If you’re considering applying for your first credit card, it’s crucial to choose one that suits your needs and safeguards your financial well-being. In this guide, we’ll walk you through the process, highlighting reasons to get a credit card, the benefits of having one, the application process, and the qualifications you’ll need to meet to successfully apply.
If you’re in the market for your first credit card, congratulations! This is a significant step toward financial independence and building your credit profile. Here, we’ll explore how to apply for your first credit card, including solid reasons to get one, the benefits and rewards they offer, the qualifications needed, and the application process as a whole.
Reasons to get a credit card
Like many financial decisions, credit cards come with benefits and trade-offs. For example, credit cards can allow you to finance larger purchases than you could otherwise afford, but you need to repay your debt responsibly and may need to pay interest charges. Consider some of the following benefits of getting your first credit card:
Your credit history and score play a crucial role in your financial life. Lenders use these to assess your creditworthiness and determine borrowing terms. Credit cards help you build credit by reporting your activity to national credit bureaus. This positive history can lead to more favorable borrowing terms in the future, which will be very important if you want to finance a car, house, or other major purchase.
Credit cards, especially those issued by Visa and Mastercard, are widely accepted, offering convenience for everyday purchases. They also provide added security, making them a safer option than cash. Credit cards can also be particularly useful when traveling, as they help you reserve rental cars and hotel rooms and provide extra purchasing power.
Credit cards offer robust fraud protection. Legal safeguards, such as the zero fraud liability policy that most credit card issuers provide, protect you if unauthorized purchases occur. The federal Fair Credit Billing Act also limits your liability for unauthorized charges and other billing issues, providing further peace of mind.
Many credit cards offer rewards, such as cash back and airline miles. Choosing the right card and understanding its rewards program can help you make the most of your spending. Decide what’s important to you and apply for a credit card that reflects that, advises Taylor Price, social media influencer, financial activist, and founder of PricelessTay.com.
“Personal finance is personal. Look out for cards that suit your needs best. If you’re a student, look for cards that reward you for getting good grades. If you love to travel, look for cards that get great deals on points.”
Intro APR periods
Introductory APR offers provide lower interest rates for a specific period after opening an account. For example, you might get a 0% introductory rate on new purchases or balance transfers for up to 18 months. Just be sure to understand the details, including any restrictions and fees, to make an informed decision. And don’t forget that any outstanding balance you’re carrying after the introductory period is up will be subject to interest charges.
How to apply for a credit card for the first time
When you first start building your credit, look for cards designed for individuals with limited or no credit history. Secured credit cards and student credit cards are excellent options, as they help you establish credit by reporting your activity to credit bureaus.
“While there are credit cards designed specifically for students, there are other options out there for those looking to get their own first card. Secured credit cards and becoming an authorized user on someone else’s credit card are viable paths,” says Lakhbir Lamba, head of retail lending at PNC Bank. “These options can also be particularly beneficial for foreign students who may not have an established credit history in the U.S. Exploring these alternative paths can be a strategic move toward building credit for those starting their financial journey.”
Keep in mind that selecting your first credit card is a significant decision. Determine why you want a credit card and how you plan to use it. Research different card options and their pros and cons to make an informed choice.
Applying for a credit card online is simple and often results in instant approval or denial. While specific requirements may vary by issuer, in general, the information you’ll need to provide on your credit card application is straightforward:
- Full legal name
- Date of birth
- Social Security number or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number
- Mailing address and phone number
- Gross annual income
- Employment status
If denied, you’ll receive an explanation for the decision. Common reasons that first-time applicants might be denied include little to no credit history or insufficient income. If you are approved, the card will be sent to your address with directions on how to activate it. Once it’s activated, you can start using your card right away!
Qualifying for a credit card
To increase your chances of approval, clear any outstanding debts and address past-due accounts, if applicable. If you have limited (or zero) credit history, becoming an authorized user on someone else’s account can help. However, be cautious, as their negative activity can affect your credit score and vice versa.
If this path isn’t available to you, another option is to get a secured credit card. Secured cards are backed by a deposit you make to the card issuer as a form of collateral. The deposit ensures that the credit card company gets paid if you fail to make your monthly payments. Once you’ve demonstrated a history of on-time payments with your secured card, you should be able to qualify for more traditional unsecured credit card offers.
Should you get a credit card?
Your first credit card is a significant financial milestone and important for your future, as it offers numerous benefits when used responsibly. Whether you’re aiming to build credit or enjoy the perks of rewards, choosing the right card is vital. Research and consider your options carefully, as your first credit card will play a role in your financial journey for years to come.
“Before applying for their first credit card, applicants should ensure they’re ready to manage the card wisely. This means understanding the terms, such as interest rates and annual fees, and being strategic about not applying for too many cards at once,” says Lamba. “Most importantly, they should have a budgeting plan in place to ensure they can pay off balances on time to avoid accumulating debt. Doing this will help them build a strong credit history, building a strong foundation and setting the stage for a healthy long-term financial future.”
Some benefits and drawbacks to consider
- Build credit history
- Convenience and security
- Fraud protection
- Rewards and benefits
- Intro APR periods
- Potential for unmanageable debt if not used responsibly
- Interest charges on balances
- Can damage your credit if you miss or make late payments
What’s the best reason to get a credit card?
The primary reason to get a credit card is to build your credit history. Lenders use your credit score to assess your creditworthiness, and a positive credit history can lead to more favorable borrowing terms in the future.
How can I qualify for a credit card?
To qualify for a credit card, it’s essential to clear any outstanding debts and past-due accounts. If you have limited credit history, becoming an authorized user on someone else’s account can help you build a credit history. You may also want to consider applying for a secured credit card, as these are much easier to qualify for.
What is an intro APR period, and how does it work?
An introductory APR (annual percentage rate) is a lower-than-standard interest rate you can take advantage of for a set period when you open a credit card account. During this period, you’ll pay less interest on your balances. It’s important to understand the terms and any restrictions associated with intro APR offers before you apply for a credit card with this benefit.
- Getting your first credit card is an important step toward building credit and financial independence.
- Credit cards offer benefits such as convenience, security, and rewards, but they also require significant financial responsibility.
- You can usually apply for a credit card online and know right away if you’ve been approved or denied.
- The best options for first-time credit card users to build a credit history are applying for a secured credit card or being an authorized user on someone else’s credit card.