Parents with good credit know it can take years for kids to build up their credit score and credit history. Why not lend your teens a helping hand by adding them as authorized users on a new credit card?
Since you must be at least 18 years old to apply for a credit card on your own, as well as be able to show proof of income to qualify, younger teens can get started on the path to good credit by being added as an authorized user on a parent’s (or other family member’s) credit card.
Being an authorized user on someone else’s card is one of the quickest ways to establish a credit history and credit score, which makes it easier and less expensive to get approved for financing opportunities down the road, such as qualifying for an apartment lease, car loan or mortgage. While minors generally won’t have a credit score until they turn 18, they can begin to build up their credit reports with authorized user status once the issuer begins reporting the account information to the credit bureaus.
If you’re looking to apply for your own card as an 18-year-old or older, visit our pages for the best first cards to build credit and the best student credit cards.
We analyzed a broad spectrum of credit cards that offer authorized user cards for teens from a variety of issuers to curate a list of the very best.
Best credit cards for teens of October 2023
Best credit card for teens
Earn 5% cash back in categories that rotate quarterly on up to $1,500 when enrolled, 5% on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3% on dining and drugstores and 1% on all other purchases.
Best for cash-back rewards investing
Greenlight Family Cash Card
Earn 3% cash back after spending at least $4,000 in a billing cycle; earn 2% cash back after spending at least $1,000 but less than $4,000 in a billing cycle; earn 1% cash back for spending less than $1,000 in a billing cycle.
Best for U.S. supermarket and select streaming service spending
Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express
Earn 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets, on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1%); Earn 6% cash back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions; Earn 3% cash back on transit (e.g., taxis/rideshare, parking, tolls, trains, buses and more) and at U.S. gas stations; Earn 1% cash back on other eligible purchases. Cash Back is received in the form of Reward Dollars that can be redeemed as a statement credit.
Best for simple flat-rate cash back
Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card
Earn unlimited 2% cash rewards on purchases.
Best for Walmart shoppers
Capital One Walmart Rewards® Card
Earn 5% back on Walmart.com & in the Walmart app, including Grocery Pickup and Delivery; Earn 2% back on restaurants and travel, and at Walmart Stores, Walmart & Murphy USA Fuel Stations; Earn 1% back everywhere else Mastercard® is accepted
Best credit cards for teens of October 2023
Why this card made the list
The Chase Freedom Flex card is a popular cash-back card for families, offering a generous 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in categories that rotate quarterly (requires activation), 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3% cash back on dining and drugstores and 1% cash back on all other purchases. According to Chase, there is no minimum age for adding a child as an authorized user for this card. However, Chase does not report the credit history of authorized users who are minors to the credit bureaus. Nevertheless, once your child turns 18, the card account should begin to show up on their credit reports, which will then feed into building their credit scores.
- Annual fee: $0.
- Rewards: 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in categories that rotate quarterly (requires activation), 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3% cash back on dining and drugstores and 1% cash back on all other purchases.
- Welcome bonus: $200 bonus after spending $500 on purchases in the first three months of account opening.
- APR: 0% intro APR for the first 15 months on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 20.49% to 29.24%. There is an intro balance transfer fee of either $5 or 3% of each transfer, whichever is greater, in the first 60 days. Then the fee is the greater of $5 or 5% of each transfer.
- Foreign transaction fees: 3% of each transaction in U.S. dollars.
Best for cash-back rewards investing: Greenlight Family Cash Card
Why this card made the list
Greenlight¹ will report your child’s authorized user status to the big three credit bureaus and there are no minimum age requirements. The Greenlight Family Cash Card also offers several tiers of cash back, and is geared toward family spending. Cardholders can automatically invest any rewards earned which can help contribute to a teen’s college fund or other financial goals, or for statement credits or as deposits into an eligible parent account, which can then be deposited into a child’s account.
The card also comes with a robust financial literacy app, financial tools and parental controls to help educate teens and manage the account.
While the card does not have an annual fee, it does require a monthly Greenlight subscription. There are three tiers, and the monthly fee ranges from $4.99 to $14.98, which come with varying levels of savings/investment opportunities and protections.
- Annual fee: $0, but a monthly Greenlight plan is required ($4.99 to $14.98 a month).
- Rewards: 3% cash back after spending at least $4,000 in a billing cycle, 2% cash back after spending at least $1,000 but less than $4,000 in a billing cycle and 1% cash back for spending less than $1,000 in a billing cycle*.
- Welcome bonus: None.
- APR: 20.24% to 28.24% variable APR on purchases**.
- Foreign transaction fees: None.
Best for U.S. supermarket and select streaming service spending: Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express
Why this card made the list
If food and streaming services make up a large part of your family budget, the Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express (terms apply, rates & fees) offers one of the highest cash-back rates for those expenditures.
American Express requires authorized users to be at least 13 years old and reports account information to all three of the major credit bureaus once your child reaches 18 (unless the account is delinquent).
