I'm 20 Years-old and I Don't Have a Credit Card

Yep. You heard me. I’m 20 years-old and I still do not own or have ever applied for a credit card. Up until now, I've not thought about getting one. I don’t understand this “imaginary” money concept that a single piece of plastic holds. To be honest, I’m scared of them. Granted, I’ve tried to search how to get one before. With a quick Google search, privately owned credit card companies have websites explaining how to obtain one, but they are all biased so that the reader picks their company instead of other options. It doesn't help that I have this weird ideology, that probably derived from my Baby Boomer parents, that I should only spend money that is my own. 

Why does this stupid piece of plastic evaluate whether I’m a responsible adult or not? I think this is the aspect of credit cards that freak me out. It makes it so that I HAVE to get a credit card to be a considered a real adult. Do I trust myself with money that I have to pay back? AH. I think so?! 

If you’re feeling like I am, keep reading! We can learn from this article together and take that next big step into adulthood. These are the things that I've found out through quick Google searches and my friends. 

1. Whether you have full-time income or part-time income, this affects your credit card choices

If you’re a student like me, there is a type of credit card called a “student credit card”, that is basically for young adults that don’t have full-time income. *Hint* If you have student loans, and you’ve repaid some back, you probably have some credit without a credit card! I didn't know this and I had credit! 

2. Remember that credit card companies make money when you charge things you can’t pay off right away!

Stick-it to the man! Don’t let these people get your money! Pay your bills at the end of every month! Pretend it’s like an internet bill; if you don’t pay it, your internet is going to shut down! So, basically, swipe that credit card wisely. Use that credit card to pay just for a monthly bill, and then pay off your credit card at the same time. This allows you to gain credit without accumulating debt. 

3. “What does a ‘co-signer’ mean?”

Some card issuers allow students to apply for a credit card with a co-signer, which basically means that both people (signer and co-signer) are responsible for the card if a person fails to pay the money back. Often times this can be your parent! If you want to have a family member be your co-signer, then you might be able to get a better deal on a card and keep you in-check on your bills. 

4. “I can get a credit card at Forever 21? What?!”

You’d be surprised at how many companies or business provide credit cards; BestBuy, Target…etc. What I’ve heard, is that you just walk in and ask, “Can I apply for a credit card today?”, and then they run a credit check on you at the counter. You either get approved or not in minutes. Just be careful of constantly letting businesses run credit checks on you at the counter. 

*cough* As a former Forever 21 employee, we wouldn't tell you that our "rewards" card was actually a credit card because we would get extra brownie points for running credit checks on the customers. Be careful of sneaky employees running hard credit checks on you!


Apparently, the Internet is telling me to BEWARE of credit checks! It affects this thing called a “FICO score”, which stands for “Fair Isaac Corporation” score, that is apparently this little number that calculates your credit score on a scale (see the scale below). ANYWAYS, hard credit checks – BEWARE. When businesses run a credit check on you, it actually lowers your score! I know that there are different meanings for a “hard inquiries” or “soft inquirers” credit check but for me, I wouldn't want anyone running any form of credit check on me, soft or hard, if I’m going through all this trouble to get one! Read this website if you want more information on FICO, (you’ll have to Google what "EQUIFAX" means because that’s a whole other ballgame). 

*A little tip* Go to websites like CreditKarma that can run credit checks without lowering your score. You can look up yourself right now at this exact moment!*

6. If you have no starting credit, and you want a credit card…

Talk to the same bank where you have a checking account at! They might be able to get you started at a low-limit card or even get you what’s called a “secure credit card”, which requires you to put a down payment on it. Remember, we are trying to show the world that we can handle money. 

7. There is such a thing called “bad credit offers”

Some businesses will use our naive spirit to screw us over into a contract that has high interest or overly-high annual credit card fees. For me, I think I’ll just stick to my trustworthy bankers. When in doubt, talk to someone in person. Credit cards can be really scary because you can apply for them easily anywhere, even online. Don’t get scammed into something that will accumulate high interest if you don’t pay on time at the end of the month.

8. Remember that you're not alone

Writing this article has definitely given me a lot more information about credit cards that I had no idea about. It can be hard to reach out to anyone when you're 20 years old and trying to 'fake-it-till-you-make-it". My best advice, swallow your pride about asking questions like credit cards, loans, rentals, or other basic adult stuff. Odds are, you’re not the first to ask these things. We are all in this together! Just remember, if you do decide to get a credit card, make sure you’re able to afford any charges you make on it. If you can, then obtaining good credit will be easy-peasy.