Eighteen is the legal age of adulthood in the United States. It is the age at which citizens can legally vote, obtain tobacco products (except in Alabama, Alaska and Utah) and obtain financing without the consent of a guardian. Once you reach 18, you can begin applying for credit under your own Social Security number. However, before jumping into the world of lending it's important to do extensive research.
Access a recent copy of your credit report from www.annualcreditreport.com. This federal site allows all American consumers a free copy of a credit report, if requested. Consider paying for a copy of your credit, or FICO, score. This three-digit number represents your overall creditworthiness. Scores above 720 are excellent; scores below 600 are poor.
Review your credit report. Chances are at age 18 your credit is limited. You may have one account with a very limited payment history. While creditors want to see good payment history, they also want to see a deep history of on-time payments.
Ask a parent or family member if you can be an authorized user on one of their accounts. Authorized users have access to credit lines, but are not obligated to repayment. If you are an authorized user for six months, you'll be adding more good credit to your report as long as the primary borrower makes on-time payments.
Ask a family member or friend with more extensive credit to co-sign on a personal loan. If someone else guarantees the loan repayment by agreeing to be obligated, you'll have a much better chance of getting approved.
Review your work history. At 18, this is most likely limited. However, if you can still be claimed as a dependent, you will have few expenses. A lender wants to make sure you can afford a repayment plan; even a small part-time job may qualify you for a personal loan if other expenses are low.
Research personal loan lenders. Use your FICO score as a guide. If you have excellent credit, focus your search at local credit unions and community banks. These companies offer competitive and favorable loans. If you have some negatives on your credit, you may need to look at other types of finance companies.
Contact prospective lenders and get basic personal loan information. Lenders are likely to offer facts about rates and fees on small personal loans without an application. Compare rates and fees between lenders.
Decide what type of personal loan you want. The two main types are revolving loans such as credit cards and closed-end loans such as auto loans. In general, revolving loans are more difficult to manage and pay off. Closed-end accounts offer an expiration date, a light at the end of the tunnel, so to speak.
Choose a lender and a loan program. Apply with a loan officer, presenting all your income documents. Your income must be verified by an underwriter before credit is extended. Look carefully at the final terms and only accept if it is exactly what you need.
Based in Eugene, Ore., Duncan Jenkins has been writing finance-related articles since 2008. His specialties include personal finance advice, mortgage/equity loans and credit management. Jenkins obtained his bachelor's degree in English from Clark University.