I was 18 when I received my first credit card. My parents felt it was important that I get one of my own and learn to use it responsibly; so I did. I had a very low $300 credit limit, and that was for the best. The first thing that I did was take my card and go shopping. I went on a shopping spree (it was 2001 and $300 was a huge shopping spree back then). I maxed that card out the day I activated it, and I learned a very valuable lesson. I also learned that not everyone is equipped to handle a credit card at a certain age. I learned quickly to pay off my card – my parents made me. They didn’t give me an option; I had to pay it off that first billing cycle so that I didn’t get charged interest. They wanted to teach me a lesson; and it worked. They didn’t want me in debt, and I’m glad they didn’t. It makes us wonder when the best time for someone to get that first credit card really is.
If you’re responsible
Some people think that it’s far better to get their own card when they are able to allow their parents to handle it. My parents did not want me to have a card with their names attached to it, and I agree. For me, I had to be responsible for myself. If they’d paid it for me and done all that, I never would have learned a lesson on how to properly use my card.
If you can afford it
Making minimum payments does nothing to help you build your credit. It shows your creditors that you cannot afford to make more payments, and that you are probably not someone who will be very responsible with your credit later on. Of course, it might mean you cannot afford to make your payments due to an emergency situation, but it’s not helping your credit.
Ideally, when you’re 20
You will learn a lot of very valuable lessons in college. Those first two years are very much trial and error. You learn some valuable lessons; some life lessons. If you can wait until you have made it through the first two years to get that first card, chances are good you will be far more financially responsible, and that’s what we want for everyone who is getting started with credit for the first time.
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