How to get your first credit card

How do you get your first credit card?

Or, if you don’t know, how did you get your first credit card. I got mine as a freshmen in college. I think I signed up for it only to get a free gift. I had very little income and was surprised they gave me the card, although the limit was low–like $500. When I got my first real job, I got another card from Costco. Now that I am the proud owner of a huge mortgage, my mail is choked with credit card offers.

How do you get your first credit card? I want to advise my son, but realize I have no idea. It just seemed to happen for me. Prior to being in college, I had applied for cards, but was routinely turned down.

I was actually wondering a day or two ago how to actually go about getting one; I saw a woman open her purse and she had somewhere in the region of 500, and I thought that it must be a fair bit of hassle to get them all. Being a minor I can’t actually find out for myself so shrug

Assuming you have NO credit history (like I did when I arrived), but you do have a job, then you go and join a credit union, and ask them for a credit card. They give you a low limit one ($250 or $500). Use it every month, pay it off fully every month. Credit limit will eventually increase. Regular banks (BoA, WF etc) will usually only give you a secured credit card.

The bank sent me a leaflet offering me one and I replied. I had a job and my salary was paid into my account at that bank, that seemed enough in those days, the 1970s.

In my part of the world a credit card is par for the course with any bank account and only minors, people with horrifc credit history or those that specifically ask for it, get a debit card.

Other cards you apply for or get offered. My Visa is linked to my account and the Mastercard is mostly a backup card for travelling abroad.

In the UK most people have debit cards as well, as CC companies charge interest from day 1 on cash advances. Some ATMs do charge for use, but most don’t. The cost of using the debit card abroad is normally a lot cheaper than the commision charged on converting currency or travellers’ cheques.

I applied online just to see if I could get one… and it turns out I could. Not bad for a dude on welfare and a pretty spotty credit history. Got a $500 store card the same way.

I got my first credit during university (in the 80’s). I had a co-op job placement at a bank. So I applied for a credit card. Surprise! I was turned down. What? I don’t make enough money or something? Give me a raise!

When I returned to campus after the job placement, I applied for a credit card from the on-campus branch of a different bank. They were used yo us co-op students. All I had to do was make sure I identified myself as co-op student with an assured job placement. In short order, I found myself in the possession of a low-limit card.

That strategy has worked well for the bank in my case as I still hold a credit card issued by that bank to this day. But with a much higher limit.

I also got mine in the early or mid 80’s … my folks thought it was a good idea for me to have a few hundred $ buffer.

Don’t most banks offer something where you parents can ‘start you off’ with a card? I know they do it for minors - like a debit with a limit … I just wonder if those then turn into credit-builders for the kid? Mine are still too young for me to worry yet.

I was a cash only guy for many years. Not that I didn’t like credit, I just didn’t have a need to have one. When I ordered computer parts from the pages Computer Shopper back in the early 90s, I always used bank wires to pay for them. It wasn’t until the late 90s when I owned a rental property and I needed a credit card for business reasons that I got one. My first credit card and it had $20,000 limit. That went baddly.

Tell your son to go to college. That’s the most painless way of getting credit card offers. College students are low-risk for credit card companies because the parents almost always bail them out if the student turns out to have no sense of financial propriety. Heck, I think my dad bailed my sister out of credit card debt twice before she graduated.

I got my first credit card while a university student in the UK, but I had to throw that credit history away and start over after I graduated and moved to the USA.

Credit is very important in the USA, because it’s impossible to get good rates on secured loans for homes or automobiles without a multi-year history of good credit.

No one would give me credit my first year in the states, not even the crap department stores. I gave in and plopped down a $500 deposit for a secured credit card and made sure to use it every month and pay off the balance every statement. After a year of that, I started receiving proper credit card offers in the mail.

I don’t know if that’s the best way for a person with no credit history to start one, but that worked for me.

In my wallet today, I keep two credit cards (Mastercard and Discover) and a Visa debit card. For business trips, I leave the Discover card at home and pack American Express.

Your son will build a credit history when he gets college loans; the credit cards will shortly follow. Another way is through a joint account. If all else fails, a secured deposit credit card will most likely have the training wheels taken off after a year. Well, at least if there are no late payments or other negatives to the credit report.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I’ve had credit card offers thrown at me since I was in high school. I’m a junior in college now, and last summer I finally signed up for one that gave me a $2,000 line right off the bat. I’ve been buying everything with the card and just sinking practically all of my ~$270/week paychecks into it, and already the limit’s up to $2600. (Yes, I know it’s not a good way to live, but after one last paycheck this week I’ll finally have it paid off entirely. God, stay my hand from any new big purchases).

I didnt get my first credit card until last year. Despite having 16 years of good finances, a mortgage, a well paying job in an investment bank and more than a few loans fully paid off I had real trouble getting one.

… it must have been the ‘playing with knives’ thing … ;)

When my mother found out she didn’t have credit because everything was in my father’s name, she demanded to get a credit card to begin establishing her credit. My father complied and added my name to the card too.

I got mine from my “omg! I must make everyone happy!” banker at B of A. I asked about getting one, she asked for my employment history. I didn’t have one because I’d only worked as an artist up to that point. She filled out the college credit card app for me and said I went to some school in Texas. After a few years on the low limit card, they bumped me up to a grownup card with a bigger limit.

My parents gave me a creditcard for emergencies and books when I went to school. They paid it, but it helped my credit.

I picked up my first creditcard on my own when I bought a ginormous 50" rear projection TV at sears in 1996 with my dotcom internet earnings. It got me 20% off.

It’s incredibly easy to get a card these days. That’s why you see “lighter side” news stories about the family dog getting them. That actually happens all the time. My family’s pet goldfish Sushi Five was sent a Discover card when I was a little kid… think my brother signed him up. Sadly, shortly thereafter he put on his dr. mengele hat and decided to test the effects of baking soda and bleach on fish physiology and Sushi Five messily met his end. Sushi Six was an adequate replacement for a time until cherry kool-aid did him in. We were up to Sushi Seventeen by the time my brother moved out to go to college. Little buggers never knew what hit em.

He’s in med school now.

I got my first credit card through my bank when I opened an account (in college).

Also, random bit of trivia, your credit rating is calculated based on your oldest current credit card, so cancelling a really old credit card may actually cause your credit rating to drop slightly.

  • Alan

That’s an awesome bit of trivia, Alan. But I think I would have canceled that secured card anyway, just to get my $500 back. :-)