Getting your first credit card can be exciting. In Canada, there are strict age requirements to get a credit card, but there’s a lot more to consider when deciding if it’s time to apply for your first credit card.
Credit card age requirements
In Canada, the minimum age to get a credit card depends on where you live. That’s because you must be the age of majority in your province or territory before you can legally have your own credit card.
- The age of majority is 18 in Alberta, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, and Quebec.
- The age of majority is 19 in Canada’s three territories (Nunavut, Northwest Territories and the Yukon) and in British Columbia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Nova Scotia.
» LEARN: How to apply for a credit card
Other credit card considerations
Of course, just because you could legally apply for a credit card when you hit the age of majority doesn’t mean that you should get a credit card right away. Rather than focusing on how old you need to be to get a credit card, consider other factors.
Ask yourself why you want to get a credit card. Is it important for you to start building a credit score? Do you plan to travel and want the ease of using a credit card to pay for expenses? Are you keen to earn rewards that you might not get from a debit or prepaid card?
Your understanding of credit cards
Do you have a clear understanding of how a credit card works and how quickly interest can add up if you don’t pay your balance in full each month? Do you know about the fees that can come with a credit card, like late payment fees, foreign currency conversion charges or fees for going over your credit limit? Do you know the difference between putting everyday purchases on your credit card versus getting a cash advance?
Your money management skills
Of course, just because you know about how credit cards work, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be able to manage a credit card well. Be honest with yourself about how good you are at sticking to a budget and spending within your means. Will you be tempted just to make the minimum payment every month?
A credit card can be an excuse for many people to spend freely, and their debt can soon balloon out of control. It could even potentially lead to calls from collection agencies and eventually bankruptcy. These negative consequences can significantly affect your credit score, and a bad credit score can influence whether or not you can get loans, qualify for jobs or rent an apartment for years to come.
» FIND OUT: How to check your credit score
How to know if you’re ready to get a credit card
You might be ready to take on the responsibility of having your first credit card if:
- You understand how a credit card impacts your credit score.
- You earn some form of income (whether you work full time, part-time or during only certain times of the year).
- You’ve successfully managed a chequing or savings account with no frequent overdraft or NSF issues.
- You know how to save money.
- You’re willing to shop around for the right credit card for your needs.
- You won’t treat your credit card as an additional form of income.
- You’re prepared to read the fine print and understand your responsibilities as a credit card holder.
Other credit card eligibility requirements to think about
Age is not the only consideration when applying for a credit card. You’ll often need to meet other qualifications to be successful. These additional eligibility requirements depend on what type of credit card you’re applying for, but many cards require that:
- You are a citizen or permanent resident of Canada.
- You have not declared bankruptcy in the last seven years.
- You have a set minimum individual or household income.
Other payment options for teens
If you’re not old enough for a credit card or think you’re not quite ready for the responsibility of managing a credit card on your own, there are some other worthwhile payment options.
Prepaid cards offer the convenience of credit cards, often without the stringent age or income requirements. A prepaid card is easy to use — you load it with your own money and then use it like a credit card or a debit card. However, since you aren’t receiving any credit from the issuer, you can’t build up a credit history using a prepaid card.
The upside of a prepaid card is that you don’t risk overspending and accumulating debt as you would with a credit card. In addition, many prepaid cards offer convenient features like fraud protection and ATM withdrawals and can be used when travelling outside Canada.
While some prepaid cards do not require you to have reached the age of majority in your province or territory, others do. Make sure you read the eligibility requirements carefully before applying.
If you are too young to get a credit card but want to start building a credit score, becoming an authorized user on a parent or guardian’s credit card may be a good choice. This option helps you establish a credit history without the full responsibility — in Canada, only the primary cardholder is responsible for making payments.
While not all credit card providers may be willing to allow someone under the age of 18 to become an authorized user, some credit card providers allow users as young as 13.
A secured credit card may be a smart choice if you have reached the age of majority in your province or territory but don’t have enough credit history to successfully apply for an unsecured credit card.
Secured credit cards are much easier to qualify for because you must provide your own money as a deposit to guarantee payment. Unlike prepaid cards, secured credit cards let you build up a credit score as long as you manage the card responsibly. Before applying for a secured card, confirm with the card provider that it’ll report your payments to a credit bureau.