- Annual fee: $0 intro annual fee for the first year, then $95.
- Rewards: 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1%), 6% cash back on select U.S. streaming subscriptions, 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations, 3% cash back on transit and 1% cash back on other purchases. Cash back is received in the form of Reward Dollars that can be redeemed as a statement credit.
- Welcome bonus: $250 statement credit after spending $3,000 in purchases in the first six months of card membership.
- APR: 0% intro APR for 12 months on purchases and balance transfers requested in the first 60 days, then a variable APR of 19.24% to 29.99%. A balance transfer fee of $5 or 3%, whichever is greater, applies.
- Foreign transaction fees: 2.7% of each transaction after conversion to US dollars.
Best for simple flat-rate cash back: Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card
Why this card made the list
If you prefer a more simple approach to earning cash back, the no-annual-fee Wells Fargo Active Cash Card offers an unlimited 2% cash rewards on purchases. The cash back can be redeemed as a statement credit, gift card, as a direct deposit in a qualifying Wells Fargo account or through PayPal.
Wells Fargo has no minimum age requirements for adding an authorized user to your card account, and will begin reporting card account activity to the credit bureaus once your teen turns 18.
- Annual fee: $0.
- Rewards: 2% cash rewards on purchases.
- Welcome bonus: $200 cash rewards bonus after spending $500 in purchases in the first three months of account opening.
- APR: 0% intro APR for the first 15 months on purchases and qualifying balance transfers, then a 20.24%, 25.24%, or 29.99% variable APR applies. Balance transfers made within 120 days qualify for the intro rate and fee of 3%. After that a fee of up to 5%, with a minimum of $5 applies.
- Foreign transaction fees: 3%.
Why this card made the list
If Walmart and Walmart.com is your go-to retailer of choice, the Capital One Walmart Rewards Card could be the best fit for your family’s budget.
Cardholders can earn 5% cash back on Walmart.com & in the Walmart app, 2% cash back on restaurants and travel, and at Walmart Stores, Walmart & Murphy USA fuel stations and 1% cash back everywhere else. Rewards can be redeemed for cash, as a statement credit, to cover a recent purchase, gift cards or even redeemed for travel.
Capital One also has no minimum age requirements for adding an authorized user, although it most likely won’t report account activity to the credit bureaus until the teen turns 18.
- Annual fee: $0.
- Rewards: 5% cash back on Walmart.com & in the Walmart app, 2% cash back on restaurants and travel, and at Walmart Stores, Walmart & Murphy USA fuel stations and 1% cash back everywhere else.
- Welcome bonus: 5% cash back at Walmart stores for the first 12 months when using the card with Walmart Pay.
- APR: 18.99% or 29.99% variable APR on purchases and balance transfers.
- Foreign transaction fees: $0.
Should you get your teen a credit card?
Adding a teen as an authorized user to a credit card is not only an educational opportunity to teach financial responsibility, it can also give a headstart on building up a credit profile and credit score once (or before) they turn 18.
Deciding which type of card to add them to will depend on how and where your family will use the card the most.
There are some important guidelines to consider when adding a teen authorized user to your credit card:
- The primary cardholder is ultimately responsible for any charges made by any authorized users. That’s why it’s critical to establish clear guidelines on how and when a teen is allowed to use the card, as well as any repayment agreements.
- If you don’t yet trust your teen with a credit card, you can still add them as an authorized user but not actually give them the card until you’re comfortable with their level of maturity.
- You can easily revoke the authorized card or authorized user by calling the card issuer.
- Most card issuers won’t start reporting the authorized user account to the credit bureaus until your child turns 18.
- An authorized user cannot make changes to the primary account, such as asking for a credit limit increase or changing any other account terms.
- Charges from an authorized user will appear on the primary account holder’s bill. An authorized user does not get an individual billing statement.
- To ensure only positive information gets reported to the credit bureaus on the account, keep the card balance low and always pay at least the minimum payment on time, every time.
Guide to teen credit cards
What makes a credit card good for teens?
The best credit card for teens is an authorized user card where the primary account holder, such as a parent or other family member, can monitor a teen’s spending and help establish healthy borrowing and repayment habits.
Some credit cards allow the primary account holder to set spending limits on authorized user cards, which can help offset any surprises.
It’s also very important that the primary account holder has a positive credit history on the card they are adding a teen authorized user to as once the teen turns 18, the account information should begin to be reported to the credit bureaus.
Types of cards for teens to start building credit
There are all kinds of credit cards, so choosing which one to add your teen to as an authorized user will depend on how a particular card aligns with your family spending or what type of rewards will benefit the primary cardholder the most.
For example, if your family wants to earn points for a future vacation, getting an airline or hotel rewards card could be helpful, especially with numerous household members using the cards for purchases that qualify for the rewards.
Once your teen hits 18 and can show proof of income, they can apply for their own card, such as a student credit card, a retail card or a secured card. These beginner credit cards are typically geared toward young adults and initially come with low credit limits.
