Credit Q&A: When Can I Start Building Credit?

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Q: At what age can I start building credit?

A: You start building credit as soon as trade lines (accounts) start to appear on your credit report and, according to Nichole Mustard, vice president of strategy for CreditKarma.com, that generally happens once a person becomes a primary account holder for a line of credit, be it a credit card, auto loan, etc., regardless of his or her age.

Having said that, most people don’t start building credit until they are at least 18. The Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility, and Disclosure Act prohibits companies from issuing credit to anyone under 21 unless the applicant has a stable source of income or a co-signer. Most issuers require an applicant to be 18 years old before he or she can become the primary holder on an account.

Policies vary slightly with regards to how credit can be obtained, but spokespersons for Chase, Bank of America and Wells Fargo all confirmed that 18 is their minimum age requirement for those looking to get their own credit card.

Many issuers allow minors to become authorized users on an existing account under someone else’s name (usually a parent or guardian), but that won’t put them on the road to a great credit score

“An authorized user does not build a credit history because the primary cardholder would be the person responsible for the account,” Steve O'Halloran, a spokesperson for Chase Card Services tells MainStreet. “The primary cardholder might be using this as an opportunity to teach the authorized user about how to use credit responsibly.”

Find information on how to start building credit once you meet the age requirement in MainStreet’s look at credit cards for new college graduates

Want to know what can and can't affect your credit score? Email your questions to editors@mainstreet.com.

—For the best rates on loans, bank accounts and credit cards, enter your ZIP code at BankingMyWay.com.

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