Your Take: What Was Your First Credit Card?

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I still remember getting my first credit card. It was an AT&T Universal card that still exists today, albeit in a different form. It was one of the first few days of school and I stopped by a desk outside of Doherty Hall at Carnegie Mellon. I signed up not because they were offering free t-shirts or food (they were offering free shirts, though pizza would’ve been more appealing) but because I thought I needed a credit card. As I was filling out the form, I was amazed at how much information the thing required and how they had scanners setup to scan our driver’s license. Looking back, and being a few years wiser, I’m absolutely stunned my identity wasn’t stolen. I think people in general are savvier now but in 1998, when I’m sure identity theft was still a huge business, people just wasn’t as aware of it.

The other amazing thing was I remember asking the guy what I should put into the “income” field, since I clearly had none. He told me to put $30,000 because that’s how much tuition was. First, tuition wasn’t $30,000 (it wasn’t that high, plus I had a ton of financial aid so it wasn’t our out of pocket cost). Second, that’s not income. I don’t get paid $30,000 a year. Either way, I was approved.

The best perk of the card was free long distance minutes every month, which meant free phone calls home. This was before I got a cell phone, which wasn’t until the following year, and long before Skype and other free tools. That card lasted about two years before I discovered cashback and started using a Discover Card (a card that I still have) almost exclusively.

What was your first credit card?

{ 35 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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35 Responses to “Your Take: What Was Your First Credit Card?”

  1. Glenn Lasher says:

    Basic MasterCard from the bank I was using at the time. I applied for it in a hurry because it was a requisite for business travel. I closed it out in 2003 after carrying it for about ten years and now carry an equally basic Visa from the credit union that I replaced that bank with.

  2. Aaron says:

    Mine was some basic Visa card with a $30 or $40 annual fee. I’d just graduated from college having not needed or used a credit card besides one of my parents’ that they’d put my name on. I think I’d just started a job so I had a negligible credit history, and didn’t get approved for a no-fee card, so I bit the bullet and got that one instead. Needless to say I upgraded to no-annual-fee cards after a few months of working. I should have gotten a card in college when companies are (were, at least, this was back in the mid-90s) much more likely to give them to you.

  3. Courtney says:

    Citi card that I applied for during my junior year of college. I didn’t do it through the “sign up and get a free t-shirt” booths, and I put my actual income, which at the time was about $7000 a year from various part-time jobs. It either started out as a dividend rewards card or became one later, I can’t remember. Still have it nearly 11 years down the road.

  4. mannymacho says:

    My first card was a Capital One card that my parents co-signed for when I was 16. I think the credit limit was like $200. Nevertheless, Ithink it helped me to learn responsible use of credit early and build my credit history.

  5. No Debt MBA says:

    My first card was a Bank of America credit card for students that I still have. I got it to build credit and wanted to make sure it was super easy to pay each month from my existing BoA checking account.

  6. lostAnnfound says:

    First card was a Citibank Mastercard that I got the year after getting married. Husband & I were going on a trip with another couple and we thought carrying a card rather than a lot of cash would be safer. No fees, and now it has been upgraded to a rewards card that gives points back. Still have it over 23 years later.

  7. daenyll says:

    I got a basic visa right out of high school, co-signed by my dad, from our credit union. Have never carried a balance from month to month. I now have and use rewards cards, but kept that one for any emergency as it’s my longest and largest credit line.

  8. Ice says:

    Capital One. They’re the first to send credit card application in the mail.

  9. cubiclegeoff says:

    Got a card through my bank before going to college. It wasn’t much, but I didn’t think about using it all that much. It was a convenient way to get things I needed that my parents were going to pay for anyway. And since they saw the statement usually, I didn’t use it all that much.

  10. partee875 says:

    Mine was a bank of america student card. I just went in and signed up for it when I realized I needed to start building credit. I think it was in my sophomore year of college. I only use it now for one purchase 2-3 times a year just to show some activity. I’m afraid to get rid of it because I don’t want to ding my credit score…

  11. BrianC says:

    It was BellSouth Visa. I knew nothing about cards at the time, was thinking of getting one, and they happened to send me an application in the mail. It was when they announced that in order to serve me better they were cutting the rewards program that I finally researched what was out there.

