I applied for my credit card (only one!) when I turned 18 and had an initial credit limit of $600. In 2007, it was pretty easy to qualify for a credit card- even as an 18 year old heading off to college in the fall with no income. Things changed slightly after the financial meltdown, and by 2010 my 18 year old brother couldn’t qualify for a credit card for anything! Because I got my credit card at 18, I started building credit history a full three years before someone who had to wait until they were 21 and three years makes a big difference.
By the time I was 25 and my husband and I were ready to buy a house, I had a credit score above 800 and a lot of history built up- time was on my side. I know a lot of people that still today don’t have the credit history to get a loan on a house with the best interest rates available.
Frequent flyer miles are just an added perk. I use my Alaska Airlines card for everything from groceries to monthly utilities and I’ve been able to take many free flights using miles I have earned. From a trip to Chicago to run the Chicago Marathon, to my honeymoon in Europe, most of my recent trips have been covered by miles I have earned just paying my monthly living expenses- if only I could get miles for my monthly mortgage payment!
Credit cards aren’t for everyone. If you’re someone who can’t control your spending, credit cards probably aren’t for you. My husband and I stick to a budget, and pay off our credit card each month so running up debt isn’t worrisome to us. A lot of people see their credit limit as “free money” (someone actually told me this once!) and spend until their card is maxed out. Then they’ll pay it down a little, and spend to the max again. This is a HORRIBLE idea. You will end up paying so much in interest and will never get out of debt if this is your philosophy. I do however think if you’re a responsible spender, credit cards can be a good thing.