What is the Average Age People First Start Using Credit?

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There are no official statistics on the average age of people today when they first started using credit. The numbers would be hard to come by if you just used data in credit bureaus – the age of the person and the age of the accounts is in the database, along with the length of credit history, but people start using credit by becoming an authorized user, and possibly get their first loan/credit card from lenders who do not report to the credit bureaus. Age of credit history is not the time you have a credit file, but the average age of your oldest account.  Accounts may be closed over time and they only stay in your credit history for 10 years. So there are really no hard and fast statistics on the age people start using credit.

I took an informal poll on Facebook, asking my same age friends and younger (I’m in my 50s) how old they were when they first started using credit. The younger they were, the younger they first started using credit. The age ranges were from 16 to 26, and most involved a credit card or a car purchase. This survey also suggested the average age people got a credit card was 18.

How Old Do You Have to Be to Use Credit?

The age of adulthood is 18, meaning this is the earliest age you can sign a contract and have it be legally binding, and therefore get credit on your own. It’s possible to get credit earlier than this age, but you would need a parent or guardian co-signor. However, to get a credit card, because of the CARD Act, you have to show income, and not many 18 year olds have a steady enough income in order to qualify for a credit card. True, credit card companies do not generally require proof of income, so you could state whatever income you want in order to qualify, but this is illegal. It’s not common for being prosecuted for lying on a credit card application, but it does happen. Your income must be reasonable for your age and employment history.

What Credit Score Do You Start With?

Contrary to popular belief, you do not automatically start with a credit score when you turn 18. You start with a blank credit history and no credit score – not even zero. There is no process that starts the day you turn 18 and the government does not provide the names and social security numbers to the credit bureaus when you come of age.

Your credit history starts the day a lender starts reporting your credit history to the credit bureaus. It is possible to go your whole life without a credit score or history. You can pull a copy of your credit report as soon as you are 14; parents and guardians may pull a copy of their minor children’s credit reports as long as their provide proof of legal guardianship.

Identity theft of underage children is fairly common – and identity theft starts at home. It is extremely common for a parent with a poor credit score to take out credit in their children’s names without their knowledge or consent.

Age is a predictor of credit score. The younger you are, the worst your credit score is likely to be. The average age for those ages 18-24 is only slightly above 630, whereas those ages 55 and above have a credit score well into the 700s.

What Age Do You Need to Start Using Credit?

Your credit rating affects almost all areas of your life – renting or purchasing a place to live, buying a car, getting a job and obtaining insurance. Once you are an adult, you will need a good credit rating to start out in life.   You should start establishing credit as soon as you can. Note: if you’re a young person just starting out in college, you do not need credit in general in order to get a student loan, unless you apply for private student loans.

It takes time to build a credit history. Your accounts need to be at least 6 months old in order for them to “count” when scoring your credit for the first time. You also need to have more than just one credit account. However, every time you apply for new credit, your credit score takes a hit, so it pays to be judicious when decided on when to apply for credit. The sweet spot for optimal number of credit accounts depends entirely on your situation. Besides the length of credit history and how often you apply for new credit, the factors that go into your credit score are your payment history, how much credit you are using and the mix of credit. None of these factors depends on the amount of credit accounts you currently have.

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