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How old do you have to be to get a credit card?

Opening a credit card is a great way to build credit and set yourself up for future success, but you need to meet age requirements to qualify.

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Building credit as soon as possible is often hailed as a pivotal step in establishing a strong financial standing. There are different ways to go about building credit, and opening a credit card is one of the most popular.

But if you're looking to open a credit card, you'll want to understand the age requirements and any other qualifications you need to meet.

Below, CNBC Select reviews the requirements for getting a credit card and some of our favorite picks for new cards.

How old do you have to be to get a credit card

The minimum age to open a credit card as the primary account holder is 18. But due to regulations from the Credit CARD Act of 2009, applicants 18 to 20 might encounter stricter verification requirements, including showing proof that they can independently repay what they borrow. Having income — such as a salary, regular paychecks, commission checks, or income from investments — protects young consumers from taking on more debt than they can handle.

Once you turn 21, you won't be bound by these rules, though card issuers still review your income and it remains important to answer all application questions honestly.

Here's how Discover identifies what it counts as "total gross income," according to the description on the Discover it® chrome application:

"Income means wages, salary or tips, you currently earn or can reasonably expect to earn. Other examples include bonus pay, commissions, and income from rental property, interest, dividends and retirement benefits paid.

You do not have to include alimony, child support or separate maintenance income unless you want it considered as a basis for repayment.

If you are 21 or older, you may include another person's income that is available to you. If you are under 21, you may consider the amount of another person's income that is regularly deposited into your account."

If you meet the requirements for opening a credit card as the primary account holder, check out some of CNBC Select's best credit cards for beginners, students and cash back.

Best credit card for beginners

Discover it® Secured Credit Card

On Discover's secure site
  • Rewards

    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.

  • Welcome bonus

    Discover will match all the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year

  • Annual fee

    $0

  • Intro APR

    N/A on purchases

  • Regular APR

    26.74% Variable

  • Balance transfer fee

    3% intro balance transfer fee, up to 5% fee on future balance transfers (see terms)*

  • Foreign transaction fee

    None

  • Credit needed

    New / Rebuilding

*See rates and fees, terms apply.

Best credit card for students

Discover it® Student Cash Back

On Discover's secure site
  • Rewards

    Earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places each quarter like Amazon.com, grocery stores, restaurants, and gas stations, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - automatically.

  • Welcome bonus

    Discover will match all the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year

  • Annual fee

    $0

  • Intro APR

    0% for 6 months on purchases

  • Regular APR

    16.74% - 25.74% Variable

  • Balance transfer fee

    3% intro balance transfer fee, up to 5% fee on future balance transfers (see terms)*

  • Foreign transaction fee

    None

  • Credit needed

    Fair / New to Credit

*See rates and fees, terms apply.

Best cash-back credit card

Citi® Double Cash Card

On Citi's secure site
  • Rewards

    2% cash back: 1% on all eligible purchases and an additional 1% after you pay your credit card bill

  • Welcome bonus

    None

  • Annual fee

    $0

  • Intro APR

    0% for the first 18 months on balance transfers; N/A for purchases

  • Regular APR

    17.74% - 27.74% variable

  • Balance transfer fee

    For balance transfers completed within 4 months of account opening, an intro balance transfer fee of 3% of each transfer ($5 minimum) applies; after that, a balance transfer fee of 5% of each transfer ($5 minimum) applies

  • Foreign transaction fee

    3%

  • Credit needed

    Good/Excellent

Terms apply.

For rates and fees of the Discover it® chrome, click here.

For rates and fees of the Discover it® Secured Credit Card, click here.

For rates and fees of the Discover it® Student Cash Back, click here.

Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the Select editorial staff’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any third party.
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