Best credit cards for teens

As a teenager, you may wonder if you’re too young to get a credit card. Once you’ve reached adult status, you’re free to apply for your own account, and there are plenty of good card options. The idea is finding the right one for you and using it wisely.

When reviewing different offers, there are some things to keep in mind. You’ll want the cost of the account to be low, which means minimal (if any) fees. The issuer should submit information about the account to each of the three major credit reporting agencies so you can build a credit history. Since many credit cards come with valuable rewards programs, it’s also smart to look for an account that enables you to earn as you spend. Here are three great credit cards for teens that check those boxes and offer some extra benefits. 

Chase Freedom®: Perfect for young teenagers

If you aren’t 18 yet but want to start using credit, you can jump on someone else’s account as an authorized user. The Chase Freedom® card is excellent for this purpose. As long as the adult is willing to add you as a guest, you will receive a credit card imprinted with your name. You can use the card to buy things, but because you’re not an account owner you won’t be responsible for any incurred debt (though you might have to repay the owner of the card). Factors that make this card compelling: 

  • No minimum age. Some credit card issuers impose a minimum age for authorized users, but Chase isn’t one of them. If the card owner trusts you enough to handle the card, you can start using it before you’re officially an adult. 
  • Early credit establishment. When your personal information, (such as your Social Security number and mailing address) is associated with the card, Chase will report it to the credit reporting agencies. As long as the payments are made on time and the balance is low compared to the credit limit, your positive credit history will be jumpstarted. That lengthy history will work in your favor when you apply for your own cards. 
  • Major cash back. As a cardholder, you will earn 5 percent cash back on $1,500 in combined purchases when you spend in bonus categories, then 1 percent on anything else you buy. If the account owner lets you keep your portion of the proceeds, you can turn a good profit.   

Discover it® Secured card: Perfect for easy qualification 

You can apply for this secured credit card when you’re 18-years old. The cash deposit guarantees the credit line and offsets the risk of lending to a new borrower. If you run up a balance, the issuer can take the money held as security. The deposit can be as small as $200, and if you manage the account responsibly, it will always be your pool of savings. Among its other excellent qualities: 

  • Matched cash back. Not only will you earn 2 percent cash back at gas stations and restaurants (up to $1,000 in each quarter), and 1 percent back on everything else, Discover will match what you earned in the first year. 
  • Becomes unsecured. Your card activity will be automatically reviewed after the account is open for eight months. If you made all payments on time, the deposit may be returned to you, making the account unsecured.
  • Identity theft surveillance. If you’re nervous about your ID being exposed, this card is attractive because it comes with a dark web monitoring service.  Discover will alert you if it finds your Social Security number up for sale. It also monitors Experian credit reports and will notify you when any new credit accounts are listed.

Journey® Student Rewards from Capital One®: Perfect for college students

The Journey Student Rewards card from Capital One is an ideal credit card to consider when you’ve reached adulthood. It’s unsecured, so an independent income source will be especially important to qualify.  Your job and earnings will reassure the issuer that you can handle the credit line without an established credit history or a cash deposit. It has other fine attributes as well: 

  • Tech assistance. This card comes with “Get Eno®,” Capital One’s electronic assistant. With it, you’ll receive a text after making a charge, which will not only help you track spending but will warn you if an unauthorized person has used your card.
  • Flexible due date. If you don’t want to be beholden to a credit card company’s due date and would prefer to choose your own, you can with this card. It provides an additional layer of control over your account. 
  • Higher limit for paying on time. Because this is a starter unsecured card, the charging limit will begin very low. Send your first five payments on time, though, and Capital One will increase your limit. 

At a glance comparison

APRAnnual FeeRewards RatesSign up BonusUnique features
Chase Freedom0% for first 15 months 16.74% – 25.49% variableNo5% cash back on $1,500 in purchases in bonus categories each quarter 1% cash back on all other purchasesNoAuthorized users can be teens or younger Extended warranty protection extends U.S. manufacturer’s warranty for between 1 to 3 years Purchase protection covers new purchases for 120 days against damage or theft up to $500 per claim and $50,000 per account.
Discover it Secured card24.49% variableNo2% cash back at gas stations and restaurants up to $1,000 every quarter.  1% cash back on all other purchasesMatch all earned cash back at the end of first year.Account is reviewed at 8 months for transition to unsecured credit line, and deposit return Alert if Social Security number appears on “dark web” and when new accounts show up on Experian credit report  Free FICO® Credit score on monthly statements
Journey Student Rewards from Capital One26.99% variableNo1% cash back on all purchasesNoAutomatic security alerts  Flexible due date Increased limits after 5 on-time payments Insurance on vehicles rented with the credit card covers damage due to collision or theft.

As you can see, each of the recommended cards has strengths, but the one you choose needs to fit your needs and circumstances. Perks are only beneficial when you use them. Because two of these cards are for teenagers applying in their own names and who have not proven themselves to be low-risk borrowers, the interest rates are on the high side. If you get one of these, it’s especially important to pay your bills in full so you can avoid expensive financing costs.

Whether you become an authorized user on an adult’s credit card or apply for a card independently, be sure to treat the account carefully. Monitor your spending so you don’t overcharge and get into costly debt that’s tough to pay down. Review your statements often, and if you notice something wrong, address it with the issuer immediately. 

With the right card, you will create a positive credit history while enjoying the benefits of being a cardholder. 

Erica Sandberg

San Francisco-based consumer finance journalist whose work appears in a wide variety of top-tier outlets.

Erica’s the resident money and credit authority for KRON-4 News and author of “Expecting Money: The Essential Financial Plan for New and Growing Families.” Erica is an amateur hockey player and ballet dancer and has the broken bones to prove it.