is typically faster and more convenient. 

What to Expect During the Application Process

Young adults should expect to provide personal information, financial documents, and employment information when applying for a credit card. The application process typically takes several minutes to complete. 

Tips for Increasing Your Chances of Approval 

To increase your chances of getting approved for a credit card, ensure your credit score is up-to-date, provide accurate financial documents, and pay bills on time. This demonstrates to the credit card issuer that you can manage your finances responsibly. 

Understanding Credit Card Fees and Charges

Before signing up for a credit card, one needs to understand the fees and charges associated with the card. This helps them make informed decisions about their financial future.

Annual Fees

Some credit cards charge an annual fee to cover the cost of account maintenance. This fee is charged each year and is usually a percentage of the card’s limit or a flat rate. 

Interest Rates

Credit cards often come with variable interest rates that are applied when the balance isn’t paid in full each month. The interest rate can range from 10–25% depending on the card and the applicant’s credit score. 

Late Payment Fees

Credit cards usually charge a late payment fee when payments are made after the due date. This fee is typically a percentage of the minimum balance or a set dollar amount. 

Foreign Transaction Fees

Credit cards may also charge a foreign transaction fee when purchases are made in another currency. This fee is usually a percentage of the purchase amount and varies by card. 

Step 5: Activating Your Credit Card 

Once your application has been approved and you’ve received your credit card in the mail, the final step is to activate it and make your first purchase.

How to Activate Your Credit Card

To start using your credit card, call the phone number on the card’s sticker or log in to your banking online account and follow the instructions. You’ll need to provide personal information and answer security questions to verify your identity. This process typically takes only a few minutes and activates your account for use, so you’re ready to go ahead and make your first purchase. 

Tips for Responsible Credit Card Use 

When using your credit card, be mindful of the following to make sure that you’re getting the most out of this financial tool. Here are some aspects to keep in mind so that your card always works in your favor.

Track Your Spending 

To make use of a credit card responsibly, it’s essential that you monitor your spending habits. This includes keeping track of where you’re spending money and how much is being charged to your card each month. Also, be mindful of any fees associated with the credit card, such as annual fees or late payment fees. 

Pay Your Bills on Time 

Making timely payments is essential for using a credit card responsibly. Missed payments can result in late fees and interest rate increases, so it’s important to make sure bills are paid on time each month. Setting up automatic payments is an easy way to stay on top of bills, but young adults should also double-check their credit card statements each month to make sure all payments are being made. 

Keep Balances Low 

Maintaining a low balance is a key part of using a credit card responsibly. This means not only avoiding large purchases but also paying down any existing balances. Paying off the full balance each month is the best way to avoid interest charges and fees. 

Monitor Your Credit Score 

Make sure to monitor your credit scores regularly. This can be done by signing up for free credit monitoring services or taking advantage of the free annual credit score reports available from each of the three major bureaus. Understanding your credit score is a key way to gauge how responsibly you are using your credit card. 


Here are some frequently asked questions. 

Can foreigners open a credit card in the US? 

Yes, foreigners can open a credit card in the US. However, they will need to provide proof of their identity and address as well as evidence that they have a steady income. 

Which credit cards can I get easily? 

There are a number of banks that offer credit cards specifically tailored to those who are new to credit. These cards typically have lower interest rates and do not require a minimum credit score, making them one of the easiest options for first-time cardholders to secure a credit card. 

How much money can you get on a credit card for the first time? 

The amount of money you can get on a credit card for the first time will depend on your credit score, income, and other factors. However, it is typically recommended to start with a lower limit of around $500–$1000 and build up from there as you establish a good track record of responsible spending. 

Final Thoughts

Understanding how to apply for a credit card for the first time is an important step towards financial independence. By following these steps and considering the tips for responsible use, you’ll be well-equipped for a successful first experience with a credit card. Build good credit habits, and avoid common debt traps in order to make the most of your credit experience. Remember to research different types of cards and read all the terms and conditions to find the best fit for your needs and budget. With careful planning and responsible use, a credit card can be a valuable financial tool.