Pros and cons of teen credit cards
- Learn credit management skills, such as how interest works, how to avoid overspending on a credit card and how responsible repayment behaviors will help build credit scores.
- The ability to use credit for purchases when cash is not accepted, such as for online purchases or retailers who don’t accept cash.
- Having access to funds in an emergency, especially when traveling on their own.
- Card card issuers typically won’t report card account activity to the credit bureaus on a minor’s authorized user card until they turn 18, but some will.
- Without proper oversight, a teen can overspend quickly on a credit card, leaving the primary account holder responsible for payment if the teen doesn’t have the funds to cover those purchases.
- A teen can also quickly max out your credit limit by overspending on an authorized card, which can damage the primary account holder’s credit.
Alternatives to teen credit cards
If you’re not comfortable providing an authorized user card to your teen yet, there are some alternatives to educate them on how to manage money and learn financial responsibility, such as:
- Debit cards. Many banks allow a parent to open a joint checking or savings account with their children that comes with free debit cards that the parents can monitor. For example, Chase and Capital One offer fee-free teen bank accounts where the parent can link to their own checking or savings account. The accounts come equipped with an app to help teens reach financial goals as well as parental controls.
- Prepaid cards. Prepaid cards are great first-time cards for teens as they can only spend up to the amount of money that is loaded onto the card. Most prepaid card issuers require an adult over the age of 18 to purchase a prepaid card and then request a secondary card for a teen. However, many prepaid cards can be laden with various fees.
- Allowance management apps. There are numerous apps and online platforms designed to help teenagers manage their allowances and track spending, as well as offering features like goal-setting and budgeting. Some examples include FamZoo or gohenry.
- Virtual wallets. Some banks offer virtual wallets or accounts specifically tailored for teenagers. These accounts may come with features to help teens manage their finances online. For example, you can add teens under 18 under your personal Apple Wallet account, allowing you to deposit money to their account, select who they can send money to as well as set up transaction notifications.
Each of these alternatives has its unique advantages. Deciding which is best for your teen depends on the teenager’s maturity level, financial goals and the level of oversight and control desired by parents or guardians.
How to choose the best credit card for your teen
Choosing the best credit card to add your teen on as an authorized user involves careful consideration of their financial needs, spending needs and level of responsibility.
Before considering adding a teen to your card account, it’s important to figure out whether you feel they are financially responsible enough to handle having their own card. For example, are they capable of managing money or understand the consequences of overspending? If not, it may be best to delay getting them their own credit card.
If you think your teen is ready for their own authorized user card (with you as the primary account holder), you may want to look at credit cards that offer parental controls and spending alerts as well as credit education resources to help your teen learn about credit management, budgeting and responsible spending.
Our credit cards team has spent hours analyzing hundreds of credit cards. We took a deep dive into the details of each product and that analysis, combined with our years of experience covering credit cards, informed us as we developed these credit card rankings. Factors we considered included:
- Ability to add an authorized user.
- Age restrictions for any authorized user.
- Rewards rates for the primary cardholder and how those rewards can be redeemed.
- Any annual fees for the card or authorized user.
- Any other benefits that can guide the teen user as they begin their credit-building journey.
- How and when the card reports to the three main credit bureaus.
Frequently asked questions (FAQs)
Just as with regular credit cards, you have to be at least 18 years old to get a secured card on your own.
Most, if not all, of the major credit card issuers don’t allow cosigners on credit card accounts anymore. Since teens cannot legally be approved for their own credit card until they hit 18, their only option to get a credit card in their name is to be added as an authorized user.
No you cannot get your own credit card at the age of 16. You cannot apply for your own credit card until you are 18 and show that you have some sort of income to prove that you have a source of funds from which to repay what you borrow on the card.
Once you turn 18 and have a steady source of income, the best type of credit card to help teens build credit is often a student credit card or a secured card. You’ll typically start with a low credit limit as you learn to manage proper borrowing and repayment behavior.
For rates and fees for the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express please visit this page.
The Greenlight Family Cash Card is issued by First National Bank of Omaha (FNBO®) pursuant to license by Mastercard International.
¹Greenlight is a financial technology company, not a bank. The Greenlight app facilitates banking services through Community Federal Savings Bank (CFSB), Member FDIC.
*Earn 3% when you spend at least $4,000 in a billing cycle, 2% when you spend at least $1,000 but less than $4,000 in a billing cycle and 1% when you spend < $1,000 in a billing cycle. See the Credit Card Rewards Terms and Conditions for details, including earning, redemption, expiration or forfeiture.
**Standard purchase APR: 20.24% variable to 28.24% variable, based on your creditworthiness. Variable APRs will vary with the market based on the Prime Rate. No annual fee with Greenlight membership. $1.75 minimum interest charge. Rates as of July 1, 2023. Subject to credit approval. Additional limitations, terms and conditions apply. You will be given further information when you apply.
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