Ask the Readers: When Did You Get Your First Credit Card?

By Ashley Jacobs on 1 March 2011 121 comments
Photo: liz west

Editor's Note: Congratulations to Lance, @gadha, and Kandace Coupons for winning this week's contest!

I have a confession: I have yet to bite the bullet and get my first credit card. After hearing all the horror stories about people going into debt because of credit cards, the concept of getting a credit card just isn't that appealing to me. I probably should have gotten my first credit card in college, but I thought that might be an irresponsible decision since I didn't have a full time job and (consequently) wasn't bringing in enough money to feel comfortable owning a credit card.

When did you get your first credit card? Did you have a stable job at the time? Should you have gotten a credit card sooner or later? What is the best age for someone to get their first credit card?

Tell us when you got your first credit card and we'll enter you in a drawing to win a $20 Amazon Gift Card!

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Guest's picture

I got my first card at 18 right before I headed off the college. My parents wanted me to start building credit and make it more convenient for me to purchase things at school. They went to the bank with me to apply for the card and had the statements sent to them so they can "help me manage my spending." Sure enough, I didn't get too carried away with buying things because I'd get a long lecture :P

Guest's picture
Lady Lady

I think I was a junior in college. My credit limit was $500, I always paid off my balance in full (and still do) and my credit scores are all currently just under 800 and I have $0 of credit card debt. I don't think I had to have anyone cosign with me.

I think building credit is a good thing but many people only have a cursory knowledge of how credit cards work, what your credit score does for you and how much something bought with a credit card will cost you in the end if you don't pay for it upfront.

Guest's picture

I applied for one about a month after I turned 18, and was approved and received the card about a month later. I'm guessing it was a good one, cause it keeps coming up on this site and other ones about the best credit cards. I already used my debit card for everything, so it didn't really change how I spent my money. Have always paid on time (so far), never carried a balance, and have gotten about $300 in rewards in the past few months. Not bad.

Guest's picture

I got my first credit card the summer after my freshman year in college. It's been a downward spiral ever since.

Ashley Jacobs's picture

I think that's my biggest fear is getting a credit card and then having things go downhill. It happens to so many people, you are definitely not alone!

Guest's picture

I was 22 and had just graduated college. I wish that I had gotten my first credit card much earlier, preferably in high school, so I could have started building credit sooner. Now I make money off of credit cards by paying off my balances in full each month with cards that have no annual fees and cash back programs.

Guest's picture
Sarah D.

I got my first credit card when as a freshman in college. At the time I figured I had to have one to buy my books with!

Guest's picture

I got my first credit card when I went off to college. It had a very low limit and the agreement was that my mom would pay for it each month, as long as the expenses were reasonable. I ended up paying for quite a bit of it myself, but never had problems with a balance that was too high.

Guest's picture

I got my first credit card when I went away to college at 21. I had no idea how to use money/credit responsibly and wish that I would have put it off until I had a job. It is a shame that credit cards are so instrumental to building necessary credit to buy cars, homes, etc. later in life.

Guest's picture

I got my first credit card in college. I was afraid to use it at first...don't know why...I didn't use it much though because I was away at school and the bill went to my house. My grandmother opened my mail back then and I didn't want to hear any complaints besides....she was nice enough to pay the bill. I miss my grandmother!

Guest's picture

during college years- thanks to Sears--only one

Guest's picture

When I was 20, I got a Texico gas card. It never got me into trouble.

Guest's picture


Guest's picture

I got my first credit card around age 18, I did run it up a couple of times. But you get the hang of it. I don't regret any of it. I did build my credit very quickly and now at age 23 I have an excellent credit score which helped me purchase my own house and car in the past couple of years.

Guest's picture

I got my first credit card right after graduating college. I didn't have a full-time job yet, but still needed to build credit, so I got it for small purchases that I was already making (gas, groceries). It had a really low limit ($500), but I paid it off in full every time, and haven't changed that practice since. My parents taught me to live within my means and that they would never bail me out of stupid financial mistakes (i.e. in college...sorority dues over textbooks...really dumb.) It's been 6 years now and I have cards with much higher limits, but only use them to earn rewards. To this day I've still never carried a balance, always pay in full, and never charge unless I have the money to back it up. Rewards have earned us airline tickets for our honeymoon! (One less thing to pay for!!!)

My fiance on the other hand received a credit card freshman year of college from his parents to "build his credit" that they would pay off. He was told to put everything on the card from books to food to gas. Little did he know they NEVER paid on time. EVER. His entire 4 years of college. Once he graduated and discovered said atrocity he had the bills sent to him and his parents removed from the card. Still gets my blood boiling just thinking about it. Grrrr!

Guest's picture

My husband and I decided at the begining of our marriage not to have a credit card and to spend only the money we had. We had some hard financal times during the begining of our marriage and I am so glad we did not have a credit card at the time. It would have been too easy to get into serious debit.

I didn't get my first credit card until the age of 29, after the birth of my first child. We decided to get a low limit credit card for the purpose of making purchases online. We did not feel comfortable using our debit card for online purchases. Four years later, it is still our only credit card. Recently, I use it less often. I opened a bank account with a debit card that I only keep a small amount of money in. I use it online instead of the credit card. It is an account completely separate from our main accounts. This way, even if someone got a hold of the debit card number, they would only have access to limited funds.

Guest's picture

I got my first card when I was 18, my parents wanted me to build credit, and I only had a $200 limit. Ive rotated through quite a few cards since (Im 30 now). I actually wrote an article on my experience with certain cards out there right now, and which ones I recommend, and which ones I don't. Check it out.

Guest's picture

I got a "student" credit card at age 17 or 18. It had a $500.00 credit limit.
I quickly upgraded to another card but still keep my "student" card for keeping myself in check. I use it for household purchases and things like online shopping. You can't get that far in credit card debt if you only have $500.00 to spend!

Guest's picture

In college before going abroad for a semester. My dad suggested it and I was a bit stunned- Was I allowed to get a credit card? That was for adults! I still have that card (with an average interest%)

Guest's picture
Dawn Cashen

I got my first CC at 16 my mom put me on as a user for her Limited CC. Taught me how the process worked and got her out of having to come shopping with me every time. I of course had to pay the bill when it came but LOVED being able to buy my own clothes and have that 30 days to earn enough money to pay for them. (Yes I did have an after school and weekend job) I doubt she would have done this with a major CC but a store CC was a great option with a low limit to teach me.

Guest's picture

I got my first credit card in college. My parents thought it'd be good to build my credit. They were right lol Today, about 4 years later, MY CREDIT SCORE IS ABOUT 700!!! :)