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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

Discover it® Secured
  • Rewards

    2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants (up to $1,000 in combined purchases each quarter, then 1%); unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases

  • Welcome bonus

    At the end of your first year, Discover automatically matches all the cash back you earned

  • Annual fee

    See terms

  • Intro APR

    See terms

  • Regular APR

    See terms

  • Balance transfer fee

    See terms

  • Foreign transaction fee

    See terms

  • Credit needed

    No credit history

*See rates and fees, terms apply.

Information about the Discover it® Secured has been collected independently by CNBC and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of the card prior to publication.

Best credit card for students

Discover it® Student Cash Back

Discover it® Student Cash Back
Information about the Discover it® Student Cash Back has been collected independently by CNBC and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of the card prior to publication.
  • Rewards

    5% cash back in different categories (gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, Amazon and more) each quarter, up to the quarterly maximum each time you activate. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases

  • Welcome bonus

    Discover automatically matches all the cash back you earned at the end of your first year

  • Annual fee

    See terms

  • Intro APR

    See terms

  • Regular APR

    See terms

  • Balance transfer fee

    See terms

  • Foreign transaction fee

    See terms

  • Credit needed

    No credit history

*See rates and fees, terms apply.

Best cash-back credit card

Citi® Double Cash Card

Citi® Double Cash Card
On Citi's secure site
  • Rewards

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

  • Welcome bonus

    No current offer

  • Annual fee

    $0

  • Intro APR

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

  • Regular APR

    13.99% - 23.99% variable on purchases and balance transfers

  • Balance transfer fee

    Either $5 or 3% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater

  • Foreign transaction fee

    3%

  • Credit needed

    Excellent/Good

Terms apply.

Information about the Discover cards has been collected independently by CNBC and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of the card prior to publication.

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