  12. billsnider says:

    First card was with a large bank that went belly up. It was Franklin National Bank.

    You needed a minimum income to apply and there was a large annual fee.

    Funny thing was that many merchants did not accept credit cards at the time. So it was not the convenience that it is today.

    Bill Snider

  13. WRXTuan says:

    I tried to get a credit card after college and about 6 months at my current job. I applied for many big bank cards but was denied for not having any credit at all (Credit score of: N/A). Granted, this was during the credit crisis so I wasn’t surprised. I went ahead and tried my local credit union and was approved for a Visa Credit Card with no annual fee in 5 minutes.

  14. Rockbell says:

    I don’t remeber my first but do remember being turned down for a Gulf Oil Card. I applied from a promotion at a Holiday Inn on my honeymoon and a week before I started to work at the same company I work for today 37 years later. I still do not buy Gulf(BP today) gas!

  15. Sue says:

    My husband and I were married quite young (18 years old), and thought credit would be impossisble to obtain. For the fun of it, we applied for a Sears credit card and was issued one. Forty-seven years later, we still have that card. The bank cards were extremely easy to get once we’d established ourselves with Sears. Credit is a wonderful thing…..if it’s used wisely.

  16. Mine was a store credit card. My mother worked there. I was still a student and thought I needed a card.

  17. poscogrubb says:

    My first credit card was Citi CHOICE VISA. Dad applied for the card for me as I was finishing up high school and he was the co-signer, so I had a huge credit line and relatively low interest rate. There were no rewards programs back then, but it also had no annual fee.

    I used it responsibly throughout college: Dad never paid a dime of my balance and I always paid the account off monthly. I still have the card mainly to maintain credit history length.

  18. govenar says:

    My first card was a basic Wells Fargo credit card. I later got Discover and other better cards with cash back, and closed my earlier cards. I probably should’ve kept them though, to increase my average credit age to help my credit score.

  19. Rosa Rugosa says:

    My first card was at a small local Mom & Pop clothing store, the likes of which no longer exists in my neck of the woods. I was able to get a card right out of high school because they knew me and my family. I never carried a balance. I remember bringing my boyfriend there and helping him open an account to build credit for when he wanted to buy a car or a house someday. Which he eventually did, with me; we’ve been married for 26 years now:)

  20. mikestreb says:

    My first card was whatever the Target card was (Visa I think). I think I was like 13 at the time and signed up for it online never expecting it to show up… but it did and they approved me for some crazy amount of credit, I want to say it was like $13,000.

    My parents added me as an authorized signer on their oldest card “for emergencies only.” Now my credit report shows that my oldest line of credit is from a year after I was born. That helps jack up the credit score!!

  21. zapeta says:

    My first card was a basic Capital One card with a $500 limit. After I got a couple other cards I called up to cancel but they never actually did it. I’m glad, because the card is a couple years older than any of my others and helps my credit score. I think I used the card all of one time.

  22. Shirley says:

    I don’t remember when or what my first actual plastic credit card was, but I imagine it was either Sears or Montgomery Wards.

    My first ‘line of credit’ was when I was 13 and I bought a portable Singer sewing machine from our local Singer Store. I babysat for neighbors and paid $7 each month for ten months and made many of my own clothes.

    My parents were teaching me about money management and I knew that I could make a dress for less than I could buy it. The $10 ‘clothing allowance’ they gave me each month went a long way, as did the lessons and the sewing machine. Fifty + years later I’m still using it, albeit with self-threading needles now. 🙂

  23. skylog says:

    it was a visa, but i can not even remember. i got it even though it was against my dad’s wishes. that did not go very well…

  24. Steve says:

    American Express Blue for Students my freshman year of college. Still working to pay the damn thing off…

  25. thunderthighs says:

    Amex Blue Cash. They took it away two years later for lack of proof of income. 🙁

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